Scott Conant’s Scarpetta | CULINARY
Scott Conant could have been a movie star. Between the luxurious chestnut hair, cropped beard, soothing voice, and charm, he’d have no problem on the big screen. Luckily for us, he can also cook, and cook well, as is evident from his illustrious 30-year career which established him as one of America’s top chefs and restauranteurs. His South Florida restaurant, Scarpetta, located in Miami Beach’s glamourous Fontainebleau hotel, opened in November 2008 offering what the James Beard Award winner calls, “Italian soul food.” Items on the menu include Conant’s legendary spaghetti with tomato and basil, a dish whose heightened simplicity has become a brand in and of itself. Other favorites are duck and foie gras ravioli with marsala reduction and short rib agnolotti dal plin, Piedmontese for “to pinch” because of how the pillow-shaped pasta is made.
Conant admits he is so busy these days he rarely has time to make pasta himself unless it is with his two young kids. Still, he does enjoy spreading his passion and knowledge of this art form, something he acquired from his grandmother in Italy.
“She had this huge board and she’d make tagliatelle, orecchiette, and things like that. Those are my first memories.”
Under the direction of Conant’s Chef de Cuisine, Neil O’Connell and expert pasta maker Roberto Fernandez, Scarpetta will be launching an interactive cooking class and demo this Saturday, December 2nd. The class will be offered the first Saturday of every month from noon1:30 p.m. and is open to adults and children 12 years old and up.
“Neil does a great job, he doesn’t need me here!” Conant offers with a hearty laugh. “It’s been 9 years since we’ve opened and the team is strong.” He turns around to face the breathtaking view of the ocean that serves as a backdrop for those taking the class. “I wish I were here more often, because…”, he points at the azure water and breaks out a boyish grin that explains it all.
Attendees of the class will be privy to learning trade secrets of Conant’s signature dishes, like the epic tomato sauce.
“The seeds and juice [of the tomato] are strained and I crush it with a potato masher, which I should refer to as a tomato masher. That way it has texture to it, it’s not necessarily pureed. When it’s tossed in the pasta, it maintains its level of freshness.”
Conant adds extra virgin olive oil and butter to the sauce as well, to give it richness. As he explains, his fun-loving nature comes out. “And miraculously, it has no calories!”, he jokes. The short rib agnolotti is luxuriously decadent with tender, flavorful meat, smoked bone marrow, and red wine reduction all blended to create a show-stopper filling. Shaping the dough, something guests will learn to do, takes one’s appreciation of the exquisite dish to a whole other level. Roberto Fernandez, who has worked at Scarpetta as pasta maker since its inception, serves as a patient and skilled instructor.
“He does this a mile a minute chatting with his co-workers. He’s the best.”
The class, which is $75 per person, will teach pasta lovers how to make basic dough, tomato sauce, ravioli, and spaghetti, including the proper way of filling, handling, cooking, and serving pasta all in the luxurious setting of this AAA Four Diamond Award Winning Italian restaurant. Guests receive recipe cards for the coveted tomato sauce and pasta dough and end the class with a tasting of all the delicious recipes they create, and although Conant may not be leading the class, his passion and knowledge are undeniably there.
“I could talk about this stuff all day!” Conant confesses, confident that after an afternoon learning to make pasta from his team at Scarpetta, you will too.