They say all roads lead to Rome, but in SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine, the ancient Roman roads lead to a delicious culinary tour of modern Italy in recipes. Written by wine director and owner of A16 and SPQR Shelley Lindgren and SPQR chef Matthew Accarrino, with photos by Kate Leahy, the cookbook leaves you yearning for the tastes and sights of Italy.
Next Tuesday at Harry’s Pizzeria, we are lucky enough to get a few samples of what chef Matthew has up his culinary sleeves at SPQR Pizzeria, and our wine director Eric Larkee is working with Shelley to make sure that what our guests drink lives up to the name as well.
We’re all incredibly excited to have our first San Francisco chef popping with us at Harry’s, let a lone a Michelin-starred one. This dinner is also a special one because we have never met Matthew. He comes to us thanks to a recommendation from one of our longtime pop-up series enthusiasts. I sat down with Matthew on speakerphone for a few minutes to talk Miami, Italy, and little baby shrimp. See below for a slide show to peek into the book that will be yours to take home after enjoying Matthew’s now finalized menu. One week from today, his road leads to the Design District. There are still a few tickets left to join him and make new friends; visit here to purchase.
Have you ever been to Miami?
I think the last time I was in Florida was….well, it’s been a while, I’ve been to Orlando a couple of times. I’m really excited to get down there and check out the city.
Have you met Michael Schwartz?
No. I’ve known of him through various people, but never actually met him. That has been one of the best things about the book coming out is that I’ve had the opportunity to travel and meet new people, there is a lot of camaraderie in the kitchens, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to get different peoples perspectives on food and meet different chefs. You guys have had quite a crew down there for this [chef-pop series at Harry’s Pizzeria], I’m excited to be a part of that roster.
The book is gorgeous, quite a tour of Italy. Have you lived in Italy?
My family lives still in Puglia, I visited a bit throughout my life and cooked there to learn about my heritage, but one of the exciting things about the book was being able to travel there. I spent two months in Italy, alone. To really connect with my heritage, and be inspired by it. It’s not like I’m going to take any recipes from there and replicate them, but being able to go to a lagoon in Friuli and pull up shrimp that are the size of your thumbnail and then cook them with the fisherman the at his little shack on the side of the hill, those are the sort of memories that you are nostalgic for when you’re creating food in a restaurant kitchen – the shrimp spaghetti recipe is actually in the book. My career is about recreating the experiences that I’ve had like that.
If you could be anywhere in Italy right now, where would you be?
La Marche, on the Adriatic coast. It’s so beautiful, all up and down the coast is scenic. There is the south part which is cosmopolitan with amazing seafood and then you drive twenty minutes into the mountains and it changes to game and all kinds of meat on the menu.
Do you think San Francisco is comparable to Italy with local produce?
Comparable? I don’t know. The availability of growing season and produce is why I live here, it’s a cooks paradise, but there are such tenets of Italian cuisine…it always reminds me of a story. When I was working north of my family, I went to visit and brought a big block of parma cheese to them in Puglia (where they eat mostly fresh cheeses like burrata) and they weren’t really impressed. They have this tradition that the things that are best are what they have on hand, in Rome its the carciofi, everyone wants you to taste it. Here, we’re lucky enough to have a lot of produce close by for growing season. Everyone at this point probably takes pride in the things they have on hand, but in San Francisco we have so much of it, I’m almost embarrased sometimes at how much we have, how lucky we are.
What are you most excited about in Miami? Any restaurants?
Certainly Michael’s [Genuine Food & Drink], Javier (@gourmandj) sort of raves about what you guys do. I’m actually coming in a day early to have time to check out the scene down there.