Food & Drink

April 1, 2012

Interview with Donatella Arpaia

Everyone has a story and today’s Chef in the Spotlight is no different as the child of first-generation Italian immigrants, Donatella Arpaia spent summers in Naples and on her mother’s family farm in Puglia as a young girl growing up.  Those summer months were full of family activity which was centered in and around the kitchen; pressing olives for olive oil, preserving vegetables, jarring tomato sauce or making fresh pasta by hand.  This all had a formative influence on Arpaia and provided the foundation for her expertise in southern Italian cuisine.

Those familiar with EOS and bistro e in Miami Donatella partnered with Michael Psilakis on those concepts bringing their wave of talent and NYC glamour to the Magic City albeit for a short time as they are no longer affiliated with the restaurant.

Donatella is Arpaia’s 10th restaurant and it is her most personal endeavor to date as this restaurant brings Donatella herself full circle. Donatella [the restaurant] is a true embodiment of both Arpaia’s rustic heritage and her role as a modern New York woman. Arpaia’s list of accolades and distinctions include Crain’s “40 Under 40”, the “Hostess with the Mostest” by Zagat and one of the ‘Most Powerful Women in Manhattan” according to the New York Post.  Her first cookbook, Donatella Cooks: Simple Food Made Glamorous was released in April of 2010. In addition to numerous TV appearances, Arpaia holds a recurring role as a guest judge on the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef” and “Iron Chef America” and a contributor to NBC’s “Today Show”. I present this week’s successful and glamorous Entrepreneur in the Spotlight, Donatella Arpaia.

South Florida Food and Wine: You’re a busy woman running your company which encompasses a string of restaurants, your first cookbook and you are a Food Network personality. What is a typical day for you as the “brand” behind your company?
Donatella Arpaia: It’s hard to say as it differs from day to day.  Generally, I’m running all over town between meetings with potential new business ventures, handling publicity requests, and spending time at the restaurant to make sure it’s operating smoothly.  Plus, I’m trying to fit in time with my newborn son and my husband.

South Florida Food and Wine: You’re not just a chef but an entrepreneur as well, what is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
Donatella Arpaia: You have to risk big which means sometimes you can also lose big; you have to have an iron stomach to deal with today’s economic environment. You can never get comfortable so you must constantly evolve your businesses and your brand to keep up and stay in the game.

South Florida Food and Wine: Where do you get your culinary inspiration?
Donatella Arpaia: Italy and my extensive family in Italy. Plus my parents of course.  My father is a restaurateur and my mother grew up in an agricultural town in Southern Italy.  Growing up, I spent my childhood summers on my mother’s family farm in Puglia where I learned to make fresh pasta and olive oil and jar tomato sauce from my mother and several of her sisters.

South Florida Food and Wine: What is your favorite dish to make at home?
Donatella Arpaia: I love to make orecchiette by hand with braised broccoli rabe and sweet fennel sausage in a simple garlic and olive oil sauce

South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
Donatella Arpaia: Hmmm… it runs the gamut from really fresh oysters to caviar with warm blinis and crème fraiche to French fries.

South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one guilty pleasure food?
Donatella Arpaia: My chef makes this pizza with crème fraiche, bacon and chives that’s to die for!

South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one go-to ingredient and why?
Donatella Arpaia: Extra virgin olive oil.  It’s the foundation of Italian cooking and it’s so versatile.

South Florida Food and Wine: What was the last restaurant you ate at? (other than your own)
Donatella Arpaia: My dad’s restaurant in Midtown Manhattan: Fiorini.  He has the best foccacia and old school Italian food!

South Florida Food and Wine: Who would you most like to cook for? And why?
Donatella Arpaia: I’m a typical Italian daughter; my dad was a pioneer in the restaurant industry in the 70′s and 80′s so I’m still trying to impress him. He is the toughest critic I know (and I am a judge on “Iron Chef”)!

South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your day off, what do you do for fun?
Donatella Arpaia: I like to relax and cook at our country home on the lake in Connecticut.  If I’m up for it, I’ll take a drive in my yellow Lamborghini. It’s so much fun to drive!

2012 Spotlight Interviews
2011 Spotlight Interviews
2010 Spotlight Interviews

Love the South Florida food scene? Check out our newly published book (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95), Food Lovers’ Guide to Miami & Fort Lauderdale







 
 

 
Bungalow 23 Culinary Cocktail Mixers

Bungalow 23 Culinary Cocktail Mixer

SPONSOR Bungalow 23 is a cocktail mixer hand crafted for premium spirits, and for those who enjoy them. It’s full of fresh fruit purees, real fruit juices, and homemade extracts made from fresh cut herbs. Each ingredient ...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor
0

 
Advertisement
 
Giftbag - Chefs Panel - Delray Beach Wine & Seafood Festival

Product Finds: Gourmet Foods

As part of my Chefs Panel & Brunch event at the Delray Beach Wine and Seafood Festival on November 9th, each attendee will receive a gift bag. I channeled my inner Oprah wanting to give the attendees a gift bag they’d...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor
0

 

 
by SFLFoodandWine Editor
0

 
Advertisement

 
by SFLFoodandWine Editor
0

 
Advertisement
 
by SFLFoodandWine Editor
0

 

Advertisement
 
columbus salame

Columbus Salame

 SPONSOR Columbus Salumeria: Inspired in Italy. Founded in San Francisco. Columbus Salame is one of the most respected producers of fine foods in the country. In addition to authentic, 100% pork salame, Columbus manufactures ...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor
0

 

 
wine dinner

South Florida Boutique Wine Shops – Where to buy wine

The best wine finds are at boutique wine stores, independently owned and operated. The best, because of the individual attention and knowledge the proprietors possess, who are more than willing to share their wine savvy with yo...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor
0

 
Advertisement
 
04_windridge_k_exterior_header-7ab9bac3c9

Windridge Yacht Charters Hosts A Restaurant Cruise Series Beginning With The Federal Restaurant

Windridge Yacht Charter has launched a Pop-Up Restaurant Series whereby  Miami chefs take to the South Florida waterways for a dinner cruise on its flagship yacht, Lady Windridge. The series debuts with Chef Cesar Zapata of ...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor
0

 




2 Comments


  1. SFLFoodandWine Editor

    thanks Joan, this was a fun interview


  2. I enjoyed this interview and the photo of Donatella is lovely!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

CAPTCHA Image

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>