Inside the kitchen of Davide Ciavattella, executive chef at Don Alfonso 1890
Including frozen rabbit, tomatoes from Mount Vesuvius and 30 year old balsamic
six months ago, David Ciavatella He worked as head chef at the Don Alfonso location in Sorrento in the 1890s and lived in a spacious house on the Amalfi Coast with his wife, Serena Staiano, and their two children. But the promotion was taking off, so the family — who knew little about Toronto other than Ciavatella’s predilection for the Raptors — made a move across the Atlantic so Ciavatella could become the restaurant’s executive chef. Michelin-starred Harbourfront location.
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There were some obvious downsides to the transfer. “The sea is my natural place,” Ciavattella says. “Lake Ontario looks a little bit like it, but it’s not quite the same.” He talks nostalgically about the salty urchins that can be plucked straight from the Tyrrhenian and the pizzogna, a type of sea bream from southern Italy that remains firm but juicy when grilled over charcoal with salt and olive oil. “I was afraid to make the change, especially without speaking much English,” Ciavattella says. “But it’s been great. We really enjoy how multicultural the city is.”
Helming Don Alfonso 1890 ( Second best Italian restaurant outside Italy) means working on the floor: Ciavattella is in the kitchen more than 12 hours a day, six days a week. With little free time, he enjoys Mondays, his only day off and the only opportunity to explore the city. “I don’t have any favorite shops yet, but I love supporting small businesses. I’ve recently been trying out a bunch of different local butchers – Gasparro’s was very good – and I went for it Cheese boutique for the first time.”
The priority was to identify other Michelin recognized locations in the city. Recently, he visited Ciavatella Austria Julia and Enigma, and was impressed by the technology, quality and service at both restaurants. But the only thing he didn’t like was the Toronto pizza. “That’s not true! I mean it might be OK for Torontonians, but it’s not like pizza back home.”Via Mercanti It’s very close though.”
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Ciavattella and Stiano do the bulk of their shopping at the St. Lawrence Market and a group of attached greengrocers. For everything Italian, they come to Yorkville Eataly, just a 17-minute walk from their home. Plus, working as a Michelin chef comes with its perks, namely knowing the best importers in town. You should not carry Eataly exactly Whatever Ciavattella craves, he can probably get a batch of truffles, caviar or fresh mozzarella di bufala straight from the box.
Their fridge smacks of Italy. It’s packed with autumn black truffles, Po Valley sturgeon caviar, Neapolitan peperoncino, pecorino, asiago, and Peroni sausages, and tons of fresh produce and herbs. “It’s important to us that our children not only eat vegetables, but also enjoy them,” Ciavattella says. For the most part, seven-year-old Marcelo and five-year-old Astrid are easy-going carnivores. The only thing they’re not too keen on is beets, as apparently the root vegetable isn’t very popular in their homeland.
“We don’t really use the freezer,” says Ciavattella. He and Staiano shop in a very European style: small, frequent visits to stores, buying only what they need for the next few days. But this rabbit was a gift from a hunting friend. He plans to make coniglio all’Ischitana with it — a southern Italian rabbit stew made with tomatoes, white wine and lots of fresh Mediterranean herbs.
Ciavattella likes an organized pantry. We have plenty of raw nuts and legumes here (traditional pasta with beans is a common weeknight dinner in this house). “I don’t have a lot of guilty pleasures,” he says. “When I break, I play basketball, Peroni, and a bowl of nuts.” Other highlights in the store include a wonderful selection of imported antipasti preserved in olive oil (artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini and cauliflower) and a large jar of Pomodorino del Pinolo del Vesuvio, a type of tomato that grows at the foot of the famous volcano. . Ciavattella claims to make some of the best tomato sauce.
There are few items outside of the responsible mix of legumes, beets, brassicas and leafy greens. Although Ciavattella does not touch the chips (they are reserved for guests and other family members), he loves sweets. Sugary favorites include cocoa and cream biscotti from Mulino Bianco and thick hot chocolate from Ciobar. Although they do have some Nutella, it’s not Ferrero’s favorite Ciavattella product, that would be Kinder Pinguí, but the Italian chocolatier seems to refuse to sell it on this side of the Atlantic.
Back in Capri, Ciavattella and Stiano have a large wine cellar filled with more than 120 different brands. Here, they carry a more compact (but still enviable) collection of bottles they acquired from a Toronto collector. There is a clear tendency towards Super Tuscans (see: Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Bolgheri, Marchesi Antinori Tignanello and Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore). “I don’t plan on drinking any of these drinks anytime soon,” Ciavattella says. “They still need to get older.”
This heavy duty mixer is for making pizza dough, pasta, bread and waffle dough. “Kids love American-style breakfasts,” Staiano says. When their work days coincide with Ciavattella’s days off, the family always sits down for a big brunch. Usually pancakes, pancakes, or eggs Benedict. It’s a nice change of pace for Ciavattella, who usually only drinks espresso for breakfast on workdays. “At a restaurant, I eat all day long. I try to have a bite of this pasta, or a spoonful of this risotto, and it’s non-stop eating. So I don’t really eat at home unless it’s my day off.”
Of course, what Italian household would be complete without a flat espresso pot and a selection of good coffee? This grain was imported from Italy by Don Alfonso in 1890; It’s the same roast they serve at the restaurant.
“I don’t like recipe books,” Ciavattella says. “I prefer books that explain the restaurant philosophy.” This is Massimo Bottura Never trust a skinny Italian chef, And Marco Pierre White White Heat 25 These are his favorite culinary reads ever. He decided to purchase it in English to help improve his understanding of the language.
Ciavattella and Staiano are saving this 30-year-old balsamic for a special occasion. They may finally open it at Christmas, when Staiano’s parents come to visit the new family home for the first time. Ciavattella has some delicious treats planned to welcome them, including a few jars of Calvisius caviar from the restaurant.
The couple haven’t had time for any dinner parties lately, but back in Capri, Ciavatella and Staiano are known as consummate hosts. When friends come to visit, they cross their fingers that Ciavattella will make either sea urchin pasta or lemon risotto with red prawns. According to his wife, everything Ciavatella makes is homemade. However, she may be a little biased, after all, it was the signature risotto dish that attracted her nine years ago.