The Dish: Chef Tony Mantuano

Chef Tony Mantuano has been satisfying Chicago's taste for fine Italian food for more than three decades. He was a music major in college and only started working in restaurants as a part-time job. But cooking soon became his passion. 

He started his career in Wisconsin but found his way to the Windy City and later spent a year working in top restaurants throughout Italy. He brought their secrets home to his restaurant Spiaggia, a must-visit venue of Chicago's dining scene. 

Here are some of Mantuano's signature recipes: 

Porterhouse with truffle hollandaise

Truffle hollandaise ingredients

Yields 6 cups

2 pounds unsalted butter

6 egg yolks

4 ounces beef demi glace

4 ounces champagne vinegar

2 tablespoons truffle paste

Sea salt

Fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, over low heat, brown the butter. Set aside and allow to cool down to 150 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, reduce the champagne vinegar to half, 7 minutes. Cool to room temperature before using.

3. In a food processor combine the egg yolks, demi glace and vinegar. Whip until yolks are a pale yellow and slowly stream in the brown butter.  Season with salt and lemon to taste.

Porterhouse ingredients

2 Porterhouse steaks

Sea salt 

Directions

1. Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a glass grill to medium-high.Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper.

2. Arrange on the grill and sear, turning once until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 120 degrees F, or medium rare, 7 to 9 minutes on each side. Remove the steaks from the grill and let the meat rest for 5 minutes. 

3. In a food processor combine the egg yolks, demi glace and vinegar. Whip until yolks are a pale yellow and slowly stream in the brown butter.  Season with salt and lemon to taste.

4. To serve: on a large cutting board, remove the strip and filet off the bone. Then slice the strip into 6 to 7 slices and the filet into 3 to 4 slices. Place the bone on a large serving platter and reassemble the meat against the bone. Place the hollandaise in a bowl or gravy boat and serve on the side. Serve immediately.

Honey fritters

Yields 12 fritters

Ingredients

12 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted and cooled)

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons anise or almond extract

½ tablespoon sugar

2 quarts canola oil for frying

2 cups honey, preferably Mieli Thun Italian Coriander

Directions

1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and egg on medium-high speed until thick and lighted in color for 15 minutes. 

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and sugar. Add half of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix well to combine. Add the remaining dry ingredients slowly and in small batches. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. The dough will be very sticky.

2. Lightly dust the dough with flour. Break off ping pong ball-size pieces and roll out into 10-inch strands. Pinch the ends together to form a ring. Repeat the process until all the dough is used.

3. To fry, heat the canola oil in a deep-fryer or heavy bottomed pot until 335 degrees. 

4. Fry the rings in the oil until golden brown 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and let dry for 2 to 3 hours.

5. Heat the honey in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until warm. While the honey heats, set a wire rack over a rimmed cookie sheet.

6. Spear a fritter with a fork and then dip in the honey until well coated. Drain on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining fritters. Once cooled, store in a covered container at least overnight before serving.

Crispy Parmigiano flatbread

Yields 16 large pieces

Ingredients

2 packets active dry yeast

1 ½ cups warm water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing

4 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Ingredient

1. Combine the yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let sit until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the olive oil.

2. Put the flour and salt in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, or in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix on low speed, or with your hands until the water is absorbed and the dough forms shards. Knead the dough in the bowl or on a lightly floured board until the dough is uniform and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. It will be slightly sticky.

3. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape into balls. Dust with flour and place on a floured cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready 2 non-stick cookie sheets, or grease regular cookie sheets with olive oil.

5. Working with one dough ball at a time (cover the remaining dough with a moist kitchen towel until ready to use), dust the ball with flour and flatten with your hand. Cut the dough in half and roll half the dough through a pasta machine with the rollers set midway apart. Dust the dough with flour if it becomes sticky. Reduce the space between the rollers one setting at a time until you have reached the last setting and the dough is a smooth thin sheet. 

6. Transfer to a cutting board and cut in half on an angle into large pieces so that 2 will fit on 1 cookie sheet. The pieces should each be approximately 4-inches wide and 12-inches long. Roll and cut the remaining half in the same manner as the first.

