‘I made my career out of what had simply been a hobby for me at home in Beloit, Wisconsin. I was helped in this by some pivotal encounters. First there was Paul Bartolotta. The chef at Spiaggia, the most famous Italian restaurant in Chicago, took me on when I left the Kendall Culinary Institute. I learnt from him how to conjure up dishes from the boot of Italy, before I travelled with him to that ‘country’ to put the finishing touches to my training. In Imola, another pivotal encounter: Valentino Marcattilii, chef at Ristorante San Domenico. Over a period of almost seven years, he taught me all he knew about the Italian culinary arts. I was then ready to return to the United States to open my own restaurant. In 2011, another decisive meeting. Ahmass Fakahany, a Wall Street investor, was willing to team up with me to open Due Terre in New Jersey. This was the first of what is now a group of six restaurants, all focusing on Italy. Marea, in New York, offers a cuisine of my adopted country based on the sea, with crudo raw fish, pasta and baked whole fish. Maybe we’ll see each other there sometime?
You don’t cook burrata. All it needs is a few good tomatoes, some basil leaves, olive oil, salt, pepper… and a brut rosé champagne!
order my burrata from Murray’s, which has been in business in Greenwich Village since 1940. It’s made by an artisanal cheesemaker in Maplebrook, Vermont. The texture is incomparable, creamy and slightly elastic. Sometimes I also get burrata from the Apulia region of Italy.