If you want a taste of Italy much closer to home, you’ll do no better than to embark on the culinary journey that is chef Adam Leonti’s new menu for Sessanta Ristorante. Leonti has recently come onboard as Sessanta’s executive chef, tasked by owner and restaurateur John McDonald with creating an exciting new experience for guests. And if anyone can do it, Leonti certainly can.
Leonti cut his culinary chops at Philadelphia’s Vetri, during which time he was heralded for pushing the restaurant towards what restaurant editor Bill Addison billed as “one of the country’s most playful and singular takes on the tasting menu format.” During that same time, in 2012, Leonti made Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for food and wine. Since moving to NYC from Philly, Leonti’s been carving a space out for him in the local culinary scene. In December, he founded test kitchen and on-site milling facility Brooklyn Bread Lab. And, as of this spring, he’ll be officially manning the kitchen at Sessanta.
Leonti has created a menu take takes its cues from Italy’s own seasons. In summer, that means light and bright dishes inspired from the south of Italy. In the fall and winter, heartier fare from the north. As far as the menu’s guiding principles, Leonti says simply: “Eat what stands out to you.” Below, we get a brief taste of what it’s like to be Leonti, in the kitchen and out.
Where are you from?
Portland, Maine .
How long have you been in New York?
First restaurant you ever worked in:
The Italian Heritage Center.
First thing you remember cooking that tasted undeniably good:
Mushroom ragu for my grandfather. I was 12.
Three things in your farmer’s market basket this season:
Parsley, mint, thyme.
Cooking tool you can’t do without:
Most of them. Without a cutting board a knife is obsolete, right?
Adventurous food we should probably buck up and try:
Adventurous is different to so many. If you’re Muslim, pork is impossible. So I think you should just eat what you like. Who am I to tell you what to eat?
Best spot to score cheese in NYC:
Eataly is the best spot for cheese.
Best bakery in NYC:
The bakeries here are not my favorite.
Butter or olive oil?
Noodle of note:
I like ’em all. They are like suits to ties.
Favorite wine of the moment:
Whatever wine fits the meal.
Italian town or city we should all have on our radar:
That depends. How many times have you been there? Florence is incredible for a first-time visitor, but it can be like Times Square to a seasoned traveler.
What are you hoping to bring to Sessanta?
A relentless tsunami of joy.