One of our favorite memories from this past summer was the delicious dinner we had at Marta prepared by Chef Nick Anderer. Anderer is one of the participating chefs in Williams-Sonoma’s Chef’s Collective, a group of talented chefs dedicated to educating and inspiring people on all things food. Fortunately for us, Nick’s specialty is pizza and thanks to his new-wave pizza movement of incorporating more veggies and less cheese/meat, we were able to consume more than we thought (and probably more than FDA recommended). Read on to find out why he believes pizza is the new potato of food. Sorry pizza rat, these eats are just for us…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Fluffy scrambled eggs in the morning with caviar and champagne, a beautiful green salad and spaghetti with clams for lunch, an afternoon snack of oysters with a cold beer (or more champagne), and an omakase sushi dinner to finish things off…of course with either more cold beer or champagne.
Could you tell us a bit Chef’s Collective? What’s it been like working on this with Williams-Sonoma?
The Chef’s Collective has brought together a bunch of fun people in the food and beverage world across the country, some of whom I already know and others I’ve just met. Williams-Sonoma has given us a platform to share ideas about how eating and drinking has changed over the past few decades and how we might see it changing in the future – all from the perspective of entrepreneurs who are running their own businesses in the food and beverage industry.
Did you always love pizza as a kid? What was your favorite kind?
Who doesn’t love pizza as a kid? When I was little, the cheesier and the meatier the better: Pepperoni, sausage, meatball. Now I like my pizza with much less cheese and I tend to favor pizzas which showcase more vegetables, like mushrooms, fresh greens, zucchini flowers, and eggplant.
What don’t people know about Italian cooking, that they should…
It goes far beyond tomato sauce and basil. The variety of regional Italian cuisine is so vast and eclectic. Everything from Austrian influence in the food from Friuli-Venezia, to North African spice in the food of Sicily. At Marta and Maialino, we focus specifically on Rome for our influences, so you’ll see lots of salty, punchy ingredients like pecorino, guanciale, and anchovy. There’s also an abundance of bitter greens like chicory and puntarelle. Roman cooking is aggressive and sometimes heavy, so we try to lighten it up with a liberal and interpretive addition of fresh green market ingredients that might not be typically spotted in a Roman eatery.
What ingredient is overrated? Which makes everything better?
I think garlic is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But I feel it’s overused and it stays with you for way too long…and not in a good way. We use it for sure, but very sparingly. I think fresh citrus, particularly lemon and lime, make almost everything better. I don’t know how I’d cook without them. As much as I love using good vinegars for acid, there is no substitute for fresh citrus juice to wake up the palate.
The kitchen utensil you can’t live without…
In my home kitchen, a well-seasoned cast iron pan is indispensable for me. At work, everything starts with a sharp, heavy duty chef’s knife, which is by far the most useful tool.
Where’s your favorite spot in Italy that you’d suggest as a destination? Where should people stay and eat?
It’s so hard to choose one. I think that Tuscany’s lesser-lauded neighbor, Umbria, is worth some exploration. It has great wine and great food. I actually prefer it to Tuscany. I also love Sicily and all its coasts, but particularly east and south. I would encourage anyone who’s visiting Italy to rent a car and get out of city centers to explore the countryside and hill towns.
In the same vein as what is the new black in fashion, what’s the new potato when it comes to Italian cuisine?
It sounds like a weird answer because it’s never gone out of fashion, but I’d have to say pizza. There are so many chefs, both stateside and in Italy, that are breathing new life into the craft. There are so many different varieties of pizza and I feel like the food-focused consumer is really beginning to get an education on the intricacy of pizza tradition and its many modern day interpretations. There is a bit of a pizza Renaissance happening and I think that’s a really good thing thing for the American cooking scene.
If you could host an Italian dinner party with any 5 people living or dead, who would be there? What would you cook?
Catherine de’ Medici, Fergus Henderson, Gabriele Bonci, Barack Obama, and Chris Farley. I’d roast a whole spring lamb (Abbacchio al Forno) outdoors and serve it with no utensils. I’m not so sure Catherine would be down with using her hands, but it would make for fun conversation starter.
*Sponsored by Williams-Sonoma. Get Nick’s recipe for Pizza Primavera.