Learning to make pasta in a hands-on way was absolutely beyond my paradigm of cooking. But thanks to Executive Chef Chris Macchia of The Florentine in Chicago, that is exactly the opportunity I was given and….I loved it! Of course, being taught by an award winning chef with over fifteen years of experience made all of the difference!
Executive Chef Chris Macchia graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and started his career at the Gotham Bar & Grill in New York City before he took his talents to the five-star, five-diamond Four Seasons Hotel in Maui. Arriving in the Midwest, Chef Chris was Chef de Cuisine for the KDK Restaurant Group and managed Red Light and Saiko restaurants as well as those at the Peninsula Hotel. In 2006 Macchia joined Coco Pazzo Restaurants as Executive Chef/Partner and began attracting accolades from many local critics who loved his modern spin to traditional Tuscan style offerings. He was awarded the Jean Banchet Rising Star Chef award for his work at Coco Pazzo in 2011 and let’s just say, I was honored to be in his presence with hopes of learning a new skill!
The Florentine is a business casual restaurant tucked in the JW Marriott Hotel on Adams Street in Chicago and offers a warm and rich interior, open and airy front room, and circular bar which tempts with an array of beverages and antipasto starters. After arriving and being greeted by the friendly staff, the other attendees I were offered a delicious glass of bubbles, Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede, which with its intense pear and apple elegance was paired with small bites of arancini and crab puffs – perfect starters to a potentially challenging evening of pasta making! But not to worry! After a brilliant tutorial at which Chef Chris demonstrated the steps needed to make basic pasta, add herbs, flavors, and colors to the dough, and creatively cut various shapes, my inner Italian Nonna kicked in and before long I was mounding flour, adding eggs to the center, briskly blending in the olive oil, and kneading the dough (with a little help from Chef Chris)!
Once the pasta was made and the texture was just right, our group of eight was ushered into a semi-private dining room with views of the hard working sous-chefs and treated to an amazing four course dinner. Fresh ingredients and balanced flavors were part of the delicious meal meticulously prepared and served family style. Executive Chef Chris Macchia prides himself with The Florentine’s menu which includes top imported cheeses, salts, meats, and home-made pastas and uses ingredients from local and organic farms. What did this new group of pasta makers enjoy?
- Buffalo Mozzarella with apple cider caramelized apples and toasted almonds
- Butternut Squash soup with cranberry gastric
- Potato Gnocchi with Veal Ragu, Currants and saffron/Butternut Squash Mezzelune topped with ricotta salata and ameretti/Rigatoni with Tuna conserva, capers/Tomato Beet and Goat Cheese agnolotti with swiss chard and orange confit
- Panna Cotta with red wine poached figs and blood orange sorbetto
The dinner was absolutely fantastic! But, will I make my own pasta again? Perhaps. But dining at The Florentine with the delicious pasta dishes and more created by Executive Chef Chris Macchia may be the better choice. My inner Nonna will be