Editor's Note: This is the first in a series profiling local chefs and sharing their favorite summer recipes.
Robert de Simone has spent much of his life in Italy, cooking with the locals and learning a great deal about their methods. Now, as head chef of Spiga Trattatoria Italiana, de Simone makes it his goal to provide the Needham area with an authenticity that that could only be matched by a trip to the country that inspires him.
Describing his signature dishes as "road sauce Italian, not red sauce Italian," de Simone has added his own twist to many eastern Italian meals.
"I go back to eastern Italy every summer," he said of his thirst for culinary knowledge. "The goal for us here is to put true, authentic Italian food on the plate."
Spiga entered under new management in April of 2009 and de Simone began serving as its chef earlier this year. Before that time he spent several years in culinary school in both Italy and Boston. Raised in Cambridge, he worked at Bricco in the North End, as well as restaurants in Somerville. Around 2004, he was working as head chef with Marisa Iocco in the front of the house. Iocco would later make her way to Spiga.
"It was my first experience opening a restaurant and creating an identity. The concept was mine, the menu was all mine," he recounted. "It was a good experience. I was very fortunate to do something like this and Marisa helped me a lot."
Food has always been an important part of de Simone's life and he remembers making eggs for his brother when he was eight years old. Two years ago, after spending time in restaurants in the Boston area, de Simone packed up everything and went back to Italy.
"I ate at 140 restaurants and spent time in the southern part of Italy, where my family is from," said de Simone. "I had the time of my life."
Upon returning to America, de Simone brought some of the ideas he collected in the Old Country and created fresh items for Spiga.
Some of the dishes that de Simone counts as his signatures include the following:
Raw Seared Sushi Grade Tuna
- Herbed fava and faro salad, spring onion marmellata and chili pepper salsina
- "It's been a great success. It's a cool, summertime dish and it's visually stunning," de Simone said.
- Calamarata pasta, clams and calamari tossed in a white wine sauce with garlic, parsley, cherry tomatoes and a baby arugala garnish
- "It's a travel experience on a plate," said de Simone.
Grilled Scottadito Lamb Chops
- Three chops (seared and then finished in the wood grill) served with eggplant, pepper and arugula "panzanella," with capers and olives
Spiga Trattatoria Italiana is located at 18 Highland Cir. You can also visit their website for more information.