Chef Marcellino Verzino
Writer Lara Piu
Photography Courtesy Marcellino Verzino
Nestled on an unassuming, tree-lined block at 167 West 12th Street in New York City is a brownstone that once was the home of culinary arts pioneer James Beard. When Beard passed in 1985, friends, family and culinary enthusiasts stepped in to ensure the house would carry on his legacy.
Today, the James Beard House hosts more than 250 events annually, and the location serves as headquarters for the James Beard Foundation, America’s preeminent cuisine organization known for its education and awards.
Chefs from across the nation, including Arizona, have featured their skills at the James Beard House, and last month, Chef Marcellino Verzino, owner of Marcellino Ristorante in Scottsdale made that exclusive roster for the second time in his career.
“It is an honor and privilege to cook at the most important food venue in the United States,” Chef Marcellino humbly says. “I look forward to making this particular menu, as it is full of recipes inspired from my hometown.”
He was selected in a competitive process that began with a nomination and was followed by a chef selection committee that evaluates reputation, expertise in a discipline, use of high-quality ingredients and other criterion.
“The James Beard House is held in highest esteem by all true chefs dedicated to sharing our gift with the world,” Marcellino adds. “It is an honor to collaborate once again and to have been invited at this time so I may share my rendition of Italian cuisine in its authenticity and innovativeness.”
Born on a farm in the Campania region of Italy, Marcellino began to cook at the age of 11 when his mother passed away. She was only 42 years old.
“The sadness of my dear mamma’s passing was very profound,” he recalls. “We grieved for a very long time.”
Marcellino felt honored by the bountiful harvests of the family farm.
“We gloried and gave thanks to it all,” he recalls, explaining what it was like to cook from the farm’s bounty as a young boy. “It was simply a gift I received that enabled me through creative imagination and centuries-old recipes to create back then as I still do today.”
The heritage dinner he prepared for the James Beard House was centered on his childhood stories and the dishes he made. This month, Marcellino will replicate the experience in Scottsdale.
“This menu is a sincere reflection of the food I shared with my family,” Marcellino explains. “Growing up, living and tending the many facets of our farm brought about a loving unification between my parents and siblings. We were all involved in our animals’ welfare, planting, tending and harvesting the fields and bringing forth health and happiness through nature’s gifts to us. Continuing the art of cooking, stemming from my childhood life and experiences is my way of giving thanks and gratitude. It’s all about my heritage.”
Held on Tuesday, November 14 at Marcellino Ristorante the Heritage Dinner menu will be paired with wine from the Campania region, featuring Fontanavecchia, a vineyard owned by third-generation winter and Marcellino’s long-time friend, Libero Rillo.
“Deep rooted culture, hands on experience and love of family has always been my nucleus from which I derive my art,” Marcellino adds. “It always came so naturally to me. Combining and preparing nutritious food and art, whether for my family, friends and guests, is what I do and who I am. It is my birthright.”
A few selections from the five-course meal will be Paccatelli con Piccione, which is Marcellino’s handcrafted, toothsome pasta sautéed with humanely raised pigeon in a red sauce, and paired with Aglianico wine; Angello in Umido which are sautéed baby lamb chops with potatoes, red wine and touch of tomato, saffron risotto and fresh garden herbs from the chef’s home garden. For dessert, he will prepare Pastiera di Riso, a torta of arborio rice gently blended with fresh ricotta, hand-harvested vanilla, aroma zest of orange and lemon, sugar and perfume of cinnamon, finished with crema al Strega and paired with Spumante moscato.
“Every course correlates with proteins and ingredients we had available on our farm from the grains, animals and vegetables we raised,” Marcellino explains. “I am so very fortunate to be able to access the finest products at my ristorante with which to prepare my childhood memories.”
Chef Marcellino Verzino’s Heritage Dinner will be held on Tuesday, November 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. at his restaurant Marcellino Ristorante locked at 7114 E. Stetson Drive in Old Town Scottsdale. Dinner is $165 plus tax and tip per person. For reservations, which are required, call 480-990-9500.