Prime and Il Bacio in Delray Beach are two of the area's hottest restaurants, but with different vibes. Prime's roots are in a classic steakhouse experience, while Il Bacio combines Italian food with a sophisticated yet fun nightclub.
The one thing these two restaurants have in common is their Executive Chef, Peter Masiello.
Although he is not the owner (the eateries are owned by father-and-son team Steven Pellegrino Jr. & Sr.), Chef Peter has created the menus and oversees operations at both restaurants. We spoke with Chef Peter on what it's like to be top chef at two different restaurants.
Clean Plate Charlie: Where did you go to school and what's your background?
Peter Masiello: I went to a New York restaurant school, The Culinary institute of America. I worked for ten years before I went to school. While I was at CIA on Long Island, I took the train to Manhattan and worked with different chefs there. In the 90's I worked at the Pelican Hotel in South Beach and went back to New York for a few years. I went to Italy and I worked in four restaurants there,but I felt like I had to come back to Florida. I did my externship at Turnberry. I was at BOVA Ristorante before coming to Il Bacio and Prime.
Did you always want to be a chef?
Cooking and being a chef was the only job I've ever wanted since I was four. I used to watch cooking shows on TV - there was the Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child. My mother and my grandmother were always cooking. Now my dad is cooking for the family. My family talk about me wanting to be a chef as a kid all the time. For me it was a no brainer. I couldn't wait to get my first cooking job. I actually get paid for doing what I love to do.
Is it a challenge working between two restaurants?
Well, first of all the easy part is that they're very close. Il Bacio is open only Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You have to have people that you're close with to work with you. People that you can trust. I consider the staff reliable and loyal. Every kitchen I work in, I make it my home.
You trained in Italy. What are Italian eating habits compared with American eating habits?
A lot of the food in Italy is done in a natural way. It's very natural simple ingredients there. For example, if you go to Italy you get a piece of broiled fish perfectly done. In Italy its simple - the fish was caught fresh and cooked simply. Here in the United States I have to build that piece of fish. I blend horseradish into potatoes. I roast a sea bass with fried artichokes dusted in seasoned flour and on top of the fish I place a salad. People in the U.S. want their food to look pretty and look fancy.
Why do your restaurants stand out?
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Here at Prime I'm very happy with the quality meat I buy. I can name 20 restaurants that serve meat that don't serve prime beef. Our meat is hand selected, hand picked USDA prime. I personally open every box of every delivery. I only get deliveries when I'm here. I look at every box and I hand pick each piece personally. Eventually the packaging guys from the warehouse say to give the guy from Prime the best so he doesn't return it.
You've worked in New York and Italy to name a few places. Why did you choose to settle in South Florida?
I love Florida. Growing up on Long Island,love the snow and I can be in the snow for a couple days until I want to come back here. I have a motorcycle and I drive it year round. My apartment complex had tennis, pools, here it's all geared for outdoors. I live three miles from the beach. It's February and the rest of the country is freezing. Not here.
Stay tuned for part II of our interview with Chef Peter Masiello and join us for an evening of art, music, fashion and great food as Broward-Palm Beach New Times presents Artopia 2011 at Il Bacio on February 23rd. Get the details here.