Zarletti grew up in a food-centric, Italian family in Kenosha. So
naturally he studied marketing at Northwestern University. He started
working at Main Street Bistro in Racine, and that experience drew him
back to the kitchen. In 2002, he opened a small Italian cafť in South
Milwaukee, and in 2004 Zarlettiís debuted in downtown Milwaukee.
Zarletti hasnít looked back, opening Rustico Pizzeria and the
soon-to-be-opened Salotto Zarletti in Mequon.
Tell me a little
bit about your culinary background and your culinary philosophy.
go to culinary school or do an apprenticeship program. I learned to
cook in my grandmotherís kitchen and in my motherís kitchen and
through experimentation on my own. I am an avid reader, and I have
spent some time cooking in kitchens in Europe. Traveling to Italy has
accounted for the biggest evolution in my cooking, and it tempers
everything we do here at Zarletti and influences our other restaurants
"I try to
stay as true to authentic, regional Italian cuisine. I travel every
year to taste and explore and bring back a few recipes from regions
where I have traveled. I visited some friends in Rome a couple of
years ago, and we were in the old part of Rome at this restaurant.
They said if you want to make a real carbonara, come in back. I went
in back, and the chef/owner taught me how to make it right there. I
had made pasta carbonara before, but it wasnít the right way. Once I
learned to make it, itís been a staple ever since."
Whatís makes a
people put cream in carbonara, but that should never be in that dish.
Itís the simplest of Italian cooking but the result is so great. Itís
just using quality ingredients and preparing them in the right way.
For our carbonara, we sautť our pancetta with a tiny bit of onion,
mix it in a little bit of the pasta and toss it with the egg yolks and
freshly grated cheese. You should taste the texture of the pancetta, a
little bit of the essence of the sweet onion, the great creaminess
from the egg yolk and sharp, grated cheese."
What are some of
your favorite pizza toppings?
favorite pizza is probably a very simple, margarita with some
anchovies or tuna. I love fish on my pizza."
What do you make
pasta and risotto all the time, and Iím certainly a man who loves to
grill. From spring to fall, we fire up our charcoal grill daily, and
we cook everything from whole chickens to pizza on that grill. Mostly,
though, itís very simple, Italian inspired food ó that comfort
food I grew up on."
in your pantry? What are the kitchen tools you canít live without?
my pantry are garlic, onions and olive oil, and for sure, some truffle
paste or truffle-scented olive oil, some nice cans of San Marzano
tomatoes. With those ingredients, you can make any number of things.
For fun, when I havenít gone shopping, I just comb my cupboards and
prepare a feast for the whole family.
knives, my six-burner commercial range that I have in my kitchen at
home, and my charcoal grill are the three things I wouldnít want to
live without. I also have a cutting board that my father made for me
before he passed away. He made them from some old stair treads ó
they were birdís-eye maple, and he planed it all down and made some
nice cutting boards for the whole family."