Personal chefs are a concept that most people would not think of as a viable consideration. They are the province of the extremely wealthy. The rest of us cook our own meals or go out (when we could/can). But since the pandemic started, Pasquale Martinelli, an extraordinary Italian chef from Puglia, Italy, now based in New York, has started a home personalized experience, Alloro Private Dining for people who may not feel comfortable going out to restaurants. Or just want to have their minds blown in their own kitchen.
Chef Pasquale has created a hospitality design where he and his team come to your house and give you a meal and dining experience only the best restaurants could hope to emulate. His idea is thriving in 2020. Via email, clients are able to curate their own menu based on their preferences. Pasquale firmly believes that a personal chef is more than your average cook at a restaurant — he sources all the ingredients himself, going to Union Square Farmers’ Market for vegetables and waking up at 3 a.m. to go to Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, because that is when the best fish arrives.
When a client contacts him, he may go back and forth 4-5 times over email to ensure that everything they expect is delivered. Whether or not you have a specific type of dinner you are looking for, or a guest in your dinner party has a certain allergy, Pasquale will make every adjustment to ensure that you are satisfied from the moment he walks in the door to the moment he leaves. He’s, frankly, obsessive about the details.
Being from Puglia in Italy, he is very familiar with family dinners and he tries to recreate that for every client. “I feel like I am the Italian Grandmother sometimes.” He takes a lot of pride in curating the best ingredients; and spending the time and money to get the best available product for his customers. “In life, most of the important moments happen at the dinner table. Whether it’s the birth of a child, an anniversary, a birthday, etc., there are many essential moments that everyone experiences at a dining room in their home.”
There is no set menu, but that is a positive, because he wants every guest to decide the best meal for them [Edit] For starters, each guest will begin with their individual appetizer such as roasted cauliflower tips sauteed with raisins, carmalized onions, pine nut breadcrumbs and finished off with Puglia’s high end imported Extra Virgin olive oil. Many of the second courses are pasta, which is handmade on premise using only organic imported semola produced in his hometown in flour mills. An example would be Orecchiette “alla San Giovanni” an old Pugliese traditional tomato based sauce that is originally prepared the day of Saint John in Puglia, June 24, to celebrate the arrival of the new tomato season. Variations of this dish can include anchovies and/or wild capers or tomatoes on the vine which are preserved in the summer for winter by hanging then in cellars at home. The main course is a Colorado rack of lamb drizzled with a variety of high-end Pugliese Extra virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt and fresh herbs that are broken at the table by hand. This is topped off with traditional Pugliese dessert called Tette delle Monache, which is a soft sweet bread stuffed with cream and topped with icing sugar.
Pasquale offers three different packages, but they all begin with a cocktail hour, during which finger food is passed around to the guests by the accompanying captain, including his signature, piping hot, mini deep-fried veal meatballs and cucumber rings topped off with tuna tartare, mango, and osetra caviar or shaved Italy-imported truffles.
He has a sommelier available for every guest, via email, who prepares a wine pairing if desired. The wine is an additional charge, but the plus side is that there is no additional markup like there would be in restaurants, and if you want the same wine a week later, you can go back into the email and the same price will still be available.
Depending on how big the guest list is, Pasaquale may have a team of 3-6 people.
The Silver package, first listed above is a 3 course meal and starts at $200 per person plus tax and gratuity.
The Gold package is a 5-course meal, curated to every individual client, with the cocktail hour and wine pairing, is $300 per person. After the cocktails, there is an appetizer, a pasta course, a 30-minute break, a main entree and then dessert.
The Black package is a ne plus ultra 9-course meal, for $500 a person plus tax and gratuity. “I am not just cooking for people, I am trying to create an experience for people. We need to treat our guests like we treat our family.”
That’s a pretty lucky family, wherever they may be…
The quality of food and ingredients that Pasquale brings to every client is a big part of why his business has been so successful. Given his Italian upbringing, the importance of ingredients like extra virgin olive oil and the kind of wheat and flour makes a significant difference in the quality of the meal. His attention to detail and requests is a significant reason he continues to have repeat clients. “I make everything from bread to pasta to crostini to salad on premise, and it is the personalization for every client that makes what I do a signature.”