“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco


Monday, March 31, 2014

"Magic & Pasta" presents "An Italian Spring Soiree" April 12th, 7PM in NYC




Ciao mei amici! We are finally starting to feel the beginning of Spring; next week will have highs in the 60s!!  With lovely spring weather comes all that Spring has to offer, and for me, that means lovely vegetables.

With that in mind, my next
Magic & Pasta event will be "An Italian Spring Soiree" on April 12th, 7PM at a beautiful apartment in Chelsea, NY (the address is revealed once you purchase tickets.) This dinner is limited to just 9 lucky guests. To purchase tickets via Bookalokal please click here.


This meal will be centered around seasonal spring ingredients, featuring beets, asparagus, zucchini and more.

Here is the full menu to entice you:


 

STARTERS

Roasted Beet & Ricotta Salad

Thin roasted beets layered with homemade ricotta and a drizzle of beet greens pesto
 

Poached Shrimp in Zucchini Nests

Poached Shrimp served in a zucchini nest with a lemon reduction
 

MAIN COURSE

Romanesco Risotto
Risotto made with a romanesco puree, shaved asparagus, leeks and peas

Fennel Pork Loin
Fennel-Garlic Crusted Pork Loin with Homemade Carrot Chips


 DESSERT


 
Ricotta Cupcakes
(picture shown is for my ricotta olive oil pound cake, click here for the recipe!)
Ricotta Olive Oil Cupcakes with Fluffy Lemon Frosting

A selection of wine will be served
 
$65.00 per person
 

 
 
The goal with my Magic& Pasta events is to give you an experience. Some people may start out as strangers, but when you have good food, wine and music, by the end of the night, you're all friends. Food brings people together and works in mysterious ways. My Italian Spring Soiree is limited to just 9 guests, so you will be in for a very intimate dinner. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at magicandpasta@hotmail.com. I hope to see you there! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

An Interview with Florence Restaurateur Umberto Montano of Alle Murate


Buongiorno mei amici! During my recent stay in bella Firenze, I had the pleasure of meeting with Umberto Montano, owner of Alle Murate, Osteria del Caffe' Italiano, Pizzeria Caffe Italiano, SUD and The President of the historic Mercato Centrale. 
I had the chance to sit down for lunch with Umberto at Alle Murate, which is like dining in a fine museum. To give you a little history before we get to the interview, Alle Murate is located in Palazzo dell'Arte dei Giudici e Notai which houses fourteenth century frescoes and archaeological excavations from Roman times to the Renaissance. The frescoes include the oldest documented portraits that exist of Dante and Boccaccio, which was quite exciting to see. Being in Alle Murate is really like going back in time; it is an experience not to be missed.
 
With Umberto at Alle Murate
During my stay, Umberto was kind enough to invite me to the groundbreaking ceremony of the new first floor of the Mercato Centrale.

The building for Mercato Centrale was built sometime between 1870 and 1874 by architect Guiseppe Mengoni. It is a beautiful market with dozens and dozens of vendors selling fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, bread, pastries, seafood and spices. If you’re as passionate about food as I am, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store walking through here. It’s absolutely incredible. As I mentioned, Umberto is the President of Mercato Centrale and he will be doing a complete renovation of the first floor, adding new shops and a cooking school. At Alle Murate, I got to try the mozzarella that will be sold at the Mercato and I have to be honest with you…this mozzarella put all other mozzarella to shame. It was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. I can’t quite explain it because no words could do it justice, you will just have to go the Market or Alle Murate and try it for yourself! I can’t wait to return to Italy later this year, when the new first floor should be up and running. In the meantime, I’ll just have my beautiful memories to fantasize about until then…without further ado, I give you my full interview with Umberto Montano.

For me, some of my favorite memories involve food. What are some of your favorite food memories?
I’m full of fond food memories. I worked in the kitchen for fifteen years and while I was working I tried to extend what the people would really like. The best dish you’ve ever had in your life…it’s connected with the history, the memory. It’s always a dish that comes from the background, the family. Food with character is the secret in the dish.

Are your menus a combination of regional Italian cuisine or do you showcase a specific region?
Our chef is born in Southern Italy. (The chef at Alle Murate , Giovanna Iorio.) She makes the food from the South and Tuscany. It gives us a creative cuisine with strong character and very tasty dishes. What I don’t like is food to be prepared to be shown. I think it’s more important for food to be tasted. Italian food is so high on smell and taste, to make it beautiful is to give too much.

