On Your Marc… Mastering Pizza Cookbook Dinner at Michael’s Genuine

Get set to spread the love.  The pizza kind.  We are tickled to again welcome into our kitchen the one and only Chef Marc Vetri — this time to celebrate our favorite food.  Everyone’s favorite food.  Pizza!  You can’t go back to any old pie once you’ve tasted an extraordinary one — and we’ve got plenty on October 1!  For one seating and one night only beginning at 7PM, Michael hosts his friend and the founder of Philadelphia’s Vetri Family of Restaurants for the Mastering Pizza Cookbook dinner featuring a handful of the recipes he has perfected to create artisanal pies at home. The last time we cooked together in Miami was February 22, 2012 at Harry’s original location in the Miami Design District. It’s been way too long, and we’re ready to make it up to you… and ourselves!  Tickets are live today HERE!

Mastering Pizza Dinner Includes reception with a welcome cocktail and passed bites, sit down 3-course (including dessert) family style dinner, free flowing red, white and rosé wine — as well as beer — all night long, a signed book, and tax and gratuity for $150 per person.

Pizza remains America’s favorite food, but one that many people hesitate to make at home. In Mastering Pizza, the award-winning Philly-based chef tackles the topic with his trademark precision, making perfect pizza available to anyone. The recipes gleaned from years spent researching recipes in Italy and perfecting them in America have a variety of base doughs of different hydration levels, which allow home cooks to achieve the same results with a regular kitchen oven as they would with a professional pizza oven. The book covers popular standards like Margherita and Carbonara while also featuring unexpected toppings such as mussels and truffles and even a dessert pizza made with Nutella. With transporting imagery from Italy and hardworking step-by-step photos to demystify the process, Mastering Pizza will help you make pizza as delicious as you find in Italy.

“Mastering Pizza: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pizza, Focaccia, and Calzone” isn’t the chef’s first cookbook; the man behind the eponymous Vetri Cucina first published a collection recipes in 2008 with “Il Viaggio Di Vetri: A Culinary Journey,” detailing his culinary roots of when he began learning the craft in Bergamo, Italy, and the path that led him to the opening of Vetri.

Philly boys together and victorious in Minnesota this last Super Sunday.

His other books, 2011’s “Rustic Italian Food”– for which we hosted a dinner at Harry’s Pizzeria’s chef pop up series — and 2015’s “Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto,” likewise infuse stories from Vetri’s time in Italy alongside his recipes. With his latest work, Vetri shifts focus to the food customers may be more accustomed to if they’ve ever visited the area’s several Pizzeria Vetri locations, notably more casual (and affordable) than Vetri Cucina. The release date coincides with the five-year anniversary of the first Pizzeria Vetri location.

Michael’s forthcoming pizza cookbook, Genuine Pizza: Better Pizza at Home, releases in May of next year.  And an invitation to Pizzeria Vetri to launch it. It’s only right in the city of brotherly love, don’t you think, Marc?!  We can’t wait!

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.

Dog Days of Sbraga | The Fat Ham Pizzeria Menu

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Dog Days, on the porch at Kevin Sbraga’s Fat Ham, and quenching your thirst in Miami at Fat Ham Pizzeria

One tall drink of water just hits the spot in the dog days of summer…  We prefer ours ice cold and spiked with American whiskey. That’s your welcome cocktail at Fat Ham Pizzeria, coming to Harry’s Pizzeria on May 17, and we have the menu for you as Philadelphia chef Kevin Sbraga prepares to brings his “Southern Charm” to Miami for one night only at Michael’s Neighborhood American Pizzeria in the Design District.

We took a walk down memory lane to relive the entertaining and delicious evening that was May 22, 2012 when Kevin visited for the first time to pop a menu from Sbraga, his modern American flagship (which opened in September of 2011, just like the original Harry’s!)  I think we are in for a real treat and some fun.  He is busy being a TV chef, as an upcoming judge on FOX’s MasterChef: Season 7, but don’t let that fool you.  Kevin likes to set high bars and is seasoned at breaking them.  Welcome back, sir.  Tickets are here and flying fat … er…. FAST.  See below for the menu, live today!

