Michael White may be the prince of pasta, but it would surprise you to know that this king of Italian cuisine is by no means a native. As a child, the Wisconsin-raised chef enjoyed cooking as a pastime – even a way to avoid the bitter Midwestern winter. It was at Chicago’s famous Spiaggia that White trained under Paul Bartoletta, whose footsteps he followed to Italy, where he later training under the renowned Italian chef Valentino Marcatilli. It was here that White learned the roots of Old World Italian cuisine, which he later transformed into the incredible brand that is Altamarea Group. With New York hot spots like Osteria Morini, Ai Fiori, and the seafood mecca Marea, it’s no wonder White has earned himself a name in both Italian cuisine and the culinary industry as a whole. His most recent ventures- Nicoletta, exploding onto the East Village with expertly created pizza pies topped with whatever the customer desires, and the soon-to-open Butterfly, midwestern inspired cuisine in the heart of Tribeca-put White’s Altamarea group all over the map. All in all, the iconic Michael White continues to surprise us, making him not only an icon, but an innovator as well.
Can you describe what your ideal food day would be?
Wake up for dim sum breakfast at the Shangri La, Hong Kong. Lunch would transport me to the Nolita neighborhood [in New York City] for pizza at Prince Street Pizza, preferably a slice of the Soho Square to whet my appetite. I would treat myself to a short afternoon nap while getting a foot massage at Yan Mei Foot Reflexology Center in Chinatown followed by an afternoon snack at Banh Mi Saigon, where I stick with the number one, extra spicy. For dinner, I would need to pop up in Guime in Casal Borsetti, Italy for grilled wild turbot, grilled calamari and green tomatoes. My day would end with dessert in Milano Marittima for Fior di Latte, Chocolate and Crema gelato at La Perla.
Where would you like to travel for inspiration that you haven’t been to yet?
I’d love to explore Southeast Asia – Vietnam, the Philippines and Angkor Wat.
You’re not technically Italian yet you do it so well. In fact, many would say you do it better than actual Italians. What’s your secret? What’s great Italian cooking all about?
You need to live and study in Italy for seven years, marry an Italian woman, raise your children to speak Italian and cook and eat lots of Italian at home! Great Italian cooking relies on simplicity, raw materials, and the restraint to hold back.