Seeing a brochure for a culinary school located in her native Ecuador prompted Veronica Battaglia, chef and owner of Battaglia Deli and Café at the Main Library, to enroll. She had felt something was missing after she completed her degree in hotel management. Through culinary school, she discovered her passion for the culinary arts because she was captivated by the extensive range of the culinary arts and its heritage through different cultures and traditions.
Her father greatly influenced her cooking. He was not a cook, but he was “a good eater.” His discerning palate made it a pleasure to cook for him. His reaction was very rewarding if a dish was good or he could tell exactly what a dish needed if it wasn’t exceptional. She also found herself competing with her mom, who is a great cook. Veronica used to tease her mom about how many cookbooks her mom had, but now Veronica asks for these cookbooks to be included as part of her inheritance. Her mother taught her to never stop learning because you can never know everything about cooking.
Cooking offers a wide range of spectacular dishes to create and challenges to undertake. For Veronica, cooking allows you to be creative and continuously work to improve a dish. Veronica enjoys reading culinary books and loves the pictures included in most cookbooks. The pictures increase her interest and help her learn more about the recipe. She also enjoys reading about places and different cultures because she learns more background information to use when creating dishes.
Veronica decided to continue her studies by earning a Masters in Hotel Management and Culinary Arts at a school in the Canary Islands. She choose the school’s location because of Europe’s long history of culinary arts and the area’s popularity with tourists. Since the Canary Islands are a popular tourist destination, the restaurants are always full. By working at local restaurants during school, she learned how to cook quickly while ensuring the food was good. After completing her Masters, Veronica returned to Ecuador to manage a hotel restaurant because she enjoys how food is a big deal in hotels with their major events, banquets and buffets. She enjoyed Spain, but wanted to return to Ecuador because her country needs professionals with high level training too.
The job opportunities in Ecuador were good and her experience includes serving as the Director of her Ecuadorian culinary school. However, working in the culinary arts has had its disappointments also. Early in her career, she worked at a hotel restaurant in Ecuador where she was the only woman on a staff of 46. Her fellow chefs would always laugh because she knew the least about cooking and told her it was impossible for a woman to be a chef. Their laughing fueled Veronica’s determination to show them she could make it in the culinary world.
Her culinary career came to a fork in the road when she met a “man from Kentucky” at a bullfight. Moving to Kentucky was difficult because it was like starting from scratch as she worked to improve her language skills and to learn about the culture and traditions of the region. The United States’ tradition of the Thanksgiving celebration amazes Veronica because it is a “wonderful fiesta” about food and family. She calls it “a splendor with the tradition of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin.” She is inspired with how Americans have done so much with the pumpkin and is always excited to feature pumpkin treats at her restaurant during the fall.
She dreamt of starting her own business while working at her first job in the United States at the Marriott Hotel by the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport. Once her kids were in school, she began the venture of owning her own restaurant. Battaglia Deli & Café has been open for 3 years and located inside the Main Library for about 1.5 years. Veronica remembers coming to the library once to do her taxes and needed to eat during this visit. At the time, the library did not have a café so she left to get food and she remembers having a bad meal. Having the café located at the library is gratifying because she is able to help people combine reading with eating. Her goal is to create a wonderful moment for her customers who come to the library for reading or other activities and are able to enjoy a great meal during their time at the library. Veronica is excited to continue to grow her restaurant business especially through catering and by providing personal chef services.
A future project for Veronica is to write a book on nutrition. Healthy food interests her because people are always working on improving their health and they often ask the café to cut the salad dressing, use alternative milks or ask for whole wheat grain bread. Veronica plans to focus on how to cook vegetables properly in her book. According to Veronica, “People don’t like vegetables because they don’t know how to cook them. In her book, she hopes to help people learn the often tricky process of cooking vegetables and what combines well with specific vegetables.
So what does this professionally trained chef make for dinner at home? Veronica affectionately described her kids as her most difficult customers because they are so picky. She makes a lot of spaghetti for them and adds grape jelly instead of wine to the marinara sauce at the request of her kids. The jelly gives the sauce some sweetness. She tends to cook a lot of American food at home because it is easier and more practical than her native cuisine. One Ecuadorian dish she frequently makes is ceviche, which is a seafood dish where the seafood is marinated with lemon, onions, tomatoes, green peppers and cilantro. Veronica describes this dish as “Refreshing, really yummy and healthy. It is one of the dishes in the world that proves healthy doesn’t have to taste bad.”
Battaglia Deli & Cafe is located inside the Main Library, 1786 Burlington Pike in Burlington, on the first floor next to the dome.
View the menu.
View the kid’s menu.
Mon-Fri, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Kate Sowada is the Community Events Liaison at Boone County Public Library. Her enthusiasm for community engagement and development can be traced back to her experience volunteering as a teenager. Studying Geography in college, working with public art projects during grad school and facilitating statewide outreach programs are a few of the community oriented adventures that led her to Boone County Public Library where she is excited about engaging the people of Boone County and broader Northern Kentucky region through library programs and events.