CHEF CESARE CASELLA
Cesare Casella is best known as the chef with the rosemary. He is rarely without a small bouquet springing from his pocket, a signature that reflects his dedication to his herb-inflected cuisine, fresh ingredients and his childhood in the Tuscan countryside where rosemary grew wild, and his family ran a small trattoria, called Vipore, outside of Lucca.
But Chef Casella is not just an herb man. When he was growing up in Vipore, one of Chef Casella’s jobs was helping make the country-cured meats the restaurant was famous for. First, that meant caring for his family’s pigs, a long succession of boars he always called Mimmo; and when he got a little older, it meant helping the norcini, the old-school butchers who traveled from farmer to farmer each winter, prepare the prosciutti. Casella spiced, rubbed and hung the hams, and after the norcini were gone, he turned and cared for them as they aged. Sometimes he also talked to the prosciutti, recalling their days as Mimmo.
Today, Casella is still prosciutto-whispering, coaxing rich, nutty flavors from pork thighs, and producing Italian ham in the style of the old norcini. The only difference is that he is plying his craft in the U.S., nurturing American-born Mimmos into exquisite, cured-on-the-bone prosciutti, made the Italian way, through Casella’s Prosciutto Speciale; and producing delicious cured meats, through his salami label, Giorgio’s.
The two lines embody Casella’s commitment to Italian tradition and capture his passion for real Italian food, the kind that is served in country kitchens and fine dining rooms throughout Italy. He shares his knowledge with Americans as the Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center and also as Chief of DNA, The Department of Nourishment Arts® at The Center for Discovery, where he works to raise awareness about healthy eating for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
The founder of some of New York’s best-loved Italian restaurants, including Beppe and Maremma, Casella has compiled his recipes into multiple cookbooks. He is the author of the award-winning Feeding the Heart (2016), the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award nominee, The Fundamentals of Classic Italian Cuisine (2012), True Tuscan (2005), Italian Cooking for Dummies (2002), and Diary of a Tuscan Chef (1998). Casella also contributed to the English edition of Food Editore’s Gusto, an encyclopedia of Italian food and ingredients (2014).
Casella was voted one of the best chefs in New York City by Food & Wine magazine, and has appeared on hit shows such as “Iron Chef,” “Top Chef,” “Master Chef Australia,” “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” “No Reservations,” “Food Porn,” and “After Hours with Daniel Boulud.” He is interviewed regularly in a variety of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Men’s Health, Grubstreet, Eater and SeriousEats.