Welcome to week 672 of the worldwide pandemic! When this whole thing started, I thought I may finally have some time to get back to blogging a little bit and keep some readers engaged, boy was I wrong. Opening a new restaurant in February has proven to be a bit of a challenge when we were forced to shut down only 6 weeks into getting up and running. We (just me in the kitchen and one person out front) remained open for take-out 6 days/week. Between producing an entire menu solo and homeschooling, I figured Mondays would be a good time to add virtual cooking classes with phipps conservatory because, why not? We also developed a bread program at the restaurant, so all bread is baked in-house daily. Spello is now, thankfully, open for dining and we added lunches on the weekends. So, Tuesday-Sunday I am at the restaurant, and every Monday we host the virtual cooking classes from the comfort of our home kitchen. My wife, Emily, has also joined the Spello team as our pastry chef, opened her own baking company, Butter Bakery, and has assisted Amelia, Gracie, and me in our online classes. We’ve been keeping busy, and honestly, it’s been pretty great for the most part. The uncertainty of how much longer we have to go is a bit concerning, but I’d like to think we are making the best of it and staying positive.
So why am I sharing all of this with you, you ask? Shameless plugs of course! Anyone in the Pittsburgh area, I encourage you to help support Spello and keep us afloat while we navigate through these challenging times. Come in for dinner, order take-out, buy gift-cards, keep posted for our new catering menu that is being released soon. Order some pastries and sweets from Butter Bakery (can also be shipped!) Anyone outside of the area, join me through Phipps for virtual classes every Monday, the classes are from 5:00-6:30 where we cook together and end up with a home cooked Italian meal as a reward. If you are interested in a private virtual class, email me and I’ll see where I can fit you in! Enjoy food, friends, & life!
The new semester at Phipps started this month and there is a new series (sold out already, so keep an eye out for classes next semester) We are exploring the pasta making process from beginner to expert. I have posted the recipe for homemade pasta before, take a look for a refresher! The classes at Phipps max out at 16 students, 4 groups of 4. We made spaghetti pomodoro and pappardelle ai funghi. Both of those sauces will be found later posts if I can find myself with enough time to update this blog once in a while! I just wanted to share some of the photos from the last class.
The KitchenAid attachment works better than the hand-crank unit I use at home, but both get the job done.
Cooking the finished pasta for all to taste, probably saying something extremely charming in while multi-tasking!
Boun Appetito! Will be posting an update on the new restaurant soon, be on the lookout! Things are well underway.
We had another Taste of Italy at Phipps cooking class this past week, and I decided to throw in a bonus ravioli demo. The classic raviolo con u’ovo, or single ravioli with egg yolk, is a dish I have been making for years. The pasta dough recipe is one that has been covered on this blog before and is the same one we used here. I rolled out the pasta as the previous post showed, but instead of cutting it into tagliatelle, I kept the sheets whole. Using a piping bag, I created nests of ricotta cheese (mixed with parmigiano-reggiano, salt & pepper) to rest the egg yolk into.
Once all the nests are filled with egg yolks, I spray a little water to help the top stick to the bottom, and fold it over all at once. The individual ravioli are formed by hand being careful not to break the yolks.
I cut these ones into squares using a pastry roller, but I have normally done them with a large round cookie cutter, either way works. The idea here is that the sauce is now inside of the pasta, so we simply toss the cooked pasta (place carefully in boiling water for 30-45 seconds) in butter and serve. When you cut into the raviolo, the yolk spills out and mixes with the ricotta cheese to make the sauce. We then plated each one for the class to try, luckily I had some good helpers with me.
