Puttanesca, an old-school family-owned Italian restaurant with an emphasis on Sicilian cuisine has been reinvented by the younger generation, restaurateurs Bob and Enrico Malta. Together, they have owned and operated over 40 restaurants including popular neighborhood staples such as Bocca di Bacco, Intermezzo, Film Center Café, and the original Puttanesca in Hell’s Kitchen on 9th Avenue and 56th Street. With Puttanesca Chelsea, they pay homage to the matriarch of the family, Dina Malta, while also expressing their innovative style.
Under the direction of Executive Chef David DiSalvo, they have brought the flavor and passion of Sicily to New York. Chef DiSalvo has an impressive background. He attended the French Culinary Institute, and then worked as Chef de Cuisine at Blaue Gans and then at Wallse, as the Chef de Partie and Pastry. He returned to his California roots at West Steak and Seafood in San Diego, as Executive Chef before returning to New York to become the Executive Chef of STK Downtown.
Broadwayworld had the pleasure of interviewing Chef DiSalvo about his career and Puttanesca Chelsea for our Chef Spotlight.
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
I started cooking with my mom when I was old enough to stand most likely. My earliest memories are that of making eggs and flipping pancakes.
Who were some of your career mentors?
My mother first and foremost influenced and mentored me the most as a cook (and as a person). As a child I enjoyed food immensely and she was a great cook who taught her kids what she knew but also took us out to eat all over town (Los Angeles). This exposed me to all types of cuisine at an early age.
My godfather was from Abruzzo, Italy and was also a huge influence on me with regards to food, as well as my dad’s mother who was from Sicily and my mom’s mother who was from New Mexico.
Professionally, I don’t have just one mentor but have many who have helped shape and teach me as far as the food industry goes. Pierre Reboul and Aldo Sohm made lasting impacts when we worked at Blaue Gans many years ago. Eugenio Martignago and Todd English both guided me in Italian Cuisine. Last but not least, Jacques Pepin influenced me (probably the most) through his TV programs, as well as directly at culinary school through, his classes and just getting to talk to him at The French Culinary Institute.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
Italian cuisine growing up and then later French cuisine are both equal in their influence on my career. I enjoy making and eating torchon of foie gras as much as I do pasta.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
The most distinguishing features of my career as a chef are neither in Italian nor French cuisine. I was a steakhouse chef for many years and have a little bit of knowledge of steaks and chops. A signature “dish” of mine, that I haven’t made for a while is Pork Belly Cotton Candy. It was voted one of the top 100 dishes in NYC by the Village Voice in 2015. Another would be American Wagyu skirt steak with an Italian herb topping that we serve at Puttanesca.
What is your favorite meal or meals?
My favorite thing to eat is a hamburger, with linguine & mussels and soft shell crab right behind.
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Puttanesca is a modern take on Sicilian-American food with classic dishes and wines from Italy as well as some accessible American foods and vintages.
Editor’s Note: Broadwayworld Food and Wine will be presenting more Puttanesca features. We recently visited and will be telling our readers about the delicious food and charming atmosphere and their “Master Mixologist.”
Puttanesca is located at 202 8th Avenue at 20th Street, New York, NY 10011. The restaurant’s hours are Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5 pm to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday from 5 pm to 11pm. Visit their web site at https://puttanescany.com/a?? or call them at 646.692.4123. Follow Puttanesca on Instagram @puttanescany.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Puttanesca and Chef David DiSalvo