Chef Marcellino Verzino is anything but average. While he's one of the best known Italian chefs in the state, his reputation extends across the world. Hailing from Italy, the cuisine featured at his restaurant, Marcellino Ristorante pays respect to the styles associated with each separate region of the country. He's received four Best of Phoenix awards for Best Upscale Italian Restaurant, and has been recognized by the New York Times as well as the James Beard Foundation.
While it would be easy for a chef with these kinds of credentials to be extraordinarily cocky, Marcellino is anything but that. He has a casual demeanor, and insists on not being called "chef" even in his own kitchen. Before I sat down with him and his warm and endearing wife and partner, Sima, for our Chef Chat, Marcellino smiled and told me that he couldn't answer any questions without a glass of wine. Out came a bottle of red from Verona, and the chatting commenced.
See the entire interview after the jump...
On new his location at Scottsdale's SouthBridge: (Marcellino designed the new restaurant.) The building was a long square building with a lot of imperfections. I just fixed the imperfections. (As Sima explains:) He fixed the imperfections and made it warm, and cozy, and inviting, as our other place was.
On choosing to live in Phoenix: We came to visit some...really dear friends that we had met back in New York. And we came to visit at a time when we had basically decided to go on our own, without any partners...at a time when we really were looking for a place to establish ourselves. And when we made that visit, it was like, "Oh my God -- this place really is beautiful. There's something going on here."
On the importance of a loyal staff: Our staff has been with us a long time. We don't have change over. [Our] sous chef has been with us...for 13 years. He worked for [us] also in New York.
Home cooking: (Jokingly:) We don't cook for [ourselves], we cook for the dogs. We barbecue -- why do I need to cook on my day off? So we'll grill -- whether it's chicken, or meat, or whatever, and [we'll] prepare vegetables and salads. We eat like normal people We don't stand there and make a hundred pounds of pasta in the house.
Holiday meals: The only time I "cook" in my house is for Christmas Eve. And then it's a feast. Thirteen courses. And it's all the Italian classics. But that's Christmas dinner -- it's always that way. There are traditional, specific dishes that you eat at Christmas. All based on fish, by the way, on Christmas Eve. (The thirteen courses represent the thirteen present at the Last Supper.)
Favorite restaurant around town: We have really enjoyed FnB across the street. Wonderful...amazing, beautiful, fresh, very well balanced food, and we really enjoyed it.