Skip to Content

How Calabrian Cooking Shaped Chef Tony Mantuano

Chef Tony Mantuano

Chef Tony Mantuano, Food and Beverage Partner, The Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nashville

The Nashville-based chef behind several classic Italian restaurants writes about the five dishes that inspired his career and shares his base risotto recipe

Growing up with Italian immigrant grandparents I was introduced to Italian cooking at an early age. My grandparents had a grocery store where my grandfather was the butcher. My grandmother was a fantastic cook, and at home they always had a huge garden.

We would always go to their house for Sunday meals where Grandma served traditional, authentic dishes of their home region of Calabria. Adhering to tradition was their and subsequently my family’s way of life. So, the theme for these 5 dishes are just that. Tradition with respect for the highest quality ingredients, with an occasional luxurious twist, and lots of love thrown in.

Spaghetti Carbonara

close up photography of pasta with white sauce
Photo by Engin Akyurt on

Often bastardized in America, the sauce should only contain egg yolks, pecorino Romano cheese, guanciale, black pepper and pasta water. Any additional ingredients render the dish something else, a fraud in my opinion.

Risotto alla Parmigiana

This is the first recipe I learned to prepare when I staged in Italy and will always have a special place in my heart for that reason. Simplicity is my mantra when it comes to this classic, satisfying dish. Remember there is only one Parmigiano—Parmigiano-Reggiano. There is no substitute and that’s why this dish is so great. The creaminess of the rice and the richness and sweetness of the cheese is like no other.

Tortelli di Zucca

I learned this regional dish from Chef Nadia Santini at the 3-Michelin starred Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio. The unique filling is made from pumpkin, Parmigiano-Reggiano, amaretti cookies, mostarda and breadcrumbs. This dish dates to a time before tomatoes were brought to Italy from the New World. We have prepared this amazing dish in our restaurants for many years when pumpkins and squash are in season. Guests are always so surprised and pleased to taste this unexpected blend of flavors.


a person grating cheese on a gnocchi
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

My Grandma’s gnocchi was my comfort food growing up. In the restaurant, we take the basic recipe of potatoes, flour and egg yolks and turn it up by adding grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to the dough. The sauce we serve it with is unlike my Nonna’s red sauce, it’s made with ricotta cheese and cream. To make this humble pasta dish even more luxurious, we add a generous shaving of truffles, both winter white or summer black depending on the time of the year. This dish continues to be the most popular pasta on our menus for 20 plus years. I know Grandma would approve.

Steak Tagliata

When I worked in Lucca, this was the second most popular way to eat steak. Such an easy preparation, so simple yet flavorful, I love it to this day. Uniquely Tuscan, the steak is grilled rare, left to rest, then sliced and put on a plate. Then the plate is put back on the stove and under low heat cooks ever so gently until the meat just starts to sizzle. Remove from the heat and season with rosemary, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. It's hard to resist the aromas of the seasoned cooked meat. Add some olive oil, and lemon dressed arugula and you have a very satisfying meal.

Here's my risotto recipe to use as a base for more creative dishes, such as a red shrimp risotto that's been featured at my restaurant Yolan at the Joseph Nashville.



Recipe by Tony Mantuano
0.0 from 0 votes


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 4 cups 4 chicken stock

  • Two Two 3-to-4-inch-long Parmigiano rinds

  • 6 tablespoons 6 butter

  • 1 1 finely chopped shallot

  • 2 cups 2 Carnaroli rice, preferably Acquarello

  • 1 cup 1 dry white wine

  • 1 1 ½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving

  • Sea salt


  • Heat the chicken stock and the Parmigiano rinds in a sauce pot until almost boiling, then lower the heat and keep hot.
  • In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of the butter and the shallot and sauté gently without browning, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the rice and while stirring continuously coat the rice with the butter and shallot.
  • Add the wine and let simmer, again stirring continuously, until almost completely absorbed.
  • Add the hot stock into the skillet a ladleful at a time and let simmer after each addition.
  • Cook the rice in this manner, stirring continuously waiting until the liquid is almost completely absorbed before adding more stock.
  • When all the liquid has been added and the rice is al dente (tender but firm to the bite) about 13 to 14 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season to taste with salt if necessary.
  • Divide the risotto among 6 warmed plates. Sprinkle with additional freshly grated Parmigiano.
  • Serve immediately.


  • Photo: Risotto con Gambero Rosso from Tony Mantuano's Yolan at The Joseph, Nashville.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @appetitomagazine on Instagram and hashtag it with #italianfoodanddrink

Like this recipe?

Follow @Appetitomagazine on Pinterest

Follow us on Facebook!

Follow us on Facebook

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Register to continue

See all subscription options

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Appetito

Spent Coffee Negroni: The Perfect Sustainable Cocktail

Don’t let your coffee grounds go to waste. Infuse them in an Italian bitter aperitif to make a Negroni that’s also a nod to sustainability.

May 24, 2024

Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Naples is Indeed Grand

Our contributor endures the crowded bar at Gran Caffè Gambrinus for a specialty coffee and a slice of the chaos that defines Naples.

May 23, 2024

Pizza City Fest Nashville Announced

Chicago pizza expert Steve Dolinsky’s festival will expand to its third city in the fall of 2024, bringing regional pies to Music City.

May 21, 2024

The Bicicletta Cocktail, a Milanese Classic

In an excerpt from her book, Stuzzichini, Stef Ferrari revisits a beloved spritz from Milan made with Campari, white wine, and soda.

May 21, 2024
See all posts