7. Place the rolled dough on the cookie sheets. Brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with the cheese, and bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on a rack before serving. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough balls, rolling and baking until all the dough is used.

Flaming ouzo shrimp

Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course

Ingredients

1 baking potato, very thinly sliced using a ceramic blade slicer, or a mandolin

1 ¼ pounds peeled and deveined shrimp (size U-15)

1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Sea salt 

Freshly-ground pepper

¼ cup and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

6 ounces ouzo

1/2 lemon

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Heat a large skillet for 5 minutes in the oven.

3. Remove the pan from the oven, and add ¼ cup of the olive oil. Carefully layer the potato slices slightly over lapping them in the pan. Top with the slices of jalapeno, garlic and, finally, the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon olive oil.

4. Return to the oven and bake until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Remove the shrimp from the oven and add the ouzo. Stand back and carefully hold a lit match to the juices to flame the dish. As the flame begins to die down, squeeze the lemon over the shrimp. Serve immediately.

Crescenza ravioletto with spring vegetables and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Serves 12

Basic pasta dough ingredients

2 cups type 00 flour   

1 teaspoon salt

8 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1/3 cup water

Directions

1. Mound the flour on a pastry board or other wood or marble work surface. Make a well in the center and add the salt and the egg yolks. Using a fork, gradually fold the flour into the eggs, adding the water little by little until you have a soft dough. 

2. Knead a few times until smooth, then form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. Roll out the pasta dough into thin sheets. Using a chef's knife or pastry wheel, cut the pasta sheets into 24, 5-by-5-inch squares. Place the squares on a lightly floured board or cloth until ready to cook. Cut out 24 rectangles of parchment paper, each 7- by-7 ½  inches. Grease each piece using the cold stick of butter, leaving a 1 and 1/2-inch border unbuttered.

4. Have ready a bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of lightly-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta squares to the boiling water and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 1 to 2 minutes. 

5. Remove the pasta squares with a slotted spoon, shaking to remove excess moisture, and transfer carefully to the ice water to stop the cooking. Working quickly, remove the pasta squares from the ice water one at a time, and lay flat on a cloth to dry. Do not overlap or the squares will stick together.

Ravioletto filling ingredients

1 pound Crescenza cheese

½ stick cold, unsalted butter

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Cut the Crescenza cheese into 24 pieces, each about 2 inches wide, 2 inches long, and ¼ inch thick. Place a piece of the cheese in the middle of each pasta square and fold the bottom and top flap of pasta over the middle, wrapping it around the cheese. Then fold the sides into the middle, burrito style. Place the ravioletto, seam side down, in the middle of a buttered parchment piece and fold the parchment around the pasta, repeating the technique used to wrap the pasta around the cheese. Place the parchment packet, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pasta, cheese, and parchment.

3. Bake until the edges of the parchment paper are barely golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Sauce ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 spring onion, bulb crosscut, green fine julienne

1.5 pounds asparagus, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias

1 pound morel mushrooms, brushed clean and blanched

1 cup fresh peas

1 cup snap peas cross cut

1 cup fava beans, peeled

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 half-pound piece Parmigiano-Reggiano for shavings

Directions

1. In a large saute over medium heat, melt the 1 cup of unsalted butter. 

2. Add the onion bulb and a pinch of salt, cover and cook until the onion is translucent, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not brown. Add the asparagus and saute for 1 minute. Add the morels, fava beans, peas and snap peas. Cover and cook until the peas are tender, but still bright green, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. To serve, place 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano-Reggiano in the center of each of 12 warmed plates. Carefully remove the parchment around a ravioletto and place it on the grated cheese. Arrange a second ravioletto next to the first. Spoon the vegetable and butter sauce over the ravioletti, making sure the plate has some of every vegetable. Top with a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat to make the remaining 11 servings. Serve immediately.

Note ** Wrapped in the parchment and placed in an airtight container, the ravioletti freeze well for up to 1 month. Bake right from the freezer for 25 minutes, and continue as directed.