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The Tuscan Memories and Love Inspirations of Chef Rita Sodi

Celebrated chef and restaurateur, Rita Sodi, takes a trip down memory lane to the food of her Tuscan childhood that inspired her career.

By Rita Sodi

9:46 AM EDT on September 6, 2023

Chef Rita Sodi posing at her restaurant The Commerce Inn.

Rita Sodi at The Commerce Inn in NYC.

Rita Sodi is chef and owner of the ever-popular I Sodi on Christopher Street in NYC's West Village. Opened in 2008, it's still among the most coveted reservations in Manhattan, and rightly so: the food, drinks, and atmosphere are always perfect.

Chef Sodi is also the co-chef/owner with her life/business partner, Jody Williams, of Via Carota, the heralded West Village trattoria named for the road of her childhood farmhouse in the hills near Florence, and Bar Pisellino, a jewel-box Italian aperitivi and espresso bar. The couple recently opened The Commerce Inn, a Shaker inspired early American tavern and cookery. Chef Sodi still owns part of her family's farm north of Florence, and many of the dishes she shares here with Appetito are inspired by her memories from that 17th century country house, as well as those derived from her relationship with Ms. Williams.

Carciofi Fritti (Fried Artichokes)

I'm starting with carciofi fritti because it is one of my favorites, but also because Jody and I met around this dish. So, I love them, yes — it's a really important dish in Tuscany, especially in summertime when we fry everything — but they are part of my relationship with Jody because we met when she used to come to I Sodi every week to drink a Negroni and eat my carciofi fritti. That's an easy one because it led to love.

Bistecca Fiorentina

This traditional Porterhouse of Tuscany is a dish for holidays or Sundays with the family. I grew up with a hearth in our kitchen in our old country house, and you light the fire to cook many things, even your Fiorentina. It's symbolic of special occasions to grill these magnificent cuts of meat that are unique to Tuscany. 

Girarrosto

This is a unique Tuscan version of a rotisserie. There's 2 ft to 3 ft skewer where you can spear local birds, chicken, pancetta, sausage, sage, garlic, pork liver, sage and bread. Always bread. So our version is a slice of crusty bread, a piece of sausage, sage, more bread, then quail, pancetta, sage, and bread, then more meat and bread until you have 2 feet of this marvelous concoction. The skewer is placed on columns in front of the fire, not directly on the heat, and it is turned very slow for around four hours. Along the way, you baste using the drippings with a thick rosemary branch. In the end, you have this mixed roast and toasted bread drenched in flavors. My uncle would be in charge of this every year as a Christmas treat. 

Bone Marrow

This is one of my favorite things on the menu at The Commerce Inn. We roast bone marrow with butter, thyme, shallot and mushrooms. It's best served spread on bread like a crostini.  

Roasted Chestnuts

I love autumn. At the end of September and into October, we used to go into the woods to forage for the chestnuts. We take just enough from the ground and go home to roast them on the fire. There's a special pan with the holes that you put the chestnuts on and then over the fire until you start to smell them.  And once you smell them, they're ready. We call them caldearroste

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