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


Black & White Truffles

Truffle and Wine Pairing at 3800 Ocean, Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa

3800 Ocean’s Executive Chef Larry LaValley of the AAA Four Diamond-rated Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa, will impress guests with one of the culinary world’s most highly regarded delicacies, tru...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor

Champagne Brunch, Ritz Carlton Palm Beach

Brunch Unlimited. South Florida Weekend Brunches Serving Unlimited Mimosas & Bloody Mary’s

Limitless. Unlimited. Bottomless. Endless. Call it what you will. Weekend Brunching is about indulging, endlessly. Many restaurants running up and down the coastline from Palm Beach to South Beach are serving a la carte brunch ...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor

Mojito at DADA Delray Beach

Fort Lauderdale Happy Hours

Wherever you land in Fort Lauderdale there’s always a drink special being offered. Happy Hours are a hot commodity for restaurants and hotels in South Florida. More often than not there are some great steals and deals to be...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor


South Florida Food and Wine/Oakland Park Culinary Arts Showcse

Oakland Park Culinary Arts District, South Florida Food and Wine Oakland Park Culinary Arts Showcase

In collaboration with the Oakland Park Culinary Arts District, South Florida Food and Wine hosts the monthly Oakland Park Culinary Arts Showcase. This free community event is held on the first Thursday of each month at Oakland ...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor

Oakland Park Music on Main Street

SOUTH FLORIDA LIVE MUSIC: The Funkabilly Playboys at Oakland Park Music on Main Street December 11th

In collaboration with the Oakland Park Culinary Arts District, South Florida Food and Wine hosts the monthly Oakland Park Music & Food Trucks on Main Street concert series. The free concerts are performed the fourth Friday ...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor

South Florida Food and Wine/Delray Beach Garlic Fest Collaborative Kitchen 2016

The South Florida Food and Wine Collaborative Kitchen at The 17th Annual Delray Beach Garlic Fest

The 17th Annual Delray Beach Garlic Fest is bringing back the much loved culinary event, The Collaborative Kitchen, now in its second year. The Collaborative Kitchen will bring local area chefs together to collaborate on a mult...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor


holiday lights, quebec city, google images

Where To See Holiday Lights, Holiday Shows and Boat Parades in Florida 2015

Holiday sights and lights are beginning to shine brightly all over South Florida. Some lights have already been lit while others hit the switch this week. Below is a compilation of some of South Florida’s favorite o...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor


2016 Cochon 555 Tour – Coming To A City Near You And To Miami, January 31, 2016

The most talked about culinary tour in North America is back on the road in 2016 with a bigger mission, more chefs and new ways to participate in the creation of a better, safer food system. Events will celebrate conservation t...
by SFLFoodandWine Editor



  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 *




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>