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Cathy Cummings: Pesto and Politics

Seeking success with a lifelong smile



 



Red checkered tablecloths, old family photos, the ever-present scent of simmering garlic … the quaint little Italian bistro known as Vito’s does a good job of making its space in a strip of businesses on North May Avenue feel like a trattoria on the Amalfi coast. And in addition to the excellent cooking of family recipes, one of the not-so-secret ingredients of its success is its proprietor, Cathy Cummings.
 

“Hi, how are you?” she exclaims, greeting every visitor with friendly, gregarious charm. “Welcome to Vito’s! I’m so glad you’re here!”

And there’s more to Cummings than her skills as a chef and restaurateur. At one time, she was a single mother to three daughters under the age of 7, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. She has been a candidate for Oklahoma’s Lt. Governor, and this spring ran a successful campaign to become the newest member of the Village City Council. She sat down with us – for a moment – to chat about life, politics and garlic.

What is the Cathy Cummings backstory – where are you from originally? “I’m originally from Kansas City, Missouri, but I’ve lived in Oklahoma about 18 years. I am married to the newly crowned King of Bacon, Sean Cummings, a.k.a. the Irish Pub guy. We have five grown children, and all are now in college. Raising five kids in a blended family was quite an undertaking – but everyone is still alive.”

How long has Vito’s been around? “We opened in the summer of 2003. My family had been in the restaurant business all my life, so it was a natural fit for me. Using my family’s recipes has made it even more special. It truly feels like a big Italian Sunday night dinner with my family, every single night.”

The name Vito’s sounds like it could have been inspired by The Godfather. How did you come up with that? “The story behind the name is actually quite funny: To purchase a new outdoor sign was going to cost me about $7,000. Or, I could use the letters from the previous tenant’s sign for next to nothing. In the mix of letters available, I came up with Vito’s – and I actually do have an Uncle Vito, so it all worked out. (And to be perfectly honest, I was just cheap!) But, as my dad would say, ‘It was just good business sense.’”

And the recipes are from your mom? “Yes! I had an old recipe box from my mother. They were stained and well-used; they had been passed down from her mother. So my challenge  was to take those recipes and turn them into commercial recipes. Just like in Italy – wherever Italians landed in America, they adjusted their food to whatever was available and what was fresh. What we found is that some items worked from our home kitchen and some didn’t. But the fun is when you go from a pinch of this and a handful of that, which is what many of the recipes said, to cups of this and pounds of that.”

Politics seems like a big departure from chicken carbonara; how did you become interested in government? “My parents’ restaurant was right across the street from City Hall, and my friend’s dad was mayor. He was fantastic, bigger than life. The people that came through my family’s restaurant every single day were the movers, shakers and decision makers of Kansas City. They were all good people doing good things, and I got to see them do good things up close and personal. So I never had that negative view of politics. Then I started to see the negativity in Oklahoma, and I didn’t like the way it was going. I wanted someone to step up and help fix it, but nobody did. So I thought, why not me? Everyone waits for someone to save them. I looked at our Legislature and thought, ‘They’re no smarter than I am. They are no more well-known than I am. Most of them don’t have business sense like I have. My kids were grown. Why not me?’”

A couple of years ago, you walked thousands of miles across the state in your bid for lieutenant governor. What was that like? “I visited every single one of our 77 counties. I talked and met with business owners, and anyone I could meet and shake hands with, I did. I kissed a lot of babies, went through many pairs of shoes and lost a lot of weight, but it made me fall in love with Oklahoma even more.”

And now you’re on the Village City Council? “Yes, I was overwhelmingly elected to the Village City Council with 80 percent of the vote against a longstanding incumbent. I didn’t do it alone, that’s for sure. I had lots of help and many volunteers.”

Oklahoma has become increasingly conservative in its politics in recent years; do you see the pendulum ever swinging back the other way? “No doubt about it. I honestly have nothing against Republicans. They were an excellent opposition party for a long time, and what they have found is that it is very difficult to be the party that is completely in charge. If everyone were to be completely honest, we would get better government from a healthy mix of Democrats and Republicans. [Moving from] the one extreme to the other has not proven to work.”

Finally, what is your own personal opinion – can there ever be too much garlic? “There are two things my mother told me that I always live by: Never leave the house without wearing lipstick, and there is no such thing as too much garlic.”

 

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425 NW 23rd St
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Cost: $300

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
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A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
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Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

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Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
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Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
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Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
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Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

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