Dog Days – Bourbon, Aperol, honey, lemon, mint, salt

Pulled Pork Sliders
Pimento Cheese Pizza
Boiled Peanut Hummus Toast
Devilled Eggs

Mustard Greens Salad – Benne Seeds, Peanuts, Hot Vinegar Dressing
Wood Roasted Beets – Lemon Fennel Dressing, Pickled Beets

Shrimp & Grits – Country Ham, Scallion, Peanuts
Dirty Fried Rice – Andouille Sausage, Soffrito

Hot Chicken – Brioche, Buttermilk Ranch, Dill Pickles
Collard Greens – Smoked Turkey, Potlikker
Baked Macaroni & Cheese – Smoked Cracker Crumbs

Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

Seating is first come, first served for this family-style meal at Michael’s neighborhood American pizzeria. Making new friends is encouraged and easy when attendees have a welcome cocktail in hand with four passed snacks, four courses, and four free-flowing wines for the evening selected by The Genuine Hospitality Group beverage manager Amanda Fraga to play well throughout the menu. Each guest will take home a bottle of Kevin’s hot sauce, too. All that and tax and gratuity are included in the ticket price of $150, sold exclusively at harryspizzeria.com/fathampizzeria.

Ya Tu Sabes, But Tasting Table’s Got Everything But the Cuban Sandwich

Agua de melon, sweet and bright watermelon juice with a squeeze of lime. So refreshing!

Agua de melon, sweet and bright watermelon juice with a squeeze of lime. So refreshing!

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“I think Miami is one of the most dynamic places to eat in the world.” Click here for Michael’s local picks!

One morning in February began with a sizzling vat of lard and a few cafecitos. Tasting Table had asked Michael to curate a list of local eats, including a trip to Little Havana to explore “everything but the Cuban sandwich” so the only answer was hell yes!   We made a bee line for SW 8th Street, the main east-west thoroughfare to flavor town in two crucial stops, El Mago de las Fritas (est. 1984) and Versailles (est. 1971).  Not only have these two institutions stood the test of time, they’ve done it in small and big ways while still maintaining the original identity they were built on and that made them great to begin with.  There is a palpable sense of place that embraces you the moment you set foot in the door. It’s the passion and dedication of the staff and ownership, combined with the spirit and love that guests have for their restaurants that produces a powerful feeling of belonging and purpose. A winning combination if you ask us.

Visit Tasting Table’s Celebrating Local Eats feature sponsored by Pepcid to check out not only Michael’s recommendations for Miami, including amazing photos shot by our new friend Libby Volgyes, but tips from savvy experts from food to photography in cities including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and Houston.  Live like a local and really learn a city. That’s how we like to travel!

Chef at Home: Drinking the Rainbow

It’s no secret we like juice. Call it what you want, a health kick or just keeping things fresh in the kitchen, but we’ve been incorporating more grains, seeds and nuts into all our menus in Genuineland lately — whether featured in something hearty and satisfying like MGFD’s new Veggie Burger at lunch or unexpectedly as a garnish in salads at Harry’s Pizzeria.  And you can’t get more fresh, simple, pure than juice.  Roel Alcudia plates his crudo now with cold-pressed peas, asparagus, cucumbers and herbs at The Cypress Room.

Chefs Bradley Herron and Niven Patel are in Philadelphia with Michael for the Great Chefs Event, the annual summer gathering of chefs to support the Vetri Foundation and Alex’s Lemonade Stand.  After scrapple, frita and whole roasted caja china pig, it’s time for a cleanse. Tonight’s offering? Warm wild king salmon with green juice, puffed rice, herbs. A big thank you to Breville for always coming to the table to support this event, this time with a juicer.

