Five-Minute Pow-Wow: Chef Tony Mantuano Talks Tastes, Tours, and Italian Soul

WORLD-RENOWNED CHEF AND HOST OF OUR AUTHENTIC FOODS OF ITALY: TOUR THE ITALIAN COUNTRYSIDE BOUTIQUE SHARES HIS INSIGHT INTO THE FAVORED CUISINE

Authentic Foods of Italy

A culinary tour through Italy is all about the senses – the tastes (first and foremost), the smells, the scenery. And of course, the people who make it all so delicious. Chef Tony Mantuano (maybe you recall him as one of the most revered and beloved contestants of Top Chef Masters) hosts the tour with his wife and culinary partner, Cathy. The expedition departs Rome and journeys through Molise, giving guests “insight into a little-known region’s food, wine, and history.” We sat down with Chef Mantuano for his take on all things Italian.

Rue La La: The itinerary takes Members through several villages and home-style restaurants. What’s your one favorite meal?
Chef Mantuano: The specialty of the region is called Pampanella – delicious and unforgettable. [Editor's note: Pampanella is a pork dish, marinated overnight with garlic and ground sweet pepper.]

Rue La La: When we think Italian, we think hearty pastas, rich sauces, and creamy cheeses. How do you keep it light and healthy?
Chef Mantuano: It’s all about dining Italian-style with sensible portions, vegetables, and wine.

Rue La La: What’s an ingredient we should never compromise on when preparing Italian food?
Chef Mantuano: Aceto balsamico (balsamic vinegar). There is no substitute for the real thing. Also, extra virgin olive oil – it’s the one food I can’t live without. One of the best comes from Molise-Il Traturello, which we will be visiting on this trip.

Rue La La: What’s your ultimate Italian meal?
Chef Mantuano: Insalata di puntarelle (puntarelle chicory salad with anchovy sauce), linguine con vongole (linguine with clams), and abbacchio al Romano (Roman-style roast lamb), all paired with rarified Italian wines (Pigato from Liguria and Brunello di Montalcino, to be specific), an assortment of cheeses, and a good espresso.

Rue La La: What’s one ingredient a chef should always keep on hand?
Chef Mantuano: Capers. They give a distinctive flavor to many dishes, but they are often overlooked when stocking the pantry. Plus, they have a good shelf life.

Rue La La: Describe the power of Italian cuisine in three words.
Chef Mantuano: Satisfying. Healthy. Soulful.

Our Authentic Foods of Italy: Tour the Italian Countryside Boutique opens Wednesday, January 26 at 11AM.

January 26, 2011