The pinnacle of the Wine & Food Festival is the Grand Tasting Village. More than fifty local restaurants gather to offer attendees a look behind the curtain in the making of their favorite, delicious dishes. We spoke with three of the Italian restaurants in attendance to ask about the balance between keeping things fresh and maintaining that classic flavor.
What goes into the thought process of creating a new dish?
La Bocca Ristorante: A lot of long nights without sleeping! [It’s a] very long process, trying many different ingredients [and putting] them together until you get the perfect dish balanced on savor and taste.
Wood & Fire: Chef Pasquale handles our menu. He puts a lot of thought and creativity into his dishes. He really tries to make each and every dish at both restaurants unique but at the same time not super complex. It’s always a little trial and error.
Basta: When thinking about new dishes or keeping things fresh, I think about my time spent in Italy at Magnolia, a two-Michelin-star restaurant, or Alma, an Italian culinary school. Everything I was taught there was about technique, balance, and freshness in ingredients.
How do you keep things fresh and modern while honoring the cuisine’s Italian heritage?
La Bocca Ristorante: Buying daily from only specified and amazing suppliers. I get the buffalo mozzarella once a week imported straight from Italy to JFK!
Wood & Fire: We’re always reevaluating our menu. We change our menu about 3 to 4 times a year to keep it fresh and still stay with our cuisine’s heritage. The chef is usually in Italy once a year, so that always helps, going back to original roots for some ideas and then coming back to the States and putting that unique modern twist on our dishes.
Basta: For one to stay true to Italian cuisine and heritage one must remember technique. Whether it be risotto, pasta, or protein, each has a technique that brings out its best qualities to the dish.
What is different about your restaurant?
La Bocca Ristorante: Quality, tradition, innovation, integrity.
Wood & Fire: We don’t necessarily match ourselves up with any other restaurants. We focus on having a unique, modern menu. We try to offer great service and food in an environment meant for everyone. We love what we do. We have managers in both locations but I and my partner Franco are hands-on owners. We always have our finger on the pulse, and I do believe that is something some restaurants lack.
Basta: Everything about Basta makes it different: The menu as a whole is made to order, no shortcuts. The mozzarella is made daily, used on any and every dish with mozzarella. We grow all herbs in season, including an Italian basil that we use on the pizza. Many of the cured meats are done in-house in small quantity. I do my best to make sure the freshness, quality and technique stay consistent daily with every dish we make.