Our interview with chef John Coletta


On Saturday 19 May 2018 from 12.45pm, the Bellavita Food, Wine & Beer Academy at Bellavita Expo Chicago will host a culinary masterclass with John Coletta, Founding Chef and Partner of Quartino in Chicago and author of the cookbook Risotto & Beyond. John’s second cookbook brings the world of authentic Italian cuisine to life with 100 recipes utilizing Italian rice varieties. John will stay after his masterclass for an unmissable book signing. We asked him few questions in anticipation of his exclusive masterclass.

1. John, what are the latest trends in Italian cuisine in the USA from your experience?

The restaurant goer of today has many requests when Italian cooking is being offered. Food has to be traditional, genuine, authentic, simple, tasty and quick to prepare. There is a growing rejection of, on one hand, the standardisation of fast food and the mediocrity of so much of our national restaurant businesses and, on the other, the fussiness and expensive prices of high-rated restaurants. There continues to be a reinterpreting of classic dishes and the introduction of little known regional specialties which are being exported to the States, utilising authentic Italian DOP ingredients.

It is all about Italian food sourced with integrity and understanding, a sense of rediscovery and not on manipulating ingredients. The Slow Food Presidia is at the core and heart of Italian food and wine concepts being established today. Pure, natural and genuine flavours energised with modern design, presentation and seamless welcoming service.

2. What type of dishes will you be presenting on the stage of Bellavita Expo and why do you think they will be interesting for your audience.

Realising ‘spring is upon us’, I have chosen to highlight this opportunity and selected a rice recipe from Risotto & Beyond by which exemplifying the bountiful spring ingredients available, approachable cooking techniques with unparalleled flavour.

A growing trend in today's consumers who are highly interested in knowing about food and its origins along with health benefits is knowing how to intimately prepare the foods for themselves or their families; this will be addressed in my culinary masterclass.

3. What pushed you to write your book, all based on rice and risotto recipes?

My motivation to write a cookbook celebrating the world of Italian rice was very simple. I was driven to debunk the myth that Arborio is the best or only rice to utilise in the preparation of risotti. Italian rice cooking is one of the most calming, sensuous, satisfying cooking experiences. A comforting, versatile, approachable and above all, a soothing gastronomic experience. Risotto & Beyond contains chapters on Italian rice Antipasti, Rice Soups, Rice Salads, Risotti, One-Dish Meals and finally Rice Desserts. Chefs, hobby cooks, cooking enthusiasts get very wound up about whether a risotto should be soupy and very firm - others like it creamy and thick. Cook Italian rice as you like it, simply do not overcook it to a mushy porridge - that is unkind to the rice kernels as well a challenge to your taste buds!!

I have traveled, visited, eaten, worked and learned the relevance of Italian rice in each of the rice growing regions of Italy for more than 45 years, but I continue to be delighted with its unique varieties and the balance found between creativity and mastered cooking skills found in Italian rice cookery today. I sincerely hope that this book will inspire you to cook Italian rice, through not only its recipes, but through the wonderful images, technical suggestions and wine pairings.