Metcalfe fell in love with The Pasta Tree more than 25 years ago when
she and her family visited the iconic East Side restaurant to
celebrate her sister Tonia’s birthday.
charmed by the food, the ambiance and then-owners the late Robert
Fontecchio and Steven Gustafson. The feeling was mutual, and she was
hired immediately as a part-time prep cook.
In the decades
that followed, Metcalfe worked to acquire the skills of running her
own successful restaurant. After graduating from WCTC in 1987, she
worked briefly for notable chef Steven Wade in New Berlin before
heading off for a six-year stint in Chicago. Her jobs in the Windy
City included Trio, where Metcalfe was brought on as the "poissonnière,"
or fish expert; then on to Brassiere T, Feast and Marché.
Her love of food
was in her genetic makeup. She joined her father, Jerome Metcalfe, in
Kaanapali, Maui, to help him run his Rusty Harpoon Restaurant &
Tavern. Although the restaurant is now closed, she still has a home on
the island, and visits there frequently. Her dad and mom, Sharon, also
owned Sentry Foods grocery stores in Butler, Monona and Racine. Jerome
was an avid hunter; her mother a fantastic cook. The family grew and
canned their own vegetables. Saturday night dinner was a ritual, with
extended family and friends gathering around the table.
Both sets of
grandparents were also inspirations. The Hungarian Metcalfes
introduced her to goulash and paprikash and, on her mother’s side,
the French Canadian Fullers made authentic coq au vin, as well as
delicious French toast with beignets. Her grandfather Fuller was a
fisherman who had his own smokehouse.
In 2006, the
stars aligned and Metcalfe purchased The Pasta Tree. It runs smoothly
with the help of sous chef Ben Barger, who is also an engineering
student at UW-Milwaukee, and a great staff including server Bob Walsch
— the recent winner of a Sante Award, the only peer-judged
restaurant and hospitality competition in North America.
Not one to rest
on her laurels, Metcalfe has plans for her charming Italian eatery.
She recently worked with Bill Gardner from Left Bank to fine tune the
wine menu, which now offers an impressive array of Italian vintages
including a Brunello di Montalcino 2002, Castello Banfi Tuscany 2008
and a selection of Barolo wines. Metcalfe plans to expand her menu by
adding exciting new veal dishes and a giant meatball offering, one of
her grandmother’s specialties. She’ll soon offer wine tastings,
food and wine pairings and eventually be open for lunch.
In the meantime,
Metcalfe is committed to a standard of culinary excellence. The Pasta
Tree is part of an RSA (Restaurant Supported Agriculture) program
using local produce. Excluding the smoked salmon and an Italian
tortellini, everything is made in-house; even the pasta, sauces,
desserts and bread are from scratch.
grandparents and parents would be proud.
Ravioli with Warm Brown Butter Sage Sauce
1 3-pound sugar
pumpkin or butternut squash
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated smoked mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons Ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon shallots, minced
Pinch of nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh pasta sheets
Semolina flour for sprinkling
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly picked whole sage leaves
2 tablespoons chopped macadamia nuts
Preheat oven to
375 degrees. Cut pumpkin in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds; discard.
Transfer to a
baking sheet. Rub olive oil evenly over insides of pumpkin halves; rub
brown sugar into each. Bake until pumpkin is tender and easily pierced
with a fork, about one hour. Let cool.
When cool, scoop
out pumpkin with a spoon. Place flesh in the bowl of a food processor,
along with egg, Ricotta, shallot and a pinch of nutmeg; process until
smooth. Add smoked mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
Lay one pasta
sheet on work surface. Place one tablespoon filling every 3 inches.
Brush egg wash around filling. Place another sheet on top, pressing
around filling to seal. Using a fluted pastry wheel or round cutter,
cut each ravioli into a 3-by-3-inch square or circle. Repeat with
remaining pasta sheets and filling. Transfer ravioli to a
parchment-lined baking sheet sprinkled with semolina; freeze for at
least 30 minutes.
Bring a large
pot of water to a boil; season with salt. Add ravioli; cook until it
just floats, three to four minutes.
In a large
sauté pan, melt butter over high heat. Cook until butter begins to
brown and sizzle, add sage leaves. Be careful, as the butter may
splatter. Toss in Macadamia nuts. Using a slotted spoon, transfer
ravioli to pan, tossing to combine. Serve immediately with fresh
cracked pepper and grated Parmesan. Serves four to six. scallops.
Boil a small,
slightly salted pot of water with a capful of champagne vinegar. Drain
the potato pearls sitting in water and add the potatoes to the boiling
water. When you can cut into the potato pearls cleanly with a slight
give, the potatoes are done cooking (roughly six to seven minutes).
potatoes and transfer them to a plate in a single layer. Drizzle some
champagne vinegar onto the potatoes and place in the refrigerator to
Heat a cast iron
pan large enough to cook all four scallops without touching each
other. If the scallops are crowded, they will not caramelize
Once the cast
iron is hot, drizzle vegetable oil into the pan to coat the bottom.
The pan is too hot if the oil smokes.
scallops on both sides with salt and pepper (sea salt and milled
pepper is preferred).
the scallops into the hot pan. Once the scallops are in the pan, do
not move them. When they start browning on the edge, carefully flip
them and caramelize the other side.
scallops are perfectly caramelized on both sides, remove them from the
pan and allow them to rest on a napkin-lined plate.
scallop’s resting time, prepare your plates: In a straight line,
shingle the sliced cucumbers down the middle of the plate. Season the
cucumber slices. Carefully lay the marinated fennel on top of the
cucumbers. Cut the scallops in half (horizontally, so you have two
caramelized medallions). Place the two scallop halves on top of the
fennel, in the middle of the plate. Place three potato pearls
strategically around the scallop. Place three orange segments
strategically around the scallop. Lay three marinated sliced radishes
on top of the scallop. Lay a slice of jalape-o in the middle of the
scallop. Drizzle a little brown butter on top of the scallop, just to
glisten the surface. With a spoon, carefully drizzle chive oil on the
outside perimeter of the scallop. Carefully lay fresh arugula leaves
over the scallop and cucumber slices. Serves four.