Northern Michigan Restaurants: The son of a Genovese baker, executive chef John Piombo honed the art of Italian table fare in kitchens throughout Europe and the United States before settling at Nonna's of The Homestead in 2006. Over an afternoon glass of Brunello we talk secret risotto techniques.
Easy risotto? In the oven? Really?
This was a great trick I developed as a young chef. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a deep sauce pan, sweat your onions or shallots, quickly toast the rice, I prefer carnaroli. Add the total amount of stock and seasoning and bring it to a boil on the stovetop and then place it, uncovered, in the oven. While you prepare the rest of the meal stir the risotto every five minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. It works perfectly every time.
How does winter inform your menu at Nonna’s?
The color palette of our dishes gets richer and warmer, and the foods reflect that. We use heavier sauces and slower preparations.
What was up with February’s aphrodisiac menu?
We flew in lots of fresh shellfish like oysters and mussels, incorporated chocolate into some of our savory preparations and used aphrodisiac spices like cardamom. It gets people in the mood.