Certified Authentic Italian: Coco Pazzo's Chris Macchia

March 14, 2011 8:04:04 PM PDT
Americans have long had a love affair with Italy and Italian cuisine. And eighteen Chicago-area restaurants soon will be honored with the "Ospitalita Italiana Seal - Italian Retaurants in the World" for their culinary contributions to Italian culture from a branch of the Italian government. On Thursday, March 17--the day that marks the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy--the IACC will award certificates to these restaurants and their chefs at an evening event held at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, 1431 W. Taylor St., in Little Italy. Each restaurant will prepare and serve some of its signature dishes that night.

The restaurants and executive chefs honored with this "seal of approval" are some of the most popular in the city, including the internationally renowned Spiaggia (Tony Mantuano), Piccolo Sogno (Tony Priolo), Coco Pazzo (Chris Macchia), and Tocco (Bruno Abate).

Eighteen Chicago-area restaurants now will receive the "Ospitalita Italiana Seal -- Italian Retaurants in the World," an honor recognizing their authenticity and culinary contributions to Italian culture, at a dinner event on Thursday, March 17--the day marking the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

The Italian American Chamber of Commerce-Midwest (IACC) will award certificates to these 18 restaurants and their chefs at an evening event held at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, 1431 W. Taylor St., in Little Italy. Several of the honored restaurants will provide signature dishes for the evening's event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails, followed by a sit-down dinner and program. The event is being co-sponsored by the Milan Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International. Tickets are $50 for IACC members and $70 for non-members; they can be purchased at www.iacc-chicago.com.

Just as events are being staged across the Italian peninsula to celebrate the Risorgimento (the movement that resulted in the establishment of the Italian nation), the IACC will celebrate both this historic day and the awarding of the Ospitalita Italiana seal during one of its regular Networking Events. With specifications determined by Italy's Istituto Nazionale Ricerche Turistiche (National Institute of Tourist Research), the seal was created in 1997 to develop a high quality of consumer service among restaurants, hotels and agriturismi, or "holiday farmhouses," across Italy. In order for restaurants worldwide to earn this distinction--one that is voluntary and which requires that the restaurant apply--each had to meet 10 stringent criteria and submit proof of their authenticity.

Among the criteria: each restaurant selected must employ at least one staff member who can speak to guests in Italian; the menus must be written in proper Italian; at least 20 percent of wines offered must be DOP-certified (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or "Protected Denomination of Origin"); and the head chef must meet requirements of experience and proficiency in Italian cooking. Each restaurant also had to submit descriptions of at least five Italian-tradition recipes, including the Italian region that inspired the ingredients and dishes. The 18 Chicago-area restaurants that will be honored on March 17th are:

  • Spiaggia Restaurant, 980 N. Michigan (Chef/Partner Tony Mantuano)
  • Piccolo Sogno, 464 N. Halsted (Chef/Owner Tony Priolo)
  • Coco Pazzo, 300 W. Hubbard (Executive Chef/Partner Chris Macchia)
  • Merlo on Maple, 16 W. Maple (Chef Luisa Silvia Marani)
  • Tocco, 1266 N. Milwaukee (Chef/Owner Bruno Abate)
  • The Village (at Italian Village), 71 W. Monroe (Executive Chef Robert Trevino)
  • Volare, 201 E. Grand (Chef Massimo Campagnini)
  • Pelago Ristorante, 201 E. Delaware (Chef/Owner Mauro Mafrici)
  • Quartino, 626 N. State (Chef/Partner John Coletta)
  • Phil Stefani's 437 Rush, 437 N. Rush (Executive Chef Federico Comacchio)
  • Riccardo Trattoria, 2119 N. Clark (Chef/Owner Riccardo Michi)
  • 312 Chicago (Chef Luca Corazzina)
  • Via Carducci La Sorella, 1928 W. Division (Chef Luis Hernandez)
  • Vivere (at Italian Village), 71 W. Monroe (Chef Robert Reynaud)
  • La Cantina (at Italian Village), 71 W. Monroe (Chef Robert Duerscheidt)
  • Ristorante Agostino, 2817 N. Harlem (Chef Anna Fiasche)
  • Sergio's Cucina Italiana, 280 N. Rohlwing Rd., Itasca (Chef Sergio Abate)
  • Gaetano's, 7636 W. Madison, Forest Park (Chef Gaetano Di Benedetto)

"Our goal for this event is to celebrate the Italian nation's wonderful 150-year history, but also to celebrate some of Chicago's most outstanding Italian restaurants," said Fulvio Calcinardi, executive director of the Italian American Chamber of Commerce-Midwest. "These restaurants take tremendous pride in the ingredients used in their dishes, the wine served--and in sharing authentic Italian culture. Our guests will get to enjoy all this, and more. "

The "Ospitalita Italiana Seal - Italian Restaurants in the World" certification process is ongoing, with Italian restaurants around the world invited to apply or resubmit applications once they meet all 10 of ISNART's requirements. The 10 most recent restaurant additions to the list were just certified this month.

"For generations, Americans have had a love affair with Italy and with Italian cuisine," said Robert Allegrini, president of the IACC-Midwest. "We are very proud to play a role in helping to identify some of Chicagoland's most authentic Italian restaurants. We are honored that the esteemed chefs from these restaurants will be preparing and serving some of their signature dishes at this 150th birthday event."

"To taste our food is to taste our history," says Paula Waters, Chair of the Chicago Sister Cities International Milan Committee. "All of the influences, invaders and blessings of nature that made up the Italian nation a mere 150 years ago are present in our cuisine."

Italian American Chamber of Commerce - Midwest
The Italian American Chamber of Commerce-Midwest is a business association founded in 1907 to provide services to the Italian business community and to American businesses involved with the Italian market and products. The IACC's primary goals are promoting its member activities as well as promoting trade relations between Italy and the United States, with a particular focus on the Midwest region. Within North America, the Chicago-based IACC is one of nine Italian Chambers located in the major metropolitan areas in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Milan Committee/Chicago Sister Cities International
The Milan Committee is one of 28 under the umbrella of Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI), which provides leadership to develop, manage, and coordinate comprehensive programs and projects with Chicago's 28 sister cities. CSCI is committed to promoting Chicago as a global city, developing international partnerships and networks, and sharing best practices on a city-to-city basis.