Gotta get up to get down! Team Betty heads uptown to Culina at Four Seasons to meet with Chef Victor Casanova for a cooking demonstration of one of his signature dishes, Spaghetti Alla Chitarra, which is fresh Spaghetti with San Marzano Tomatoes, Peperoncino and fresh Basil; otherwise known as heaven in a pan. Watch the video to learn how to make this special Italian dish as well as some of Chef Vic’s cooking philosophy. Get the Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Recipe here.
With a quiet demeanor and a down-to-business style, Chef Vic and I get right to cooking.
Casanova’s kitchen is busy but calm, preparing for the typically exciting star-studded Thursday dinner rush.
Amidst the plumes of steam and clatter of pans, Chef Vic ponders, “I don’t know if you’d call me a middle of the road kinda guy but I think something that brought me to the kitchen and made [cooking] really exciting for me was the idea that food represents culture. It’s amazing how things come full circle but that’s what’s driving the whole culinary scene right now.”
Chef Vic continues, “People are getting back to [culture] and that’s important. It’s more important to live off the bounty of the land. I try to say, what does California… what does Los Angeles have at my disposal and how can I make it beautiful? How can I share it with people? That’s cooking Italian. That’s cooking simple and it’s cooking according to what’s readily available, which is usually more cost effective. It’s a win-win.”
HEAVEN IN A BOWL
Get the recipe for Chef Victor Casanova’s Spaghetti Alla Chitarra — Spaghetti with San Marzano Tomatoes, Peperoncino and fresh Basil here. Special video bonus: Find out the answer to Jennifer Leal’s question for Chef Vic, “How do you keep fresh pasta from sticking?” Watch the video!
“Most spaghetti is round, like a long thin cylinder. Spaghetti Alla Chitarra is actually what you would call square spaghetti. And the idea is, that a long, long time ago, the only way it was made; they had this wooden apparatus that had strings like a guitar, metal strings. So basically you make your fresh pasta, you make the sheet, you lay it down, then you take that apparatus and you lay it down. It would cut the spaghetti into square long pieces.”
And if you didn’t know about Culina’s $20k pasta maker, you know about it now. Apparently it does what a wooden apparatus did a long, long time ago, i.e., make square spaghetti! Is it worth the $20k price tag? You know what they say in Beverly Hills: “If you have to ask…”
HEAVEN ON A PLATE
Another highlight of Culina’s menu is Crudo (which, thanks to Wolfgang Puck I know means “raw”) and I ask Chef Vic about their Crudo Bar. “In the beginning talks of this restaurant, we wanted to have a live action crudo bar. First in LA to do it. Simplicity is the essence of everything I do, everything that we do in this kitchen. And it’s the hallmark of the Italian kitchen in general, right? So we didn’t want to do a lot of foo-foo plating with unfunctional garnishing and too many components — we wanted to keep it coastal Italian and honest… it’s harmonious, it’s heaven, it’s wonderful.”
“I bet it is heaven,” I say, “heaven on a plate.”
Chef Vic laughs, “Yes, ma’am.”
Big thanks to Chef Victor Casanova; Culina, Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills; Jennifer Leal, Savoring the Thyme; Carrie Whitt, Bullfrog & Baum; Kim Kessler, Four Seasons. Crudo Photo: Don Riddle, courtesy of Four Seasons.