Kneading Lessons & a Learning Legacy on the Road with the Vetri Family

Growth happens when we are exposed to new things — or sometimes, the same things but new ways of doing them.  When we have those with the experience, passion and patience to teach us, something beautiful happens in the exchange.  An invitation to cook at the annual Great Chefs Event for Alex’s Lemonade Stand in Philadelphia last week presented such an opportunity for The Genuine Hospitality Group culinary assistant Dillion Wolff — to stage at Vetri Cucina, thanks to Michael and friend Marc Vetri.  A chef respected by his peers for his talent and heart, Marc has cultivated a stable of acclaimed chefs and restaurants since his flagship Vetri Cucina opened in Philly in 1998. It’s hard enough to be a for-profit business in this business, so 20 years is many lifetimes in the restaurant world, especially when you are also running a foundation in tandem.  Vetri Cucina set the tone and proved a solid foundation from which to build, recognized for the level of care taken in honoring and elevating the traditional Italian kitchen.  Its special tasting menu has minted this gem in the canon of American dining and won multiple James Beard Awards for its offspring, Jeff Michaud and Mike Solomonov to name a few.  If Marc is the OG progenitor, Vetri Cucina is the primordial Italian wedding soup.

The dining experience at Vetri is an ode to the mother country and its love of food unlike any other. In addition to the dining room, guests can arrange for private dinners, as well as partake in cooking classes on site.  As Dillion found out, perhaps the education most important happens daily among its cooks in service — a recipe of teamwork and technique.  It’s a place where bread, pasta and even polenta made from scratch means milling the flour in house.

“Going into it there were a few things I was curious about, like making fresh pasta, for example,” Dillion reflected on the phone Monday.  “How they run service is so different than Harry’s or Genuine Pizza — even Michael’s Genuine or Amara.  We are talking a 30 seat restaurant where 40 covers is a crazy busy night.”

TGHG Culinary Director Bradley Herron snagged Dillion for his team in February 2017 from Michael’s Genuine, where he had been working the line for a year after interning there during culinary school.  The culinary assistant role is a unique one, providing support to all Genuine group entities — from Amara at Paraiso to Fi’lia in the Bahamas to our commissary kitchen — with ongoing training, their chefs with last minute help on the line, working Michael Schwartz Events including private parties from cocktail receptions to cooking classes and off-site catering, and handling special projects.  Really everything under the sun.  Most recently, Dillion worked with the Genuine Pizza cookbook team on a week-long photoshoot.  The 150 pictures of recipes and lifestyle shots due to publisher Abrams Books quickly became 180, including several step by step instructive images for which he and colleague Brandon Green served not only as prep cooks but subjects.

Some of the Genuine Pizza cookbook photo wall, most of Dillion’s hands!

“This job requires flexibility and versatility, but it demands a good attitude,” Bradley explained.  “You have to be able to jump in to help and get things done at a moment’s notice, and they need to be done right. Dillion is as fast as he is proficient, but these are strengths that as a cook you always want to be improving upon.  That comes with experience, time on the line and repeated exposure to new environments and things.”

Dinner at Vetri is conceived based on each table, and everything isn’t the same.  The on the fly structure is part of the challenge, the fun and the instruction.

“It was cool to see how dynamic the approach is with the tasting menu,” Dillion reflects.  “It’s not just what the chef wants to do, it’s trying to make the diner’s experience as custom and to their tastes and food preferences as possible.”

The first day, Dillion was a fly on the wall for service, and they would make him an extra of each dish to taste. Tuesday was spent with the baker, milling fresh flour and baking bread.  He worked service with “pasta guy” and also helped with private events upstairs.

“Matt, the executive chef… On Monday he was the dishwasher.  I mean, it really sets the tone when the first courses come in heavy and the pasta cook comes in to help put it out.  You could tell in the kitchen that it was a huge team effort,” he reflected. “Everyone will do whatever. The whole operation is impressive, the attention to detail and craft but also people being genuine with each other — and incredibly welcoming to me.  They didn’t want to ask me to do things, like the stuff that’s not glamorous, and I’m there to work and to do anything. I had so many questions and no one got annoyed with me!”

The City of Brotherly Love indeed. Something we can all benefit from emulating!  Follow Dillion on Instagram @dillion_wolff.

Nose to Fruit: New Seasonal Salad, Pizza & Sangria Specials Now Summering at Harry’s Pizzeria® & Genuine Pizza™

We look forward to the smells of summer — the way the air gets thick and sparkly after a tropical sun shower, and sunscreen’s dreamy imprint on our memory banks beached in laughter and salty ocean breezes. This is a season that lets you know it’s here — and in a hurry.

In Florida, our fruit trees are heavy now with mango, lychee and even peaches.  And when it comes to the fragrance of the season, a good peach can’t be beat in its intensity and truth.  Putting nose to fruit is a pro tip you’ll notice chefs doing as second nature, because it’s a pretty great clue to ripeness.

The sniff test on guava at Miami Design District’s market last year.

“We shop for ingredients just like everyone else does, and we do a lot of smelling in the process,” explains chef Bradley Herron.  “Finding a good peach is essential for this salad to work.”

To know what’s inside without breaking the skin, you have to trust nose more than your eyes or even fingers.  If it’s good and ready, you’ll get the same zesty sweetness found in the flesh just by smelling it.

