Ask the Experts: Chef Marc Vetri

by Jessica on November 15, 2011

Rustic Italian Food by Marc Vetri reflects his extensive experience as a restaurant owner/chef and father of three kids under 5. The Philadelphia-based Vetri was recently back in Los Angeles for the amazing L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade event, to promote his newest cookbook and squeeze in a family vacation. I got to taste some of his incredible food based on recipes from the book at a dinner last week, where Vetri had expert help from chefs Neal Fraser and Travis Lorton, and talk to Chef Vetri a bit about his children. He also helps run the Vetri Foundation for Children and partners with Alex’s Lemonade Stand back in Philly for the Great Chefs fundraiser and other efforts to battle childhood cancer. While Rustic Italian Food provides plenty of step-by-step instruction for complex projects like salami and handmade pasta, I learned this past weekend when cooking some of his vegetable recipes that it’s ideal for frantic home cooks who are managing chaos while trying to get dinner on the table. Vetri might be an accomplished pro (and an outstanding guitar player, too!), but he clearly gets it and breaks it down for the rest of us amateurs. Photos of his kids and relatives throughout the book demonstrate his strong commitment to the bonds of food and family.

Marc Vetri (at left) with musician pals Phil Roy and John Leftwich.

Do you take your kids out to eat?

Oh yes. They’re great in restaurants.

So how do you think you can get kids to behave in restaurants?

You go!

Even if the sh*% melts down and…

We understand that, you know, the shit is gonna melt down. So we figure we got anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. If you’re smart about it. You don’t go to a restaurant where you’re going to have a three-course meal. You go in, look at the menu, let the server know “just bring everything at the same time.” “Well the chef wants to …” “No, I want everything now.”

Do you pretty much go only where you know the chef?

No. We’ll go anywhere.

How do you handle kids in your restaurants? Do you ever have complaints?

I don’t think so. I think they [the staff] would know not to bother me with that shit. It’s a kid, you know. But you have to be aware. I would never make a reservation at Le Bernardin for my family. I would only eat there with my wife, and I would hope nobody would make a reservation at Vetri and ask for a high chair. But Osteria and Amis are restaurants that are loud and very family-friendly. Just be smart about it.

What do you cook at home for your kids when you have time?

They eat what we make for dinner. Sometimes we’ll do the nuggets and French fries.

Are you home for dinner?

Weekends I am.

Do they have broad palates because you’ve exposed them to so much?

It all depends on the kid. Two of them have it. One of them doesn’t. You can’t control it. You have to understand, we really have nothing to do with the way they are. I mean, yes, manners and this and all. But if they’re into certain foods that’s just them.

Where have you been going in L.A.?

We went to Osteria Mozza. We go everywhere with our kids. We went to Gjelina, it was great. [Note: So much for my theory about #8 on this list.]

Any recipes in particular from your book that kids love?

There are a lot!

Rustic Italian Food became a staging ground for a very un-PC battle scene, too.

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