My classes at Phipps are sold out for the year, but I will be booking some more dates starting in 2020, so keep your eyes out. In the meantime, if you would like to have a private cooking class or dinner, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow me on instagram @chefmelnick to see what I have been up to. Enjoy Food, Friends, & Life
Just finished up my 6th cooking class at Phipps Conservatory this past Monday and we had a great time! Each class focuses on a different region of Italy with classic dishes and techniques from each one. A new fall series will be announced soon on their website so be sure to keep an eye out, they sell out quickly. Tuscany was the focus last week and we made panzanella salad, tuscan bean crostini, fresh pasta with heirloom tomato sauce, prosciutto wrapped melons, & chicken liver pate. The classes are arranged in four groups of four people, each group cooks a separate dish or dishes, and it all comes together at the end for a nice meal paired with, in this case, Chianti. The classes are a lot of fun for me to teach, and the lessons are simple enough to try at home, but complicated enough that they kind of want me there! This series of classes has refueled my desire to get back to Italy and share my past experiences with a great group of people who want to experience the true, behind the scenes look into Italian food and wine. Details are slowly coming together for a spring 2020 trip beginning in Rome where a shuttle will await our group of 10-15 people and transport us to Umbria. Still have a lot of minutia to plan, but the gist is that we will (in no particular order) visit a winemaker or two, cheesemaker, olive oil producer, butcher, farmer, etc. over a week span with meals and transportation provided along the way. During these visits, we will begin to plan a menu for a feast that we will prepare as part of a cooking class similar to what we currently do at Phipps. The ingredients gathered throughout the week will be featured, and we will enjoy the fruits of our labor. This is a really exciting opportunity that we are beginning to put together, hopefully pinpoint some potential dates soon, and gather some wonderful people that will get to be amongst the first to launch this endeavor. Space will be extremely limited to just 10-15 guests, so if you are interested in being put on an initial list (no obligations yet) please e-mail me at email@example.com the subject line ‘Umbria’. Please include first and last names of each member of your groups interested in attending, and we will begin communication on trying to secure dates and costs that will work for everyone. Feel free to email me with any questions not related to the trip as well, always happy to give cooking tips, recipes, menu ideas, etc. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
I am very excited about a new opportunity I have been working on. We are in the very beginning stages of creating a one-of-a-kind cooking and traveling experience in Umbria. Let me discuss the backstory for a moment…My wife, Emily’s family on her Mother’s side is from the city of Amelia (not a coincidence on our daughter’s name) which is in Umbria. A few generations ago, her great-grandfather came to the United States to start a new life as many in the early part of the 20th century did. His brother, however, stayed in Amelia. Communication back in those days was slightly more difficult than what we are used to nowadays, so over time, the family’s lost touch with each other. Fast forward a few decades, and the family’s reconnected. The similarities in appearances, personalities, graciousness, kindness, and hospitality between the extended families on two separate continents in uncanny. I have had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with both sides and gotten to know them a little bit, and am very grateful for it. When Emily and I traveled to Italy back in 2009/2010 we got to experience a side of it that many tourists or tour guides don’t show you. We were much more a part of the culture than just visiting it. We got to know the winemakers, cheesemakers, olive oil producers, farmers, and chefs as well as being a part of the Fabbrizi family gatherings. We did do some of the big city touristy stuff (Rome, Milan, Venice, etc.) but the most amazing days were the ones that we were behind the scenes, experiencing the culture, exploring the lesser known towns & sites, and really getting to know the true Italian way of life.
It’s those experiences that I want to share with a small group of excited travelers. I am working with Giacomo and Federico Fabbrizi, two brothers who happen to be my wife’s cousins from Amelia! Together we are crafting what we believe will be an unbelievable week-long trip filled with once in a lifetime type experiences where we will be “behind the scenes” as I mentioned above. There will be cooking classes with myself and a few hand-picked chefs from the region. We will visit wineries, cheesemakers, olive oil producers and truly become part of the culture. This will be a hands-on, participation required type of experience that will include transportation, lodging, great food, wine, and a lot of memories. We are shooting tentatively for the spring of 2020 for the first of hopefully many trips. Space is limited to 10-15 guests, and many more details are still to be worked out, but my goal is to share the lessons learned from when Emily and I traveled to Italy and create something truly remarkable. Stay tuned for more details as we will be creating more of a program of events in the upcoming months. If you have any interest in signing up for the initial waitlist, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and send me any thoughts or feedback you may have.