As we roll out summer specials at the pizzerias, the start of the season is always an interesting one as things get going. Early product coming in has been smelling strong so far – a good sign.  Enjoy the Peach & Burrata Salad and Peach & Gorgonzola Pizza with our new Sangria, because lighter alcohol “cocktails” and summer go hand in hand when you want something refreshing and festive with which to cool off!  Refreshing in its simplicity, ours combines your choice of three wines with San Pellegrino’s sparkling blood orange soda.

Brighten up your day and get a jump start on summer time — visit our website for hours, menu and to order online.  For a genuine anthology of peaches, explore this archive on the blog, or a primer on summer fruit and how peaches came to cultivation here in the Sunshine State in a 2014 chat with then Michael’s Genuine chef de cuisine Niven Patel.

Plant Based? Plant Yourself at Genuine Pizza™ and Harry’s Pizzeria® with New Vegan Mozzarella Cheese

For Chef Schwartz quality is king and so are happy guests.  With 93% of people in American eating pizza at least once a month, and many with dietary restrictions, it is important our restaurant menus make guests feel at home — just like our dining rooms.  Now Genuine Pizza and Harry’s Pizzeria are more vegan-friendly than ever, thanks to the introduction this week of vegan mozzarella “cheese” that can be added to any pizza. The choice was popular brand Daiya, an industry leader in plant-based products and also serious about quality, to provide us with their premium Mozzarella Style Shreds.

Schwartz says, “Making our pizza restaurants more welcoming to more people is a win and something like vegan cheese is a big deal to a lot of folks.  We’re mindful of that. We’re also excited about how well the mozzarella-style melts.”

The margherita and “cheese” pizzas can be made vegan — adding caponata to either makes for a tasty combination. In addition to the vegan options on the pizza menu, we make a number of colorful salads with satisfying grains and beans, and a roasted eggplant entrée that can also be made vegan.

“Plant-based is no longer a fringe movement—it is now mainstream,” says Michael Lynch, Daiya’s vice president of marketing. “Today’s consumers have an appetite for foods that not only taste great, but are also better for themselves as well as the planet.”

We added a gluten free dough last year and the response has been great, not just accounting for a 4% slice of pizza sales, but especially to how good Wild Flour’s crust eats.  Whether you suffer from allergies, are dairy-intolerant, living vegan or simply choosing a healthier lifestyle you can still enjoy a better pizza. We leave the choice in your hands!

Pepperoni Pizza? Yes, Please.

March Madness! What’s more important in the world of pizza than the pepperoni pie?  It’s the ultimate expression of the iconic American pizzeria.  The go-to slice.  What you think of when you think pizza. It’s what the people want who love a perfectly unadulterated pie, like we do.  So after much trial and little error to get the toppings combination just right, we are introducing our first Pepperoni to the pizza menu at Genuine Pizza™ and Harry’s Pizzeria® effective today.  Not such a crazy idea, after all…

Spicy Pepperoni is now available for $16 at all locations in Atlanta and Miami with tomato sauce, chile oil, fontina, mozzarella and arugula.  The magic mix honors the original in its pure form taking it to the next level with a blend of mozzarella and fontina cheeses for just the right creaminess and stretch, some chile oil-flecked tomato sauce for a little punch and leafy, peppery and crisp arugula that melts into the gooey bed of deliciousness.

This pizza is all about the beautiful Niman Ranch product at the end of the day, sliced to just the right thickness for a crispy, juicy bake. Took us long enough!  Visit genuinepizza.com and harryspizzeria.com for locations and hours near you and to order the Pepperoni Pizza online for takeout or delivery through one of our partners including Uber Eats, Amazon Restaurants and Door Dash.

Getting Saucy with Fennel Puttanesca, the New Seasonal Pizza Launching Today at Genuine Pizza™ & Harry’s Pizzeria®

A two cheese pie by another name would be as delicious

Today we say goodbye to Calabaza and hello to a new seasonal pizza to supercharge the winter doldrums — Spicy Fennel Puttanesca (15) mozzarella, ricotta, oregano.  We first introduced a seasonal pie to our menu in August, before Genuine Pizza existed, not to mention opened out of state!  Available beginning today at all Genuine Pizza and Harry’s Pizzeria locations, this pie features two cheeses that work together with sweet roasted fennel to balance a punchy tomato sauce for a simple combination that just works. Timing is everything.

“Right now we relish the days above 50 degrees like our teams in Miami do for those below,” Genuine Pizza Atlanta GM Megan Griffin explains. “I think we can all agree this pizza satisfies all kinds of winter cravings. It’s a perfect choice for those days when all you want is a little sunshine and vibrancy to cut through the chill.  We like spice!”

Braving the winter has definitely taken on a whole new meaning now that we have our first restaurant where snow falls. In Miami, we wish — er — pray for those intermittent cold front weeks.  They don’t come often but when they do, we relish the experience of dry 55°F degree air washing over the palms, making us feel like we’re anywhere but here.  It has taken operating in Atlanta to truly understand seasonal change and how welcome, transportive and comforting a little bit of heat can be in the form of hot meal. For both mind and body.  Get you some winter warming!  We are now open in Downtown Dadeland (Kendall, FL), Coconut Grove (Miami, FL), Miami Design District (Miami, FL), Aventura Mall (Aventura, FL), and Phipps Plaza (Buckhead/Atlanta, GA) Visit genuinepizza.com and harryspizzeria.com to find location near you and to order online.