10 Questions w/ Matt Stanczak of Stanziato's in Danbury

Amy Kundrat

Matt Stanczak is chef and owner of Danbury's two-year-old Stanziato's Wood-fired pizza. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, he has worked for the last decade as both a private chef and for restaurants in New York City and Westchester but now, and thankfully for us, he calls Danbury home.

Stanczak’s contemporary take on on the classic Neopolitan pizza is one of the most outstanding in the state. His puffy charred crusts, devotion to local ingredients and seasonality as well as his nightly specials with their intuitive pairings have made me literally pound the table in delight.

1. If you had unexpected guests arriving at your home for dinner in one hour, what would you whip up?

This time of year I'm definitely thinking a fresh Guacamole....Avacodos from my favorite Latino bodega, Lots of freshly squeezed Lime Juice, Onion, maybe a chopped up jalapeno, sea salt, and lots and lots of cilantro! Simple, Fresh, Delicious.

2. What is the last dish you cooked for yourself?

Not really a dish but more of a snack after work.  A soft cooked Holbrook Farm egg sitting on top of a toasted bagel with garlic scape pesto!!  How can you go wrong??? 

3. What ingredient could you not live without?

I really think I could not live without garlic!  At the pizzeria we use sooo much of it in so many different ways. During our down time we will have "garlic peeling parties" at the pizzeria.......we will literally peel quarts and quarts of garlic.  But not the garbage from China...either local or California grown garlic only!!!!

4. What was your worst kitchen nightmare?

Defintely on Externship from culinary school.  I was working beside the chef and unknowingly/by accident turned off the kitchen printer (where all the orders come in) on a really busy night.  We were standing around for 15 or so minutes before the food runner realized that the machine was off.  When he turned it back on the tickets just came pouring out.  The nasty look that I got from the chef was horrifying and we continued to dig out of the weeds for the next 2 hours!

5. What is your most useful kitchen tool or appliance?  

Definitely a sharp knife, a food processor and a vitamix blender. 

6. What is your Favorite Connecticut restaurant (other than your own)?

Well I am rarely able to eat out and there are so many great places that I would love to try.  There's a little hole in the wall place in Norwalk called Mexicana.  The place has maybe 8 bar stools and a couple of small tables.  The food is always super fresh and super authentic.  A couple Modelos and you're all set!

7. What is the most ordered dish @ your restaurant? Why?

For some reason the "Winter Salad" has taken on a cult following. Just chopped up romaine lettuce/ crumbled gorgonzola, red grapes, golden delicious apples, spicy pecans tossed in a maple balsamic vinaigrette.  Originally it started off as the "Autumn Salad".  When winter rolled around and I wanted to take it off the menu people freaked out.  So I left it on and called it the winter salad.  So now here we are in the summer and I still have a "winter salad" on the menu.  Kind of weird but you don't want to mess with some Danburians....they will rough you up!

8. What defines an outstanding meal for you?  

That's simple. First and foremost,  amazing company....good friends or family is KEY to an outstanding meal!!!!! Sure you could eat alone but I never recommend it.....  Simply prepared fresh food by someone who really cares about the ingredients that they are using is also sooo important.  Delicious wine or craft beer. Maybe round out the meal with a couple truffles from Chocopologie! 

9. Who do you like to cook for the most?

Family, Friends, Foodies

10. What is your favorite recipe for this season? Can you share it?

It's probably the Garlic Scape Pesto that we make.  It's amazing brushed on the pizza crust with goat cheese.  The key is slow roasted the scapes before hand so they are cooked and tender.  You could make it using the raw scape but I find it to be a little too pungent.  I get the scapes, the fennel, the parsley, and the spinach from Holbrook!   * 1 lb. garlic scapes (rough chopped, seasoned with a little kosher salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and cooked in a 350 degree oven until tender) * 1/2 raw fennel bulb (plus a couple of fennel fronds) * 4 oz. freshly grated parmigiano * 2 oz. toasted almonds * a splash of balsamic vinegar * a handful of raw spinach * 1 bunch of fresh parsley * 1-2 cups extra virgin olive oil (depending on desired consistency) * Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste   1.  add all ingredients with the exception of the olive oil in food processor......turn food processor on and slowly drizzle in olive oil until the right consistency is achieved.