Riding the Range: Chef Luigi Iannuario Writes About “Si Mangia Benne” and Ristorante Nicola
I would like to introduce myself to you. I am Luigi Iannuario the Executive Chef of Ristorante Nicola, which just opened in the Park Cities at 8111 Preston Road. I was born in Milan, Italy, graduating from professional culinary school Carlo Porta in Milan. I have been cooking since I was 15 years old. I developed my passion for cooking over the years working with the best chefs like Gualtiero Marchesi, Sergio Mei, Giovanni Panzeri, and Alberico Penati. My passion also grew with my experience in other cities and states.
I moved for the first time to the United States in 1998 from London to Miami, where I worked for Caffe’ Sambuca with a lot of successes. In 2001, I returned to Italy where I met my wife, and I had the great satisfaction of working for Giorgio Armani–and won the prize for “Best Young Chef” in my county. Then with my wife and kids we decided to move here in the United States because of the economy in Italy and all the work available here. I started out doing training with the BICE Group in 2006, first in Dallas and then in Houston. When BICE was ready to expand to Cleveland, I moved my family there.
In my career I’ve had many different experiences. I think to know the Italian kitchen really well you have to try every category. For this reason I worked in resorts, great hotels, as a private chef, in a Michelin-rated restaurant, and for an international group. This is a good thing because I learned how to work with small to big staffs. I also had some experiences in television and newspapers and hope to get some more of that here.
My personal style of cooking is traditional Italian. I like to pick personally my own produce. I respect the use of fresh products and every menu I make comes from the current season. I can create various menus from simple and rustic to a gorgeous wine dinner. I love to cook everything from antipastos to desserts.
The reason I wanted to open up Ristorante Nicola in Dallas is my desire for real Italian cooking. No offense, but mostly Italian restaurants in the states are more Americanized and the owner of the restaurant, Richard Gussoni, shares my passion for the traditional foods of my country, cooked from recipes that have been in the families for centuries. We don’t use freezers at Nicola, we have fresh products delivered every day, sometimes twice if I am busy or disorganized. I love that we are bringing Aperitivo to Preston Center, it is not a happy hour in the usual meaning, but a time to gather before dinner and share drinks and wine and enjoy small plates like gifts from my kitchen.
We have a prosciutto slicer that is hand-cranked so that the meat is not cooked a little bit by a hot electric blade. The pasta maker is the same kind I learned from so I know how to use it and turn out shapes Americans call artisan, but Italians call regular. We have a saying in Italy, “si mangia bene,” which roughly means “you can eat well here.” I wish we could put that sign on our doorway. Dallas is where we live now but Nicola reminds me of a couple of the grand places I cooked in Milan so I am not so homesick, and it makes me happy that the customers I’ve met enjoy my food and the atmosphere and the real Italian experience.