Compliments of the Chef with Tony Mantuano

This week chef Tony Mantuano briefs us on Spiaggia's extravagant seasonal tasting menus (hello, white truffles), the secret to making one hell of a pancake, and the delicate nature of the handmade pasta he's serving just for you.

November 18, 2013 ● 2 min read

CF: I'm best known for my _______ style of cooking but I can make one hell of a _______.
TM: Italian; pancake (The trick is to take it slow—you've got to be patient. Oh, add a little bit of ricotta cheese, too. It's the Italian secret.)

CF: A few words your sous chef would use to describe you.
TM: I think they'd say I'm calming and that it takes a lot to get me angry. Which is good, because you probably never want to take me to that place.

CF: What are you most excited about right now in your restaurant?
TM: Spiaggia is celebrating white truffle season with a seven-course white truffle tasting menu for $275. We’re also hosting a white truffle dinner on Monday, December 16 that will feature four courses with our favorite winter ingredients for $135. In addition, I just opened my first restaurant in South Beach, Miami called Lorenzo this past Tuesday. The restaurant features Spiaggia and Cafe Spiaggia’s greatest hits as well as some new dishes inspired by the local producers, fishermen, and ingredients.

CF: Which chef would you drop everything to stage with?
TM: Victor Arguinzoniz at his restaurant Asador Etxebarri in San Sebastián. He makes his own grills and even makes his own charcoal. I'm just so impressed with everything he's doing.

CF: Insider tip from the kitchen for diners.
TM: Go to the restroom before your meal starts. Pasta doesn't wait. We make sure to send it out as soon as it's ready, but when the captain says, "I'm sorry, they've gone to the restroom," you know what we have to do? We have to start all over again because our pasta is all handmade and very delicate. So please don't leave between your antipasti and pasta courses, wait until after your entrée.

CF: Is there anything you don't like?
TM: For the longest time I thought I didn't like mussels, but then just a few weeks ago I was in Portland, Maine where I had the best mussels from Fore Street. I couldn't stop eating them. They were big, fat, fresh, and had just been pulled out of the water just a few blocks away. But as of now, I don't eat melon or cucumbers. Just give me the prosciutto and keep the melon.

CF: Message to professional food critics.
TM: Maybe it's a generational thing, but there seems to be a lot more cynicism in food writing these days. There are also a lot more outlets to write in as well, which might lend itself to, "Hey, we've got to sell magazines... so let's be controversial." I think that's probably what's driving this trend.

CF: One piece of advice for aspiring young chefs.
TM: Realize there's nothing that will help your career more than hard work, being in a restaurant, and going through those important steps of your primary culinary education before getting into the glamour part of it. I think a lot of young chefs make the mistake of coming out of school thinking they want to go straight to TV. And if that's what you want to do, just know you'll have a different career. You can't have your feet in both worlds.

CF: Thick or thin patty?
TM: I'm a thick burger kind of guy.

CF: What's for family meal tonight?
TM: Red’s Golden Chicken, named after Red, one of our dishwashers for the past 25 years. Any time he prepares his golden fried chicken for comida (family meal), it does not last long! And now until tomorrow, November 15, we'll be offering the staff’s most popular comida dish at Cafe Spiaggia for our guests to enjoy.