About Cesare Casella
You might recognize Chef Cesare Casella as the chef with aromatic rosemary sprigs blooming from his shirt pocket, a style he has been sporting for over 35 years. The aromatic fashion represents his dedication to fresh ingredients, his herb-influenced cuisine and further reminds him of his upbringing in Tuscany where the herb grew wild.
Today, Cesare is the Executive Chef and Partner of Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto, an Italian-style salumeria and small-plates restaurant, set to open its second more upscale Italian restaurant on New York’s Madison Avenue in the summer of 2012 featuring his simple, honest, classic Italian cuisine. Cesare is the Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center, which offers a curriculum he created. He is also Chief of the Department of Nourishment Arts at the Center for Discovery where he collaborates with the farm, culinary and nutrition teams to unite health, nutrition and flavor. Cesare further serves as the U.S. Coordinator for itchefs-GVCI and as Director of U.S. International Day of Italian Cuisine (IDIC).
An expert in Tuscan cuisine, Cesare is committed to educating the public on Italian food and philosophy, a belief that Italian culinary culture is defined by its history and finds expression in the humble components of fresh ingredients. Cesare also devotes himself to his passion of making artisanal salumi from traditional Italian recipes.
There are few chefs who hold such a deep connection to and understanding of Italian cuisine. At an early age the kitchen was his playground, for Cesare opted to observe his mother cooking instead of playing outside. His parents owned a small restaurant, Vipore, which was the ground floor of their home and is still bustling today.
As a child Cesare spent most of his time in the dining area, hanging out and interacting with the guests—in a way they were his babysitters. On Fridays through Sundays, his Murphy bed folded into the wall to transform the bedroom into a private dining room for guests. As the dinners lingered into the night, Cesare would fall asleep in the wine room nestled with his dog or in the restaurants’ garden of 40 herb varietals. These were early moments where Cesare cultivated his deep connection to the culture of Italian eating – to the diners and to the aromatics of the product centric cuisine.
The hours spent in his kitchen observing his mother’s techniques soon transitioned to the Culinary Instititute Ferdinando Martini, where he enrolled at the age of 14. Some of his most valuable lessons during this time were his impromptu exploratory ‘field trips’ where he would stop by various local restaurants (often in place of class) on his way to or from school.
After graduating from culinary school, Chef Casella focused on forming his family’s Vipore from a local favorite into a regional and international destination, a place where people would intentionally detour to themselves. It was during this time he applied the knowledge he acquired from observing his mother, school and his visits to restaurants that he began playing with classic Italian recipes and developing his trademark herbal cuisine. By 1991 Chef Casella earned Vipore its first Michelin star and a reputation that attracted guests ranging from Henry Kissinger to Tom Cruise to people passionate about food from all over the world.
So how did this Tuscan Chef settle in New York City? Chef Casella began consulting with New York restaurants accompanied with monthly visits. Within a year his visits grew more frequent, his curiosity of permanent life in New York City growing stronger. In 1992 all roads connected and Chef Casella was appointed Executive Chef of Coco Pazzo and soon after launched Coco Pazzo’s sister restaurant, Il Toscanaccio. In 2001 he opened his first solo New York restaurant, Beppe, in honor of his grandfather, farmer Giuseppe Polidori. Beppe earned critical praise and commercial success for its authentic, rule-bending Tuscan cuisine. Following the success at Beppe, Chef Casella launched Republic of Beans, a company that imports heirloom Italian beans, grains and spices.
In 2005 Chef Casella opened his second restaurant Maremma, which Forbes awarded three stars naming it one of the best restaurants in the country; New York Magazine calling it one of the Top 5 “Best New Restaurants” in New York City and food critic Adam Platt deeming it one of the “Best Places to Eat In 2007”.
In 2008 Chef Casella opened Salumeria Rosi and soon received a notable “Dining Brief” by the New York Times’ Frank Bruni and was honored the title of “Best Meatballs” and “Critics Choice” by New York Magazine, which was likely for dishes such as the Seven Bean Salad and his Insalata Pontormo. Time Out New York rated Salumeria Rosi with four stars and Martha Stewart named it one of her favorite restaurants. Chef Casella and Salumeria Rosi were further honored at the Ospitalita Italiana event where The Italian Chamber of Commerce welcomed them to the “Authentic Italian Table,” exclusive only to truly authentic Italian Culinary establishments.
Chef Casella’s personality translates naturally to media, charismatically offering his competitor a trademark aperol spritzer on Master Chef Australia or sweeping the dishes with the rosemary from his pocket for a brush of flavor on the Food Network’s Iron Chef, while also appearing on the network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate. Chef Casella led Anthony Bourdain on a culinary tour across Italy in Bourdain’s first black and white Fellini-inspired episode of No Reservations, as well as appearing on Bourdain’s notorious Food Porn for the sultry qualities of salami. Chef Daniel Boulud also summoned Cesare’s expertise to play host and featured guest chef for an episode of his highly regarded television show After Hours with Daniel Boulud. From Bravo’s Top Chef to ABC’s Nightline, as well as several appearances on Martha Stewart Living, Fox News, CBS, and New York 1 among others; Chef Casella’s charm can make even waiting for water to boil exciting.
Chef Casella has written several books including Diary of a Tuscan Chef (Broadway, 1998), Italian Cooking for Dummies (Wiley, 2002), True Tuscan (Morrow, 2005), and the forthcoming Introduction to Italian Cuisine (Abrams, 2012), which will be the textbook for the International Culinary Center.
He has been featured in prominent print publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and Men’s Health; and his movements are tracked by bloggers and food websites such as Grubstreet, Eater and SeriousEats.
In New York, Chef Casella has created many special dinners for the James Beard House and conducts cooking classes for De Gustibus as a featured visiting chef. He is an active member and supporter of City Harvest, Food Bank for New York City, Autism Speaks and Slow Food USA.