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.”

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.

It’s also 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 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 mintes 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 plans on inviting other fellow “Top Chef Masters” contestants to cook with her in Portland this summer. She’s in talks with 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 my buddy because he’s my pal.”

For reservations, call 358-7103.

 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad