Chicken parmesan for the soul: Cooking with alumnus Dr. Morizio

November 12, 2020

Forget chicken soup for the soul, Miami Herbert alumnus Dr. Alex Morizio ’15 is cooking up chicken parmesan for the soul. Maurizio is an ICU doctor by day, but by night he is an Instagram chef who also serves laughter, good music, and positivity.

Every Tuesday at 8 p.m., Morizio, who leads the intensive care unit at Palmetto General Hospital, hits the live button on Instagram and starts streaming “Cooking with Al” from his home.

For the past 14 years, Morizio has been doing stand-up comedy as an escape. When the COVID pandemic swept across the country and forced venues to shut their doors, he turned to social media.
alex morizio

“I didn’t know what I was doing when I started Instagram Live, but I knew I needed an outlet,” he said. “COVID has been a lot to endure, but at the core of my being I have a strong faith, and a drive to spread love and make connections. So, one day, I decided to whip something up live, and it stuck. People really liked it.”

Before long, patients and loved ones of patients started recognizing him. A few weeks ago, he received a direct message on Instagram from a woman thanking him for his compassion and care of her mother who passed two years ago, and for her father who passed a few weeks ago from COVID. With communication scarce between family members and patients, Morizio took it upon himself to FaceTime her and her father using his phone.

“She tunes in every week, and it’s absolutely beautiful to see her having fun, and it’s part of the reason I do comedy, the cooking show, and medicine—to make people smile. There are a lot of stressors in our everyday lives, so I hope my show offers viewers a distraction from those stressors. I want to be there for people because they are there for me as well.”

Morizio also has the distinction of saving both of Pete Vazquez’s parents on different occasions. Vazquez, a die-hard ’Canes fan, who plans everything—even major life events—around UM football games, met Morizio in 2014 when his mother was in the ICU of Palmetto General Hospital.

“From afar, I watched him as he made his rounds,” Vazquez said. "His lab coat was a little big on him, and it reminded me of Columbo, putting together the pieces necessary to solve the case. He eventually made it to my mom’s room, and he immediately made my sister and I feel like my mom was going to get the best care possible.

“My mother coded during that visit, and Alex saved her,” Vazquez said. “His compassion and devotion to his patients gave us a few more months with my mom before she passed in February 2015. During that 2014 visit, Alex and I talked quite a bit and learned we had comedy in common—I have a couple well-known comedian friends. In a matter of days, Dr. Morizio became Alex Morizio.”

Years later, in 2019, Morizio also saved Vazquez’s dad during a “code blue” giving Vazquez and extra month with his father before he passed.

“Alex is all about love and family,” he said. “With Alex, text messages and conversations always end with, ‘I love you.’ He is now sharing his love via “Cooking with Al” on Instagram. Yes, the cooking is great, interspersed with sips of vino, but when it comes down to it, all Alex is doing is spreading love. Comedy, cooking, and curing with love, that’s the Alex I know and love.”

Although Morizio went to medical school and received an Executive MBA for Health Management and Policy from Miami Herbert, he says the most valuable education he received was at the kitchen table. 

“Life lessons were learned at the kitchen table at my home,” he said. “I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by a lot of love and amazing cooks.”

In 2008, Morizio, a second-generation Italian American born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey, decided it was time to move to a warmer climate. After a trip to Miami, a colleague returned with a copy of 944 Magazine, a publication no longer in circulation, and while reading it in the hospital call room, he said to himself “Why am I still in NYC? I hate the cold!” and the rest is history.

A few years later, he was applying for Miami Herbert’s Executive MBA for Health Management and Policy.

“I was working as a doctor for a company called ICC, which sets up ICU intensive care units for hospitals, and I saw an opportunity to move into the corporate setting. I needed to understand this other side of health care, so I applied to the most reputable program in South Florida.”

The company ended up being sold, and Morizio never ventured into the corporate world of health are, but the education and the connections made were invaluable.  

“It is still something I would do all over again because of the knowledge I gained and the people I met. It added another layer of knowledge and depth to my medical practice—I use it every day. It’s made me a more complete doctor.”

For now, he is keeping his day job because “being a doctor is in his DNA.”  But that doesn’t mean he’s not willing to mix it up if the Food Network comes calling.

If you’re in need of a quick Italian dinner, Morizio recommends spaghetti pomodoro e basilico (spaghetti with tomato sauce and basil). Many of his recipes, like the following recipe, are from the Amalfi Coast, where his mother was born.

How to make Pasta con Pomodoro e Basilico, according to Al:

  • Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet, then add a little bit of minced garlic.
  • Let the garlic simmer while the spaghetti is cooking.
  • Take some cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Then throw them in with the garlic for 5 minutes—timing is everything, so make sure not to overcook them.
  •  Once the spaghetti is ready, mix it into the pot with the garlic and tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle some fresh cut basil on top along with some shaved parmesan, and you’re done.
  • Don’t forget the wine!
Click here to check out Dr. Alex Morizio’s Instagram page!
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