What makes dining at each of your restaurants its own unique experience?
The fresco of Dante at Alle Murate
Alle Murate is filled with passion. The frescoes, to discover the face of Dante…between the art and the food, it is a complete experience. To see the passion that passed through the walls and then the food, it is beautiful. At Caffe' Italiano you get to have the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, you can choose between three different steaks. It is some of the best steak you will find.

What first got you interested in the restaurant business?
When I was fourteen, I studied restaurant business in Switzerland. My best experience is teaching, I learned a lot. To teach well, you need to know. You need to be a critic. Sophisticated culture for what you’re talking about.

Do you have a favorite dish from each of your restaurants?
Osteria is pomodoro in the summertime, in winter, ribollita. When the tomatoes are fresh…there is a special touch that makes each one unique. Alle Murate makes the best pasta in the world. She (Chef Giovanna Iorio) uses fresh peas in the pasta, pumpkin gorgonzola. I think the pasta is impressive. They are dishes that work. At the pizzeria, the pizza Margherita and Napoli. At SUD, we prepare classic southern specialties, like a fava bean puree sandwich with extra virgin olive oil.

What advice would you have for someone looking to get involved in the restaurant industry?
Do it, but with a lot of love and attention. Take care of every little thing. Stay there, be present, you want to touch people’s hearts. Every single detail is important.

Do you have any tried and true cooking tips you wouldn’t mind sharing?
You should never cook if you don’t have a strong feeling inside. Never go in the kitchen if you don’t want to stay there. If you want to make great food, do it when you’re strongly happy. Food needs sentiment.

Are any of the dishes served at your restaurants family dishes?
Yes, mostly. Everything comes from the culture when Giovanna grew up. She refuses to be called chef, she says, “I am a cook, not a chef. I come from the school of my mother and my mother was not a chef.” Giovanna is the best example of cucina rustica..rustic kitchen.


At the groundbreaking ceremony of the new first floor of Mercato Centrale
 
Were you approached to renovate the first floor of Mercato Centrale or was it your idea?
I am in partnership to build up the market. The difference between this market and the others is to create a partnership. To bring the people from the farms, to give them the opportunity to have a shop. Give them marketing and advertising. I bring people from the south of Italy to make the mozzarella. I organize a way to give the farmers a way for them to the come to the town and have their own business.
If you weren’t in the restaurant industry, what would you have been?
I don’t know. I would have like to have been an artist. The biggest satisfaction is when I can realize things through creativity.

What would your last meal be?
It’s not food…but the lips of my wife.

What is some of the best food you have ever eaten?
A puree of broth beans, chicory and extra virgin olive oil, made by my great grandmother. Prepared in a terracotta pan in the fireplace. Often the ingredients can be very simple to make something incredible.

After the broth beans, a meal I shared with the family that makes the mozzarella for the mercato. The 94 year old man had some beautiful tomatoes. We all sit there with a piece of bread, take out the mozzarella with our hands in the water. The farmer with the tomato cuts them with a knife in his hand. Some of the best food I have had in my life.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Magic & Pasta" and "Bar Eolo" present A St Joseph's Day Event, March 16th in NYC- Ticket information


After the success of my sold out Venetian Carnevale Celebration, I am very excited to announce my next event...


Magic & Pasta is thrilled to be collaborating with Melissa Muller Daka, proprietress of Bar Eolo and Pastai, both in Chelsea, New York City. We will be co-hosting "A Saint Joseph’s Day Celebration" on March 16 at Bar Eolo.
 
The phones at Bar Eolo have been ringing constantly this week for reservation for our event. We want to make sure everyone who wants to come has a spot, so now you can purchase your tickets on eventbrite. Here is the official link to purchase tickets for our St. Joseph's Day Event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-sicilian-saint-josephs-day-feast-tickets-10881523931


Experience St. Joseph's Day in the Sicilian Tradition at Bar Eolo: Sicilian Kitchen & Wines



Sunday, March 16th, 2014 3pm to 5:30pm

 


 


$75 per person (all-inclusive of tax and gratuity) includes the following:

~ an elaborate buffet (setup as St. Joseph’s day altar) with multiple cold and hot vegetarian dishes and breads. Items will also be available for our vegan & gluten-intolerant guests. In keeping with St. Joseph’s Day, a three-tier altar, representing the holy trinity, will be decorated with flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, statues, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies as well as other meatless dishes (because the feast occurs during Lent). Because St. Joseph was a carpenter, foods will be served containing bread crumbs to symbolize saw dust.

