We caught up with Chicago chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia before his James Beard dinner to find out where he eats when he visits NYC, what late New York restaurateur he’d love to grab dinner with, and how to make a simple yet satisfying spaghetti cacio e pepe.
Top talent comes together with the James Beard Foundation’s Italian Icon dinner on Tuesday, April 18 (7 p.m.; member price: $210; public price: $260; tickets on jamesbeard.org). JBF award-winning chef Tony Mantuano visits the James Beard House from Chicago’s JBF award-winning/revered eatery Spiaggia, with the resto’s own chef de cuisine, Joe Flamm, and sommelier and beverage director, Rachael Lowe. Together, the team will present dishes that speak to Spiaggia’s over 30 years of experience in Italian-inspired cuisine, with starters like San Martino-style pork belly, and mains like aquarello rice risotto with black truffles and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and duck confit, dried cherry, and pistachio tortellini in smoked duck broth. The elegant meal concludes with olive oil cake with shortbread, strawberries, and buttermilk-basil gelato, and every course is paired with premier wines.
We talked to Mantuano prior to the event to get his outlook on everything from the best in New York dining to a recipe for cacio e pepe, and more. Here’s what he said:
What is your favorite place to eat in New York and what do you order there? TONY MANTUANO: My favorite restaurant is Lilia (567 Union Ave., Brooklyn, 718-576-3095) in Williamsburg. I order the blowfish tails, when they have them. Chef Missy Robbins grills them and then dresses them with salmoriglio sauce.
In your opinion, who is a rising-star chef to watch in New York? TM: Erik Ramirez of Llama Inn (50 Withers St., Brooklyn, 718-387-3434).
If you could have dinner with any New York chef, dead or alive, who would it be? TM: Even though I never met him or knew what he was like, I would like to have dinner with Alfredo Viazzi, who had restaurants in Greenwich Village. His book was the first book I bought from any New York chef. I would also like to ask him about being a partisan in World War II.
What New York City neighborhood do you think has the best food scene? TM: The Lower East Side because you can always get dumplings for dessert in nearby Chinatown.
What are you most looking forward to about the James Beard Foundation event? TM: Giving the opportunity to cook at the James Beard House to all my young cooks who have never experienced it before.
What kind of food does New York need more of? TM: Cheap, authentic taco spots.
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
Spaghetti cacio e pepe.
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper 1 pound spaghetti 1.5 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the black pepper and toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes less than what the box advises. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water.
Transfer the toasted pepper, olive oil, and 1 cup of the hot pasta water into a ceramic bowl large enough to hold and toss all the pasta and cheese. Add the strained pasta to the bowl, toss, and then add the cheese a little at a time. Keep gently tossing all the ingredients until creamy. Add more hot pasta water if necessary. The pasta should still be firm to the bite.
Serve immediately with extra Pecorino Romano cheese on the side.