Before heading out of town, I asked Brad if I could visit his home and learn the basics of good juicing, both as a beverage and an ingredient in a dish.  Lucky for me, the whole family was there — wife Marisa, and two little rascals Jaxon, 7 months and Dominic, 21 months, clearly feeling the benefits of a daily homemade juice regimen.

“I’ve been juicing every day since a little bit before Jaxon was born, so like 9 months,” Brad explains. “As a chef, I don’t really get to sit and get a vegetable meal in. I’ll taste the whole line. Chips and dip, thousand island… There was a time in my career when we’d go through 20 pounds of butter in a service, when I was a line cook back in California at this French-American place where 2 quarts of sauce equalled 4 pounds of butter. At Michael’s we use olive oil as our base fat for cooking. Butter is for bread service, the finishing the pastas, mashed potatoes and a little garlic butter on the bread for the chicken liver crostini.”

Brad alters between green, orange and red blends.  He had the first summer mangos falling from his backyard Haden tree on the sill, so we made orange together.  The chef 100 percent believes in the medicinal qualities each blend brings, whether it is the red and golden beets that help clean your blood by filtering the kidneys, or ginger, from which there are so many benefits, he doesn’t even know where to begin.

“We go through two quarts a day. I drink a quart, my wife will have a quart and Dominic will have a little bit,” he says. “The important thing with juice is that it’s balanced. So I’ll put a whole lemon and a banana in everything I make. We go through 5 a day. My favorite is green juice. Like really dark and chlorophylly. Marisa likes that the least.”

Brad explains that you should always start with banana first, that way the harder, juicier fruits and vegetables that follow will push the creamy purée through.  Like the banana, apples are essential to every blend since they round out the other more intense flavors and bitter notes from ingredients like beet and carrot. He goes through about 10 pounds of apples a week. When Fuji are on sale, that’s his favorite.  They go from $1.50/pound to $2.60/pound, so he sticks with regular bags of small juicing apples for $1/pound when they’re not.  It’s smart to alternate soft and hard fruits and vegetables for the best extraction.  The Herron’s Breville is fitted with a blade and centrifuge, not a pressurized mechanism that crushes and then presses the ingredients.  At first he thought about a cold press model, but then bagged the idea in favor of his current machine’s efficiency and economy. There are arguments for both methods.

“I go to the market like three or four times a week. I buy so much stuff it’s crazy,” he continues. “The worst part of juicing is clean up ’cause you can’t clean as you go. I’ll save the pulp because there is still juice left in it. The fiber is like a bran alternative, so I make Dominic muffins. I wish I had a farm because I’d use it for compost. 1 pound of veggie scraps a day!”

IMG_7956IMG_7964 Brad always has cooked grains in the fridge, packed in several quart containers from his massive cabinet stash. He favors quinoa and short grain brown rice from Whole Foods for its texture.  On one of his favorite plates, 5.99 from Ikea (“They hold the juice!”) he composes the dish in layers right on it, in typical Brad fashion.  There’s sliced cooked golden beets, shaved red onion, crushed pistachios, pumpkin seeds, cooked quinoa, torn mint and slices of frenso chili, a great fresh pepper for a little heat and a little sweetness.  He likes a little sweetness in foods to add what he calls “a different kind of fat.”  To dress, splashes of homemade kombucha, with a little extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Think of it as the vinegar in the vinaigrette. (“I don’t let it go until it’s fully acidic. There’s still some residual sugar or RS, as [Eric] Larkee would say…”)  He recommends taking juice like the orange blend he prepared that day for me and cutting it with a little apple cider vinegar, as a substitute for the kombucha.  This perfect light lunch of course takes all of 2 minutes to produce, thanks to his advanced planning and quart container hoard. Note to us civilians — this method is not just for chefs!

According to Brad, the secret to juicing is to not over-think it.  But a little thinking doesn’t hurt. For the morning in pictures, see our album here.