 
~ passed around mini hor d’oeuvres – served when guests first arrive

~ sfinci di ricotta, cookies and other St. Joseph’s day sweets passed towards the end of the event 

~ live musical entertainment

~ 2 1/2 hour open bar with a selection of Stemmari's Feudo Arancio white and red Sicilian wines, as well as soft drinks.
All other beverages are charged by consumption. After open bar period, any drinks will be charged by consumption.

A note from Melissa, Bar Eolo’s founder: 

“This is the first year that my grandmother will not be present to celebrate this feast day with us by preparing her special breads and cookies. While I routinely cook special dishes at Bar Eolo for this holiday, this year, I felt compelled to partake in this unique event, prepared in a traditional Sicilian fashion, to honor my grandmother Francesca's memory.” 

In regards to her collaboration with Caroline Chirichella, Melissa says,
“I’m so impressed with Caroline’s creativity and ingenuity in planning unique food events,  that I’m thrilled to team up with her in what I hope will be the first of many events we organize together.”

Note that in case you cannot make our March 16th feast, Bar Eolo will be running St. Joseph’s specials until the actual holiday on Wednesday, March 19th.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Magic & Pasta" and "Bar Eolo" present A St. Joseph's Day Celebration, March 16th NYC


After the success of my sold out Venetian Carnevale Celebration, I am very excited to announce my next event...


Magic & Pasta is thrilled to be collaborating with Melissa Muller Daka, proprietress of Bar Eolo and Pastai, both in Chelsea, New York City. We will be co-hosting "A Saint Joseph’s Day Celebration" on March 16 at Bar Eolo.
 
To make reservations, please click HERE or call 646-225-6606.


Experience St. Joseph's Day in the Sicilian Tradition at Bar Eolo: Sicilian Kitchen & Wines


Sunday, March 16th, 2014 3pm to 5:30pm
 
 

 

$75 per person (all-inclusive of tax and gratuity) includes the following:

~ an elaborate buffet (setup as St. Joseph’s day altar) with multiple cold and hot vegetarian dishes and breads. Items will also be available for our vegan & gluten-intolerant guests. In keeping with St. Joseph’s Day, a three-tier altar, representing the holy trinity, will be decorated with flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, statues, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies as well as other meatless dishes (because the feast occurs during Lent). Because St. Joseph was a carpenter, foods will be served containing bread crumbs to symbolize saw dust.

 
~ passed around mini hor d’oeuvres – served when guests first arrive

~ sfinci di ricotta, cookies and other St. Joseph’s day sweets passed towards the end of the event 

~ live musical entertainment

~ 2 1/2 hour open bar with a selection of Stemmari's Feudo Arancio white and red Sicilian wines, as well as soft drinks.
All other beverages are charged by consumption. After open bar period, any drinks will be charged by consumption.

A note from Melissa, Bar Eolo’s founder: 

“This is the first year that my grandmother will not be present to celebrate this feast day with us by preparing her special breads and cookies. While I routinely cook special dishes at Bar Eolo for this holiday, this year, I felt compelled to partake in this unique event, prepared in a traditional Sicilian fashion, to honor my grandmother Francesca's memory.” 

In regards to her collaboration with Caroline Chirichella, Melissa says,
“I’m so impressed with Caroline’s creativity and ingenuity in planning unique food events,  that I’m thrilled to team up with her in what I hope will be the first of many events we organize together.”

Note that in case you cannot make our March 16th feast, Bar Eolo will be running St. Joseph’s specials until the actual holiday on Wednesday, March 19th.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"A Venetian Carnevale Celebration" in NYC, Saturday March 1st

 
 UPDATE: EVENT SOLD OUT!!
 
It’s almost here, my “Venetian Carnevale Celebration” in NYC on March 1st! This is my first event since launching “Magic &Pasta” and I can’t wait to share this unique dining experience with all of you. If you are still interested in attending, I have a new link for tickets since the event is sold out on EventBrite, you can now get tickets through Bookalokal:

For tickets, please refer to this link: http://bookalokal.com/meal/52ffcfcbac194ee4477b62e0

If you have any questions about attending the event, please e-mail me at magicandpasta@hotmail.com or lacucinaprimadonna@hotmail.com

Just to tempt you all, here is the menu again:

 
MENU

Polenta Fritti with Miele di Castagno (chestnut honey) and Meile Arancio (orange honey)


Crispy, fried rosemary polenta served with assorted Italian honeys


Radicchio, Artichoke and Fig Salad with a Lemon Balsamic Reduction in a Parmigiano Crisp


Shaved radicchio, artichoke and figs with a drizzle of balsamic reduction served in a parmigiano crisp cup



Cornmeal Crusted Shrimp Lollipops


A little whimsy... fried cornmeal crusted shrimp lollipos


 


Frittelle are a traditional Carnevale treat, everyone has their own twist...mine are made with celery root and served with a creamy basil aioli


Individual “Le Grande Lasagna di Carnevale” Ramekins



Lasagna di Carnevale is traditionally enjoyed around Carnevale as a last meat splurge before Lent...my version is completely homemade, the pasta, ricotta and my prize winning Bolognese with sausage, beef and pancetta



 

Carnevale Cookies


A traditional festive cookie covered with sprinkles


Prosecco

Monday, February 10, 2014

Celery Root Frittelle with a Basil Sirracha Aioli and A Venetian Carnevale Celebration!


 
Ciao mei amici! Today’s treat is something I will be serving at my upcoming “Venetian Carnevale Celebration.” This is my first official ticketed event in NYC since starting “Magic & Pasta.” Food, drinks, masks and mischief, it’s going to be a really fun and delicious night, I hope some of you can join us. For me ticket information and a full menu for "A Venetian Carnevale Celebration" you can go here and here.

These Celery Root Frittelle are just incredible. I know, I know, you hear celery root and your initial reaction might be “BOOOOORING.” But let me tell you, that is not the case. Celery root is delicious, it sort of reminds me of a taro, which I love. Frittelle are a traditional fried treat served for Carnevale but I didn’t want to go with a traditional recipe, hence the celery root. I serve these with a Basil Sirracha Aioli. You will LOVE them.

Celery Root Frittelle with Basil Sirracha
Aioli
 
 
Basil Sirracha Aoli
 
2 cups basil leaves
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
Salt
2 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. grape seed oil
2 tbsp. sirracha

Set up a bowl with ice and cold water. Put basil in a medium saucepan of salted boiling eater, cook for 20 seconds, then drain and submerge in the ice water for 30 seconds. Drain and squeeze out any excess water. In a pan over medium heat, add your olive oil and garlic and let it gently roast so it gets soft. In a blender, combine basil, egg yolks, salt and 2 ice cubes, puree to combine. With machine running add the garlic and oil in a slow and steady stream. Add the sirracha. Try the sauce and add more seasoning if you like. Keep chilled.
 

 
Celery Root Frittelle
 
 
4 cups of grated celery root
3 tbsp. parsley
¼ cup olive oil
Sea salt
Pepper
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. flour
1/3 to ½ beer
1 ½ quarts canola oil for frying
 
In a large bowl, mix the celery root, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add flour, stir more and then add the beer. The mix should be a little sticky and hold together when you form it into balls or patties. If you need to, add a little more beer. Heat your oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat. Drop the fritters in and let them fry until they are a beautiful golden color. Each fritter should take around 5 minutes or so. Using a slotted spoon, move the fritters to a plate lined with paper towels. Season with salt. Serve while they are still warm with the aioli for dipping!! Buon Appetito!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Launch of "Magic & Pasta"....A New Dining Experience

 
"Life is a combination of magic and pasta"- Frederico Fellini

 
I am very excited to announce the launch of "Magic & Pasta"...A New Dining Experience. Browse the site for the story behind "Magic & Pasta", follow on our various social media accounts, subscribe to always stay updated and be sure to take a look for ticket information on my first official pop up on March 1st, "A Venetian Carnevale Celebration." Other upcoming dinners include An Italian Street Food Dinner, A Dinner Inspired by Famous Food Quotes, A Mad Hatter Tea Party and A Meet the Beatles Dinner. You can also book "Magic & Pasta" for cooking classes, private lessons, children's events or to cater your next event in NYC. "Life is a combination of magic and pasta"- Frederico Fellini


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