Marisa Iocco, Boston's only Italian-born female chef, makes her first professional foray outside of Boston city limits, as the newly named Executive Chef of Spiga Trattoria Italiana in Needham.
As the cutting-edge culinary talent behind Galleria Italiana, La Bettola, South End Galleria, Bricco, Mare and Umbria, respectively, Iocco will undoubtedly raise the bar on Italian cooking in the metrowest area, serving big city food at little town prices (appetizers $9-12, primi $16-18, secondi $19-28, dolci $6-8).
Spiga, a surprisingly authentic Tuscan “villa” improbably located on a side street just off the highway, is rolling out the red carpet for Iocco … adding a landscaped patio, silk curtains, fresh paint, and an 8-seat wine bar. Spiga also boasts all-new management, staff and website. Chef Iocco’s spring 2009 menu debuts on April 15.
The 62-seat trattoria serves lunch and dinner daily. By day, tables are casual and service is quick. A roster of ten salads will be offered. Each is also available as a hot panini. Half a dozen brick oven pizzas and house-made pastas round out the $8-12 menu. By night, white tablecloths come out, and antique sconces reflected in tall mirrors create romantic ambiance.
"Spiga" comes from the Italian word for "wheat sheaf," the kind that was used centuries ago to bake bread. The restaurant’s logo is a wheat sheaf, whose familiar shape is embedded in stained glass on the front door. Proprietor is Carmelo Iriti and General Manager is Narciso Balboni.
Marisa Iocco’s Spring 2009 Debut Menu:
--Bistecca of Swordfish with white beans and tomato in rosemary fish broth
--Double Short Rib Osso Buco with sea salt-oil pinzimonio and Swiss chard
--Eggplant with Pasta "Sails" and fresh mint
--Insalata of Octopus with celery and potato matchsticks, olives and lemons
--Brick Oven 7-Spice Chicken with spicy Meyer lemon ragu
--Hand-Made Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli with Duck Ragu All' Arancia
--Sesame-Crusted Trout with poblano & kiwi in gingered vinegar reduction
--Semolina Cavatelli with broccoli rabe blossoms and Pecorino “sheets”
--Pan-Seared Veal Costata w/ asparagus-parmesan tart and moscato-tarragon demiglace
--Abruzzese Fish & Shellfish Risotto in Brodetto
--Tiramisu Scomposto (deconstructed), Tuscan Melon Soup, and Iocco’s signature Bread Pudding – see attached recipe – plus other desserts will all be made in-house.
Don't Miss: Iocco’s creative and addictive Parmigiano Oreo Cookie: two cheese tuiles with soft, cheesy mashed potato-parsnip filling, just $4.50 per order.
Bio of Executive Chef Marisa Iocco: Born in Orsogna, Italy, Marisa studied art and architecture before setting her sights on a career in food. She studied culinary arts at the renowned Villa Santa Maria before moving to Boston in 1990, where she opened Galleria Italiana with a partner. It became the hottest Italian restaurant Boston had ever known. In 1997, Marisa opened La Bettola, a critically acclaimed incubator for Italian fusion cuisine. It was followed a few years later by the back-to-basics South End Galleria, which shuttered in 2002.
On extended hiatus in Italy, Marisa researched recipes from the top chefs in Rome, Milan and Tuscany. Returning to Boston, she joined forces with a local restaurateur to operate Bricco, which became Boston’s premiere spot for cutting edge Italian cuisine in a vibrant urban setting. Marisa’s next challenge was creating a menu for Boston’s first ristorante showcasing Umbrian cuisine. Umbria opened in 2004 and built momentum rapidly; it was named “Best New Restaurant in Boston” by Boston Magazine that year.
In 2006, Marisa’s previously under-the-radar profile catapulted to national attention for her ambitious, organic seafood menu at Mare, named “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire, one of 80 Top Places in the World to eat by Conde Nast Traveler, and lauded in Food & Wine as one of the best new places to dine in Boston.
Marisa takes the reigns at Spiga in Needham, MA in April 2009. Later this year, she hopes to launch a line of all-natural, prepared meals called Food With Love. In her spare time, she travels, writes, plays poker and blackjack, swims, and spends time with her Labrador retriever, Tosca.
MARISA IOCCO’S BREAD PUDDING
2 lbs. crusty, day-old Italian bread
1 quart heavy cream
1 quart whole milk
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
--Remove the bread heels and cut bread into small cubes
--In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, sugar and vanilla bean, and bring to a slow boil. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool and steep for one hour.
--In a bowl, whisk the eggs, then pour in the vanilla-cream mixture and stir. Next, add the bread cubes and allow it to sit just long enough to soak up most of the liquid.
--Pour mixture into a rectagular cake pan at least 4” deep. Cover tightly with foil. Place that pan into a slightly larger pan, then add about two inches of water to the larger pan to create what’s called a “bain marie” or water bath. This provides moisture during baking.
--Bake at 375 degrees for two hours. Remove from oven; let pudding “set” briefly. Cut into squares. Serves 8 generously.