Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.”

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

What's Up in the 405

Our top 6 picks for fun stuff to do in and around OKC

Star screenings at OKCMOA

Metro movie lovers to vote on this year’s star film shorts

Join the Neighborhood Jam

Hal Smith group gets set to open a new breakfast restaurant

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Friends to Follow

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2017

Join us for "From Plant to Paper to Page," a three-day workshop by our upcoming exhibiting artist Megan Singleton! Participants will learn the basics of making paper by hand from local...

Cost: $350

Where:
[Artspace] at Untitled
1 NE 3rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: [Artspace] at Untitled
Telephone: 405.815.9995
Contact Name: Holly Hodge
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

OKCMOA’s Roof Terrace gives visitors the ultimate downtown experience every Thursday evening from April through October with live local music, the best views of downtown OKC, a relaxing...

Cost: $5

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Contact Name: Becky Weintz
Website »

More information

Organizations making a positive impact on the health of Oklahomans will be honored at the 2017 Champions of Health Gala. All proceeds benefit the Oklahoma Caring Foundation, a non-profit...

Cost: TBD

Where:
Cox Business Center
100 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Caring Foundation
Telephone: 855.628.8642
Contact Name: Ben Johnson
Website »

More information

In this installment Jerrod Smith, creator and owner of The Society and Weldon Jack talks about how he balances art and his businesses followed by a performance by Gall.

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary's Showroom
1146 N Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.604.0042
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come find your lost shaker of salt on the Oklahoma River - Hawaiian print shirt optional but recommended! View the evening ferry schedule online for evening departure times, and pay regular...

Cost: $6-15

Where:
All OK River Cruise Landings
Oklahoma City, OK  73109


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

Ever wanted to go to church with your favorite Christian artists? The Big Church Night Out Tour is not your typical tour - it’s going to be a time of meaningful worship that also will include...

Cost: $18-$100

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 South Lewis
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Walk A Mile in Their Boots will help bring awareness to childhood cancer. At The Toby Keith Foundation/OK Kids Korral, we see children fighting the battle of their lives. We are asking our...

Cost: Race $25-$35, Activities: Free

Where:
Chatenay Square
10600 S. Pennsylvania Avenue
, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: The Toby Keith Foundation
Telephone: 405-271-6552
Contact Name: Lauren Polchinski
Website »

More information

Join a weekend of the arts in Guthrie, Oklahoma's landmark historic district! Stroll among the artists, taste fine wines from featured wineries, listen to live music at the two bandstands,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Guthrie
Guthrie, OK  73044


Telephone: 405.282.7778
Contact Name: Tera Dahlby
Website »

More information

Saturday cartoons aren’t just for the children anymore. Share the classics with your crew every Saturday on an Oklahoma River Cruise. Kids 6 and under ride free.

Cost: $15 (free for kids 6 and under)

Where:
Exchange Landing
1503 Exchange Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

Come find your lost shaker of salt on the Oklahoma River - Hawaiian print shirt optional but recommended! View the evening ferry schedule online for evening departure times, and pay regular...

Cost: $6-15

Where:
All OK River Cruise Landings
Oklahoma City, OK  73109


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Website »

More information

Witness the miracles at The Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital at our inaugural gala event: Miracles on 39th Street. Join us to celebrate our beautiful new four-story, 100,000 square...

Cost: $500

Where:
The Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital
6800 N.W. 39th Expressway
Bethany, OK  73008
View map »


Sponsor: The Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital
Telephone: 405.789.6711
Contact Name: Melissa Richey
Website »

More information

This portrait of early Oklahoma revolves around photography from the decades of shots archived by Land Run settler Henry Wantland.

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd
OKC, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Website »

More information

A slice of American (and Oklahoman) history retakes the spotlight in this exhibition of works created under the New Deal's Federal Art Project.

Where:
OKC Museum of Art
415 Couch
OKC, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags