Tag Archives: Italian

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeOn a Wednesday night in Larchmont Village in the heart of Los Angeles, every table at Vernetti was full. The owner and chef Steve Vernetti was in the house, moving between the kitchen and the dining room, talking to everyone as though they were old friends. Indeed, it was obvious that there were many regulars. Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, the kind of place you come to rely on for all the important events of life – birthdays, anniversaries, and first dates. The atmosphere was lively, casual, and comfortable. There’s a modern European bistro aesthetic, thanks to Steve’s wife Joanne, who worked with designer David Thompson on the remodel of the original space. The staff made us feel like rock stars. The food was excellent.

His chef training started early. Vernetti notes, “Growing up, we learned how to butcher our goats, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. My brother and I got up at 5 every day before we went to school and milked the goats. We learned how to grow our food. My mother bought me my first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first thing I made from that book was chocolate eclairs.”

Before settling in Los Angeles in the 90s, Vernetti traveled throughout Europe, gathering influences from Berlin, Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, and Florence. He then lived in London for seven years, working with Chef Charles Fontaine at Quality Chop House and Le Caprice. It is easy to see the old world influences mixed with the new at Vernetti, where Steve is in the kitchen every day experimenting with inventive takes on classic recipes.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

He’s also a thoughtful owner – “Working in the restaurant industry for as long as I have, I want my staff to be happy. We run a place where my dishwashers are key players in the business, just as much as the front of the house. We need the staff to be happy. If they are happy, my customers will notice it and they will be happy, too.”

We decided to try many dishes and share them round, starting with the gnocchi, a traditional northern Italian dish that is typically a rather dense potato pasta. This gnocchi was light and airy, rich with ricotta cheese and egg yolks, and topped with sage butter.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

We followed the gnocchi with vongole and shrimp scampi, since Vernetti is known for their house-made pastas. You’ll definitely want to try at least one.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Linguine alla Vongole
i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Shrimp Scampi

Dessert was a trifecta of orange cannoli, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. Hey, there were three of us! I didn’t eat all of this on my own. Look, though…

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Chocolate Budino

Vernetti has an excellent wine menu, with a selection of Italian wines that covers the boot from north to south. There are also some great California wines on the menu. We decided to order by the glass so we could pair a different wine with each dish, which I think is a lot more fun. If you find something you love, you can always order more! You can also bring your own bottle and pay the corkage fee of $25.00. If wine is not your thing, Vernetti’s has a decent beer selection, though I confess my knowledge of beer is limited. I prefer the juice of the grape.

Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, and since I’m not a local there, I felt quite lucky to have found it. It reminded me of an Italian trattoria where the owners are always there and live nearby. The menu is fresh, and dishes are served until they run out of the ingredients to make that particular dish. I recommend this restaurant to everyone!

Steve Vernetti’s philosophy is to “feed the community as I do my family, providing a special place to celebrate all the amazing things that happen when sharing a delicious meal.” Cin Cin, Steve Vernetti.

 

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? 41 years

What is your favorite food to cook? Thanksgiving dinner

What do you always have in your fridge at home? strawberry jam

What do you cook at home? everything

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? hunger

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? unadventurous

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail? wine

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child

Your favorite kitchen tool? my tongue

Your favorite ingredient? salt

Your least favorite ingredient? kale

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeLeast favorite thing to do in a kitchen? dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? French, Italian, & British

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? beef

Favorite vegetable? potato

Chef you most admire? Eric Rippert

Food you like the most to eat? sweetbreads prepared by my mother

Food you dislike the most? anything that has the word molecular in it

How many tattoos? one

And if so, how many are of food? None

Recipe: Vernetti’s Semolina Pancakes

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Ingredients
2cups Semolina
2cups all purpose flour
4tsp baking powder
2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and add:
4eggs
3-4 cups buttermilk (plain whole milk will work)
1/2cup vegetable oil

Directions
Mix but leave lumps. Use well oiled cast iron pan or griddle on medium high heat and brush browned tops with melted butter – enjoy!

 

 

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite: Los Angeles’ Franco on Melrose, Chef Franco de Dominicis

IMG_1422Along a strip of Melrose Avenue, just past La Brea is Franco on Melrose. It’s location is in the City of Angel’s culinary corridor featuring a few of the most lauded epicurean stops in the city including Providence, Mozza, Mud Hen Tavern and Trois Mec. To the south, one can wander to Republique or Odys + Penelope.  It’s a hidden gem of an Italian eatery although a favorite among the celebrity set. However, the trattoria has been under the radar since its inception over four years ago. Why? Partially, says chef and owner Franco de Dominicis, “I didn’t have a beer and wine license. It was BYOB but now I do and things have changed.”

Originally born in Venezuela to Italian parents, de Dominicis was then raised in Paestum, Italy about a hundred miles south of Naples, renowned for its Greek and Roman archeological sites. The 2600-year-old settlement has also been known as the second largest agricultural center in Italy, the first being in Umbria. De Dominicis had an excellent childhood and gained a love of cookery via his family. He had formal culinary training at a Naples based school which supplied him with European apprenticeships. Now, in the States, the food he makes is indicative of his European and Italian roots, staying true to his youth.
IMG_3359Proudly, de Dominicis makes all of his own pasta, ravioli, and lasagna. Many of the recipes are adapted recipes from his mother and childhood. He also sources as much as he can from the farmers markets throughout Los Angeles. It’s a true Los Angeles-based trattoria serving up Neapolitan fare without having to travel to Italy.

Franco on Melrose is a lovely place with a sidewalk awning extending out to the valet. Its roof is canopied and during the summer is open to the stars. The best thing about the new Italian-centric wine menu which was personally selected by de Dominicis it’s priced so reasonably you can imbibe with that second bottle while looking at the stars.

Chef Questionnaire: 

IMG_1877How long have you been cooking? Since I was 13.

What is your favorite food to cook? Meat and fish and pasta.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Milk, juices, herbs, prosciutto, burrata, eggs.

What do you cook at home? Sometimes I get together with friends and I love to do brunch with roasted beef tenderloin and rack of lamb.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? An open mind to try different things.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Unwilling to expand their palate.

IMG_1242Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Rubbermaid.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Definitely wine. A full body red and champagne.

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Hand mixer

Your favorite ingredient? Extra virgin olive oil.

Your least favorite ingredient? Okra.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Stirring for hours.

FullSizeRender (3)Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian, French, Caribbean,

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef.

Favorite vegetable? Haricot vert and brussels sprouts.

Chef you most admire? Gordon Ramsey.

Food you like the most to eat? Breakfast items.

Food you dislike the most? Russian.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None.

Franco on Melrose’s Roasted Chicken and Pears

  • 3-4 lbs. chicken, whole roasting
  • 3 Anjou pears (Peeled and cut into quarters)
  • 3 shallots (Cut into quarters)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalk
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • ½ a tablespoon of freshly cut sage. Or thereabouts.
  • Salt and pepper

To Make: Pre heat oven a 400 degree. Take the chicken and stuff it with the whole pears, some thyme, some sage, and 1 shallots cut into quarters. Tie the legs back with twine. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, with all the carrots and celery, cut into  pieces, add the rest of the shallots cut in ¼ as well, disperse the herbs around, poor the wine and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Uncover the chicken and let it finish cooking, for another 15 to 20 minutes, until a nice golden brown and juices run clear.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: with Chef Ruggero Gadaldi, San Francisco’s Delarosa & Spicy Holiday Italian Meatballs

Editor’s Note: This is a posting from  contributor Penny Sadler, Adventures of a Carry-On.

Beretta-Proof-385
Ruggero Gadaldi: Credit Aubrie Pick

From his childhood days helping out in the family market and churning butter on the farm near Bergamo, Italy, Chef Ruggero Gadaldi developed his love for and understanding of regional Italian foods. His passion for preparing only the most authentic Italian cuisine lead him to study at Italy’s prestigious San Pellegrino Hotel School. From there, he made his way to the US via a number of positions at five-star hotels throughout Europe, New York, and finally San Francisco, with a stop in Los Angeles to cook for Pope John Paul II.

Inside
Inside Delarosa: Credit, Aubrie Pick

In 2008, Gadaldi received the San Francisco Chronicle Visionary Chef Award. His restaurant, Antica Trattoria, was voted Best Neighborhood Italian, Bay Area Critics Choice Award, SF Chronicle, 1996 – 2008.

 

In a city known for great food and plenty of Italian options, Delarosa, Gadaldi’s latest venture, is the kind of place that locals favor for reliable and reasonably priced Italian food served in a casual and contemporary atmosphere. The newest location at Yerba Buena Lane has exactly the same look and feel as the Marina location: the kitchen is open, and space is light, with accents of orange.

Delarosa is only one of a number of celebrated Italian restaurants in the Bay Area to which Gadaldi has dedicated his passion for preparing authentic Italian food.

Chef’s Questionnaire with Ruggero Gadaldi

Delarosa-198How long have you been cooking? Since I entered the “Scuola Professionale Alberghiera di Stato” for Chef in San Pellegrino, Bergamo, Italy in 1972.

What is your favorite food to cook? Regional Italian.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese, salami and pickles

What do you cook at home? My wife does the cooking at home, I’m the dishwasher. (Big smile.)

Photo By Aubrie Pick
Photo By Aubrie Pick

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? When a customer is served and they take that first bite, they pause and then a smile appears. We hope then that we have added to their day.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Being disrespectful.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine with my meal, and a Negroni at the end of my day.

Your favorite cookbook author? Joyce Goldstein

Your favorite kitchen tool? Gnocchi paddle.

Your favorite ingredient? Piemontese white truffle.

Your least favorite ingredient? Can’t think of one.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Gutting sardines.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork

Favorite vegetable? Dino kale or Tuscan Cabbage.

Chef you most admire? Mario Batali. 

Mussels and Tomato Sauce
Photo by Aubrie Pick

Food you like the most to eat? Hearty stews

Food you dislike the most? There isn’t much I dislike. I love food !!!

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Zero. I admire some but cringe when I think about the pain they had to go through to get them.

Recipe: Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Serves 4 – 6)

Delarosa-Proofs-54Tomato Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 4   Chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp   Calabrese chili flake
  • 16 oz.   Tomato-basil sauce

 

 

In a saucepan, heat olive oil and add garlic and chili flakes. When garlic starts to get brown add tomato- basil sauce. Cook for 10 minutes at medium heat.

Meatballs

  • ¾ lb. ground beef
  • ¼ lb. ground veal
  • ½ lb. Italian sweet sausage (out of casing)
  • 1 cup Bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 Egg whites
  • ½ C Grated Fresh Pecorino cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to Taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Mix thoroughly, though not over handling.  Before creating balls, put a little bit of olive oil on your hands in order to minimize sticking. Spoon out mixture and create meatballs that are approx 1.5-inch balls.  Place on a greased sheet pan and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Place meatballs in the Spicy Tomato sauce and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.

Plate:  2 to 3 meatballs on a plate and add a spoonful of sauce on top.  Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

The End. Go Eat.