Friday, December 6, 2013
Tony Mantuano, chef/partner at Spiaggia in Chicago and one of President Obama’s favorite chefs, will be coming to Portland July 25 for a special dinner at Carmen at the Danforth.
Mantuano and chef Carmen Gonzalez, who recently opened a new restaurant at the Danforth Inn, became fast friends when they were both contestants on season two of the reality TV show Top Chef Masters on Bravo.
The critically-acclaimed Spiaggia has been called one of the best Italian restaurants in the country. It was nominated for “Outstanding Restaurant in America” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006, 2007 and 2010. In 2005, Mantuano was named James Beard’s Best Chef: Midwest.
Spiaggia is a favorite dining spot for the president and first lady, who celebrated Obama’s presidential election victory there in 2008. Oprah Winfrey has also been a frequent guest.
“One thing I love about (Mantuano’s) food is that you go to Spiaggia and you can eat, like, 15 courses of food,” Gonzalez said. “It’s Italian food, and yet everything is so simple because, for him, everything is about the quality of the ingredients and the simplicity of the dishes. Some of the stuff he makes is so simple, and yet you want to eat three bowls of it.”
Gonzalez said the June 25 dinner at the Danforth Inn (located at 163 Danforth St.) will begin with a reception that includes passed hors d’oeurves prepared by both chefs. “We’re having a five course dinner where Tony’s doing two, I’m doing two and then we’re collaborating on dessert,” she said. “So dessert might be two things, one thing made by him and one thing made by me.”
The reception will begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:45. The cost is $125 per person. Reservations are already being accepted.
Gonzalez said she and Mantuano first met on Top Chef Masters, “and five minutes later we were, like best friends.”
“Seriously, it’s one of these things where it’s really spooky,” she said. “We met and we became friends, and we started protecting each other on the show and helping each other. It was lovely. I adore his wife, and Cathy Mantuano is going to be here talking about wine because that’s what she does, too. We just have become very good friends.”
Gonzalez says she hopes to invite other fellow Top Chef Masters contestants to cook with her in Portland this summer. She’s already approached Jody Adams of Rialto in Cambridge, Mass., and Jonathan Waxman, chef/owner of Barbuto in Manhattan’s West Village.
“It should be fun during the summer,” Gonzalez said, “but I want to start with by buddy because he’s my pal.”
For reservations for the Tony Mantuano dinner, call (207) 358-7103.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod