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


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


  1. Anonymous says:

    The information provided is quite incomplete regarding the culinary tour in Italy with chef Tony Mantuano. Could you provide with the details: Dates, itinerary, hotels, costs. What is it included, what is not. Frecuency of these culinary tours dates

  2. Rue La La says:

    Hi auribe04,
    Thanks so much for your question. We’re offering one tour in April 2011. The itinerary and all the details of the trip can be found by clicking into the Boutique:

    The tour will be led by Chef Tony Mantuano, we hope you enjoyed his insight into Italian cuisine!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi auribe04,
    The itinerary and all the details can be found in the Boutique:

    The tour will be led by Chef Tony Mantuano – we hope you enjoyed his insight!

  4. Anonymous says:

    i could not find link either or itinary

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi jsimenoff: That 2-day Boutique is now closed. (All of our Boutiques are open for just a short time.) We offer new travel & culinary offerings regularly, so we suggest checking out the calendar on our main pg & setting reminders for your favorites!