Hotel des Artistes / History

The reason for Italian culinary fragmentation is simple: With the exception of the nobility and the clergy, before WWI most Italians simply didn’t travel, and as a result every town and every valley has something unique. Neighboring towns and valleys will also share techniques, or recipes, albeit with individualistic twists, but from one end of a region to the other the picture can change completely. Therefore, when speaking of regional cuisines, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that we are really dealing with a series of local cuisines, each of which is related to those around it. Great distinctions from North to South of Italy, such as the use of fats (think butter versus olive oil), the kinds of pastas, popular vegetables - the South is much warmer and has a much longer growing season - and of course, huge foreign influences.

Given its position in the middle of the Mediterranean, Italy is a crossroads, and many foreign powers have left their mark. Quite a bit of French influence (regional French, not haute cuisine) can be find in the areas of Liguria, Piemonte, and the Valle D’Aosta bordering France, and Austro-Hungarian influences in the Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. There is also Spanish influence, especially in Milano, which was under the Spaniards for a time; this Spanish
influence surfaces again in the South, which was ruled by the Bourbons until the unification of Italy in mid 1800s, and in Sardinia, which was ruled directly by Spain for a time. English influence in Tuscany, where the classic bistecca alla Fiorentina and zuppa Inglese, English steak and English trifle, respectively, were initially prepared for the enjoyment of the sizeable English colony that settled Tuscany in the 1800s. Also, Jewish influences in Rome, dating to the 1500s, when Jews fleeing the Inquisition settled in the Eternal City. Finally, in Sicily you’ll find a fascinating mixture of Roman influence, Arab influences dating both to the time that Sicily was an Arab province, and to more recent trade with North Africa, Norman French influence, and Spanish influence.

The Kingdom, Naples as capital, was the largest and wealthiest of the Italian states before Italian unification. Lampedusa’s master piece, Il Gattopardo - so wonderfully portrayed by the novel, and later by Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece, The Leopard - chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento, period when Giuseppe Garibaldi, the hero of Italian unification, swept through Sicily with his forces, known as The Thousand, to create the single state of Italy in the 19th century.

Chef Vito Gnazzo - The Leopard’s partner Executive Chef, as well as, Executive Chef at Il Gattopardo and Mozzarella & Vino since its foundation - created the Southern Italian menu that finds its roots in the area once know as The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, mid 1800s, and the culinary traditions of the regions of Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Apulia, Sardinia, and of course Sicily, reaching a balance between dishes based on rural elements, such as pasta, vegetables, cheese, and seafood ingredients from the Costiera. A variety of recipes are influenced by the local aristocracy, in contrast from the popular traditions, containing poor but authentic and nutritionally healthy ingredients. Born and raised in the town of Salerno, Amalfi Coast in Italy, Vito Gnazzo began his culinary career at the Three Michelin stars restaurant Antica Osteria del Ponte, in Milan. In 1981 Mr. Gnazzo immigrated to United States to work as head Chef at one of the best restaurants in the state of California, Il Rex. In 1993 he moved to New York and became Executive Chef at Sette MoMA, where he meet the restaurateur Gianfranco Sorrentino. Since that date, Mr. Gnazzo became part of the family, as the artist of our kitchens at Il Gattopardo, Mozzarella & Vino and The Leopard at des Artistes.

The Sorrentinos - Originally from Naples, Italy, Gianfranco Sorrentino carries over 30 years of experience in restaurant management, some of these include Quisitana Hotel in Capri, Dorchester Hotel in London, Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo, Bice restaurant in New York, Sette MoMA restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art of New York, and Union Bar & Grill in Great Barrington, MA. In September 2001 he opened Il Gattopardo, just across the street from MoMA, along with his wife Paula Bolla-Sorrentino, and his talented Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo. Most recently the Sorrentinos embraced in one of the most rewarding journeys of their careers, the re-birth of the New York landmarked des Artistes restaurant.

Brazilian born and raised, of Italian parents from Veneto, Paula Bolla-Sorrentino is passionate for art, design and Italian culture. With fashion and design background, she had the opportunity of traveling around the world with top fashion designers, as well as worked in one of the most prestigious design firms of New York, Pentagram Design, as Graphic Designer. Graduated from FIT, but with the hospitality industry in her heart, Paula runs all visual and organizational aspects of the company, from Art Direction and flowers, graphic design, and customer relations, to make sure that guests are not only exposed to a wonderful gastronomical event on the table, but to a whole sensorial experience.

Everyday food done with respect to Southern Italian cultural traditions, absolute quality of ingredients, hospitality, and outstanding service is our formula, and life passion. We look forward to welcoming you to our home, in one of the most iconic spaces in New York City, Hotel des Artistes. Buon appetito!


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