Tony Mantuano

Chef, Restaurateur

Chicago

Tony Mantuano may be recognized as a Top Chef Masters alum, but he’s also an influential force when it comes to the restaurant world. He’s the chef and partner of one of the best Italian restaurants in Chicago, Spiaggia, which he opened in 1984. After publishing his books, The Spiaggia Cookbook and Wine Bar Food, Mantuano opened Terzo Piano inside the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. And in November 2011, he opened Bar Toma in Chicago’s Gold Coast. Although Mantuano was named a part of the American Chef Corps in 2012, the award closest to his heart was received in April 2009 when he and his wife, Cathy, were presented with the keys to San Martino, Italy, for serving authentic Italian cuisine in America. Mantuano opened his newest restaurant, Lorenzo, in November 2013 — this time in South Beach.

  • On April 8, 2013
    Jennifer Kester is now following Tony Mantuano
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What does Tony Mantuano wear when he travels?

    It’s usually a really comfortable suit. At the risk of sounding like a snob, Zegna suits are terrific, and they are as comfortable as anything. Never a tie, but always a Zegna suit, a dress shirt and the ability to layer with a sweater, if need be. To me, they are like a second skin.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What are Tony Mantuano's favorite food markets?

    In London, the Borough Market is awesome, we always go there. And I think the restaurant that’s just above the Borough Market, Roast, is always a lot of fun to go to. The Boqueria in Barcelona is one place that is a can’t-miss. The Testaccio Market in Rome is another place we never miss, and Peck in Milan is another world-class great place.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What does Tony Mantuano always travel with?

    Depending on where we are coming from, there’s always something to eat on the way back, something that we bought so that we don’t have to eat airline food — whether it’s salumi that we bought in Rome or it’s a great sandwich or a great meat pie in London. We are always choosing that as our meal. It extends the vacation by a few hours.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What's the best trip Tony Mantuano has ever taken?

    Maybe my honeymoon. We landed in Milan and went to Lake Como and stayed there for a few days. Then we drove to Venice and ended up in Florence. We just really took it day to day and had a great time. There was just so much less going on in our lives at that point; we could really enjoy Italy.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What are Tony Mantuano's favorite cities?

    I like to visit Venice, but I only like to visit in the wintertime, when all of the tourists are gone. Not all, but a vast majority of the day-trippers aren’t there. It’s just a great city in the wintertime. Many of the hotels there are fantastic.

    I like London an awful lot. I think that the food in London is so incredible right now and there are so many international restaurants. There are great Spanish restaurants, great Italian restaurants, and what they’re doing with English food these days is way beyond what anyone might think would happen 10 or 15 years ago. I certainly like to visit San Francisco and the Bay Area just because of the access to great local ingredients and the way the chefs are working there.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What are Tony Mantuano's favorite ingredients?

    I do like truffles. I think they are one of my favorite ingredients. I think great eggs are often overlooked; but if you can find someone locally producing organic eggs, someone who is in your area, they can make pasta more orange and beautiful. They are great in the morning and great in any egg dish that you are doing at any time of the day. But eggs can be terrific.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What are Tony Mantuano's most important kitchen tools?

    For us, because of the amount of truffles that we use at Spiaggia, you have to have a great truffle slicer. First of all, they’re so incredibly expensive, so your truffle slicer should be in great working condition, sharp. At any one time, I probably have three or four. We use a lot of truffles at Spiaggia — you know white in the winter and fall, black in the spring and summer truffles. That seems to be the thing that we use an awful lot of these days.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What does Tony Mantuano always have in his refrigerator?

    We always have wine and champagne. My wife, Cathy, writes the wine list for our restaurant at the Art Institute called Terzo Piano and for Bar Toma, so there’s always wine in our refrigerator. There’s a lot less food since my son is away at college. Not much in there really, but there’s certainly plenty of beverages.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What would Tony Mantuano serve at his ultimate dinner party?

    If I was serving the ultimate dinner party, I would certainly purchase them through purveyors who sell to Spiaggia. We just served a dinner in Naples for the Naples Winter Wine Festival, and had these little baby suckling pigs that we used to make porchetta. I would definitely do something like that, some sort of a protein like that. Before that I would do a pasta; but I think the pasta would probably have seafood in it. There’s always cheese. I think the ultimate dinner party has to have cheese. It doesn’t have to be crazy, but you certainly need to taste all the unbelievable cheeses that are out there in small portions, and a variety of cheese can really make a meal very interesting.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What is Tony Mantuano's favorite dish?

    I think I certainly love to cook pizza. I also love to cook pasta. I could cook pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner, if there was someone who would eat it. But I really enjoy it, I think it’s so much fun — so satisfying.

    I think a perfectly made clam sauce is one of the greatest dishes in the world. I like the pastas of Rome — carbonara, amatriciana, those classics — when they are done right. There are so few ingredients and the flavor is unforgettable.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    How does Tony Mantuano order when he dines out?

    My preference is to ask what’s really good or what’s not to be missed while I’m here and try to eat the way the chef wants me to eat and keep an open mind. I’ve never really returned two nights in a row to the same restaurant until recently, when we were in Venice. We went to Ristorante di Quadri in Piazza San Marco, which is like the most touristy place in the world, and it has a fine-dining restaurant upstairs. We went there and it was so good that we went back the next night. We just basically let the chef cook. But again, it wasn’t as much about the food — and the food was unbelievable — but the way we were treated was even more memorable.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    Is Tony Mantuano ever inspired by wine to create a dish?

    Absolutely. Our sommelier at Spiaggia, Jason Carlen, is always pushing us to do new menus. We’ll sit down with those menus and taste things. If he has an idea like, “Let’s do an all-volcano tasting menu, meaning that I’m going to pour wines that grow on or near volcanoes and you’re going to taste them and you’re going to be inspired by the food of Vesuvius or Mount Etna in Sicily.” It’s pretty cool.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What's Tony Mantuano's take on the evolution of fine dining?

    Certainly the white linen and the stuffy service, all that is evolving out. What keeps things fine dining is the ingredients, the respect of the ingredients and how they’re treated. So I think you have some trappings of fine dining, yet there’s more friendly service, more focus on the best ingredients I can buy and that’s why this costs the way it does. The reason that this is priced this way is that I’m not going to bring you anything inferior. I think there’s also even more and more of a big emphasis on wine. I don’t know if it is any bigger today than it was, but it continues to grow, and now the sommelier is as well-known as the chef a lot of times.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Tony Mantuano answered the question: Tony Mantuano

    What does Tony Mantuano think makes a successful restaurant?

    I think you have to have great food. But without a doubt, the reason that people return to restaurants is because of how they were treated, and hospitality is number one. From the first moment, whether you are calling the restaurant and making a reservation that way, it has to be unforgettable. You have to feel like the person on the phone really wants to welcome you into the restaurant. If you are making your reservation online, when you show up for your reservation, the moment you walk into the front door, it should be, “We’re so happy to see you.” Everything you can know about a guest is what will make that guest return and make them feel appreciated. And when I talk to guests and they tell me how well they’ve been treated or that their captain remembered something or did some little extra stuff, I know that person will return.