10 Questions w/ Chef Mario LaPosta of Tarry Lodge

CTbites Team

Mario LaPosta is the self proclaimed "pizza obsessed" Chef @ Tarry Lodge in Westport. Here are a few things you probably didn't know about this pizzaioli whose Margherita pizza placed in the top ten of the world pizza championships.

Plus: Don't miss Mario's recipe for Mussels En Scapece. Marinated Mussels with wine, saffron and red wine vinegar (seen below). 

If you had unexpected guests arriving at your home for dinner in 1 hour, what would you whip up? I would make homemade sauce and meatballs. Sunday sauce is something that my family has been blessed with making exceptionally well; it is easy to make in an hour by substituting meatballs instead of slow cooking beef or pork.

What is the last dish you cooked for yourself? Turkey Chili, in an effort to lose weight so I can fit into a tux on my wedding day, and in honor to watching my Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

What are your guilty pleasures in terms of food? I dream about food 24/7 so everything tends to be a guilty pleasure for me, but I like the combination of sweet and savory; Pork Belly with Apple Mostarda at Tarry Lodge and Foie Gras with Cinco Cebollas at Casa Mono represent this best.

What ingredient could you not live without? Basil, I just love it, it’s so simple but so amazing, and to me it represents Italian food.

The chef I’d most like to spend the day with is...Marc Vetri.  Why? I’ve read a couple of his cook books; I just like his story and the food he cooks. He didn’t go to culinary school but spent a lot of time in Italy, and apprenticed, he learned Italian cooking the old school way. His ideas are often using traditional ingredients in a new way. I’d love to make fresh pasta with him. 

What was your worst kitchen nightmare? One day at the restaurant the chimney to our imported wood-fired pizza oven was not flowing properly, which meant all of the hot air and smoke was blowing back into the restaurant. We were getting ready to open in 20 minutes and the restaurant was filling up with smoke. I had no idea what to do. Suddenly, luck changed and the oven began working properly.

What is your most useful kitchen tool or appliance? Tongs, My tongs go with me everywhere and are most essential during service. From tossing pans, plating pasta’s or taking things out of the oven. 

What dish on your menu most defines you and your cooking style? The Pizza Margherita. To me, it is a pizza that most everyone can make, but a pizza that isn’t always made right. The Margherita has so much history and meaning to Pizza, it has to have passion and soul, and mine does. You can taste the love. 

What defines an outstanding meal for you? What makes an outstanding meal for me is something that is unexpected and surprising. It would showcase quality ingredients, simplicity, and flavors that are sweet and savory.

Who do you like to cook for the most? My Family and Friends, I love pleasing them. That what the Italian family is all about, the dinner table.

Extracurricular activity you enjoy when not cooking? Making the perfect espresso on the Rancilio Silvia and spending time with my family.

People would be surprised to know that you...I never went to culinary school, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Tourism and Hospitality, and then I moved to Italy, where I retain dual citizenship, to learn the true craft of a pizzaiolo.

What is your favorite recipe for this season?  Mussels En Scapece. Marinated Mussels with wine, saffron and red wine vinegar. To me the flavors represent an Italian Christmas Eve, where only fish is prepared.  The Mussels would be great with Pasta or a simple bruschetta like we do at the restaurant.

Mussels En Scapece

2 lbs. Mussels

3 Cups White wine

1 Garlic clove sliced thin

1 shallot sliced thin

3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

¼ tablespoon of saffron

Pinch salt, pinch of chili flake

  1. Sauté garlic, and shallots, add mussels and white wine, cover and steam for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove mussels, cool, and remove mussels from shell, set aside.
  3. Reduce left over liquid for 5 minutes, add vinegar, chili flake and saffron, cook for 1 minute more and pour liquid over mussels. BON APPETITO!!