EyeSwoon

Simplicity wins, always – but the execution of something super-simple needs to be precise. Just because something is minimal does not mean it should be approached without care, protocol or without honoring its purity. There are rules, after all, and though I have built a brand on breaking some such obligatory “rules” – I will admit that others are far better followed.

Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to create a painstakingly-simple 7-ingredient pasta with Chef Paul DiBari, former executive chef of Bowery Meat Company, at Sessanta. The Linguini A.O.P. recipe we’re sharing here happens to be one of the most sought-after dishes at the downtown darling Southern Italian restaurant. As a matter of fact, all of chef Paul’s dishes are ingredient-focused and simply prepared, which makes them both uber-delicious and super-accessible. The food is punctuated by the swooniest midcentury Italian design — think avant-garde, Giò Ponti-style aesthetics with the glamour of Federico Fellini. The space, located in the heart of SoHo, is moody and sexy at once. It’s the kind of spot that feels like an escape, where you can curl up in a booth with a glass of wine and be transported to a diner in the postwar heyday of Italian culture.

My kitchen experience with Chef Paul was chock-full of tips and tricks. I always find that I walk out of a professional kitchen with a bit more knowledge than I had when I entered. So now I share those little tidbits with you swooners. First, pre-slice your 12 cloves of garlic paper-thin and let them infuse your oil overnight. Second, (and perhaps this is more of a restaurant-focused tip, but I, for one, am ALWAYS stumped when it comes to portioning spaghetti or linguini, sooooooo…) pre-portion each serving of long noodles by visually separating them with some blue painter’s tape. No more guessing, and this guarantees precision for however many people you are serving. Oh, and grind your own red pepper flakes – I love, love this tip! The flavor is far better this way. I know, I know, I am a bit of a food geek. I freak out over these fun reveals from seeing a pro in action.

Upon leaving the kitchen, I sat with co-owner of Sessanta John McDonald, (whose partner is Steven Eckler) and devoured our delicious A.O.P. pasta. And in case you’re wondering, the name stands for “aglio, olio e pepperoncini”, and the translation: goodness. No really though, it means garlic, oil, hot pepper. John and I had an interesting chat about – you guessed it – food, his journey into hospitality, old NYC, creativity, carving out your own path, fear, success, parenting, and finally some Ted Talks I need to watch. I love what I do!

Q&A

Sessanta

  • Executive Chef Paul DiBari

    • How would you describe the food you create at Sessanta?

      I would describe the food I do at Sessanta as simply prepared, seasonal, Southern Italian dishes with a creative twist.

      What is the core value represented in the food?

      Ingredients are the core value.

      Most important flavor-building ingredient or combo?

      Colatura is most important. We use it in a lot of dishes. My favorite is in the salsa verde on the orata.

      What inspired you to you become a chef?

      My mother inspired me to be a chef. She’s an amazing cook!

      Any kitchen tricks for home chefs that are guaranteed to pack flavor into their dishes?

      Salt your pasta water really well. It’s the difference between mediocre and great pasta!

      Can you speak to the simplicity of the dish we created together?

      Linguini aglio e olio is the most simple pasta dish. Only a few ingredients. It’s all about execution here.

      Biggest mistake home cooks make when making pasta?

      Like I said before, the biggest mistake is not salting the water. You also don’t want to over cook it, either!

      Five ingredients you couldn’t live without?Salted anchovies, garlic, olive oil, lemons, canned tomatoes (San Marzano, of course).

      A childhood or college days’ snack you’re mildly embarrassed you still love?

      Toast with tons of butter and salt or sliced cheddar is my favorite snack. I like them equally as much.

  • Co-Owner John McDonald

    • Last life-changing, swoon-worthy food experience? 

      I was in Phoenix and had lunch with Chris Bianco and he made me a fresh tagliatelle bolognese and a classic aglio e olio spaghetti, both with truly local Arizona ingredients. Combined with just talking about food and life, this meal stands out.

      Your favorite dish here at Sessanta? Most popular?  

      Either the Grilled Chicken with Snap Pea Salad or The A.O.P. Pasta — simple, spicy and something I can easily eat once a week, if not twice.

       What was the initial vision for Sessanta?  

      Southern Italian food + midcentury design + great people.

      Can you speak about your journey in hospitality, the genesis and many avenues to where you are today?

       I enjoy what I do today as much as I did 20 years ago. For me that is the most important thing. If you are in this industry and don’t 100% love the ups and downs, you will be a miserable person to be around, a bad thing for a bar, restaurant or hotel.

      What makes a successful restaurant?  

      It ultimately ends up being about the people, but before anything it really is concept overall. You need a restaurant that has a defined point of view and is part of daily conversation for how people eat. “Hey, lets go for…”

      Classic NYC Restaurant that makes you swoon?

      Raoul’s Soho, the ultimate old-school, classic, dark, sexy, authentic.

      Favorite city for food outside of NYC?

      Lately, London.

       Your ideal meal is… With…

      A huge, medium-rare côte de boeuf, hash browns, a bowl of heirloom tomatoes and a great bottle of wine with pretty much anyone will do, each the same — friends, family or interesting strangers.

Linguini A.O.P.

Sessanta

  • Ingredients

    • Serves  4 hungry people

      • 1 pound dry linguini
      • 12 cloves of garlic sliced paper thin
      • 1 tsp of pepperoncini
      • 8 tbsp chopped parsley
      • 4 tbsp toasted breadcrumbs
      • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
      • 8 tpsp parmigiano reggiano
      • Salt to taste
  • The Prep

      1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
      2. Generously salt so it tastes like sea water.
      3. Drop your Linguini and set a timer for 6 minutes or a minute less than it says on the package.
      4. To make the sauce, slowly heat the garlic in the olive oil. After about one minute add the pepperoncini and cook for 20 seconds.
      5. Add  6oz of some of the pasta water and set aside.
      6. When the linguini is al dente drain through a colander reserving some of the water. Add to the pan with the garlic.
      7. Cook for a minute more so the pasta and sauce become one.
      8. Add the parsley, half the breadcrumbs and half the cheese.
      9. Toss well and add salt to taste. If pasta seems a little dry add a little more of the reserved water.
      10. Divide into 4 serving bowls and top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.

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