Most Mondays, a day when Tratto Chef Anthony Andiario is away from the restaurant, he can be found tending his backyard garden, in which he grows produce destined for not only his own use, but for a handful of local restaurants, including Tratto. But this Monday is different.
While many local farmers are sifting through their initial summer crops of tomatoes and squash, 38-year-old Andiario has a rare day off. That's because this year, Andiario didn’t plant any new seeds after the spring harvest as he will be leaving Tratto, and Phoenix, next month.
Andiario’s last day as a chef at Tratto will come mid-June, and he plans to be completely relocated to West Chester, Pennsylvania, by July. There he and his girlfriend, Maria van Schaijik, plan to open their own restaurant.
Van Schaijik, who worked as a server at Tratto, has already made the move to the small Pennsylvania town, a half-hour’s drive from Philadelphia, where her parents currently live.
“She did an entire market analysis of West Chester in the morning, basically before I’d even gotten out of bed,” Andiario says about van Schaijik, who has a background in statistics, and will be creating the business plan for the restaurant. “She’s really smart … She loves food. She loves wine … I’m lucky to have her.”
Van Schaijik has been scouting out prospective spaces for what Andiario says, tentatively, will be a 40-seat restaurant serving simple, elevated dishes built on ingredients sourced from the immediate region. They’re thinking they will serve a four-course, prix-fixe menu — a style and price point that they’ve heard, from speaking with West Chester locals, is missing in the town. While benefiting from being close to Philadelphia, which has become a hotbed of talent and the new day trip of choice for food-obsessed New Yorkers, thanks in part to chefs like Michael Solomonov, West Chester is located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s farming industry — “some of the best in the country,” Andiario adds.
In addition to being closer to his family, just as van Schaijik will be close to her own, Andiario says that he is excited to work with the local duck and rabbit, Pennsylvania’s famed dairy, and to be closer to sources of fresh Atlantic seafood. He’s excited to have his own plot of land, where he can raise chickens and have “the best eggs possible for my pasta.”
Though Andiario has long experimented with meat preservation and charcuterie, Pennsylvania’s shorter growing seasons will push his hand to produce seasonal menus throughout harsh, snowcapped winters, similar in ways to what’s expected of chefs working with local produce in the dead of a Phoenix summer.
“We’re not going to try to have the next Noma in West Chester,” he laughs. “We’ll want to carve out our own niche.”
They have yet to settle on a name, but they are aiming to open late in the fall.
During his time at Tratto, Andiario has become known for, among other things, his proficiency in pasta that is both traditional and uniquely Arizonan, the result of an ongoing dialogue with chef and owner Chris Bianco, a longtime champion of sourcing the area’s best ingredients for menus he’s become world-famous for.
Andiario began to gain national attention of his own through his Instagram page where he’d been posting short clips of him prepping intricate pasta shapes using long-forgotten pasta-shaping tools (some have only been revived recently by his brother, a carpenter), most of which had been replaced by industrial pasta production. The clips, which Andiario says he began as a digital diary where he could go to remember past dishes done at various times in his career, were mesmerizing — and Insider, the news site, thought so too, reaching out to him and featuring a compilation of his Instagram videos on their various social media channels. His profile following grew to over 55,000 followers.
“It’s something that starts out so personal,” he says, and suddenly, “then it isn’t yours anymore — it’s everyone else’s.” Comments on his videos show that there is a cult of pasta makers, in addition to enthusiasts, looking to learn from Andiario’s success.
With his new restaurant, Andiario is looking to implement a strong pasta program — “strong as ever,” he says, with two to three options each night — though without becoming a “pasta house.”
But, he says, “I’ve done so much more than that and I do so much more than that … You’ll see a lot more broad of spectrum of what I do.”
Transitioning from Italian cooking in the desert, he wants to dive further into what he calls “adaptive Italian cooking,” a mindset he says he owes to working with Bianco.
“So if he’s moved to West Chester,” Andiario says about himself, “and he has a certain set of ingredients at his fingertips, what will he do?”
Regarding his departure, Andiario says it’s been a long time coming, and that he’d put his notice in at the beginning of the year.
“[Bianco] has been very supportive. I’ve had nothing but support from him,” Andiario says. “He was kind enough to be really involve me in the process for Tratto … It’s been a huge part of my life.”
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“Chris’s idea was to create an institution there that would be around for quite a long time, well after Chris is there — and definitely myself, too,” Andiario says about the future of Tratto, which in only the past year has established itself one of the Valley's most exciting new restaurants.
“Creating that template for the next chef to come in.”