Interview with Chef Peter Nunez of Marcella’s Italian Kitchen
As Executive Chef of Marcella’s Italian Kitchen, Chef Peter Nunez creates simple, uncomplicated Italian classics that satisfy a variety of palates. The menu features starters like Fresh Mozzarella (handmade the moment ordered), Braised Veal Meatballs, and Beef Carpaccio (beef tenderloin, extra virgin olive oil, capers, lemon-garlic aioli, Parmigiano-Reggiano, arugula, crostini). Among the entrees you’ll find Lamb Bolognese (braised lamb, house-made gnocchi, marinara, Parmesan Reggiano), Butternut Squash Ravioli (Parmesan cream, marcona almonds, brussels leaves), and a variety of chicken, beef, veal and seafood dishes.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the brains behind the menu.
PhoenixBites Interview With Chef Peter Nunez
Amy Martin: When creating dishes for the new, updated menu, where did you find your inspiration?
Chef Peter Nunez: The Marcella’s concept was developed from our president, Cameron Mitchell’s travels through Italy. Marcella inspired him to bring authentic Italian cuisine and the atmosphere of a bustling Café in Rome back to the States. Cameron’s chef and house manager in his Tuscan villa, Marcella, taught him about her love of life and her love of food. She had spent her life perfecting age old family recipes and preparing them with the finest and freshest ingredients from scratch. Marcella is passionate about the food she prepares and the hospitality in which it is served, and knows that good Italian food must always be fresh, real, and uncomplicated.
Amy Martin: What is your personal favorite dish on the menu?
Chef Nunez: It would have to be the Roasted Chicken Pizza because of our hand pulled roasted chicken fresh from the whole bird, married with our parmesan crusted onions that have been braised in heavy cream and white wine, and then we top them with fresh grated parmesan Reggiano and then they are baked and put on top of the pizza. We then top the pizza with our house preserved California apricots to add a hint of sweet and spicy to the pie. All of this is then married together with our Asiago, mozzarella, and provolone cheese mixture on our Neapolitan style dough, made in house daily. Out of this world.
Amy Martin: Do you have a favorite vegetable you like to cook with?
Chef Nunez: Growing up the vegetable garden was a playground for me; I can remember seeing the shoots coming up from the chocolate brown soil and thinking how tasty these vegetables are going to be, and watching the tomato vines start to grow along the fence. As the sunlight shines through the two massive avocado trees that canopy our backyard, those tiny yellow and white flowers from the tomato vine were in bloom. Being able to grab a ripe tomato right off the vine and bite into in like an apple is by far one of the world’s greatest pleasures.
Amy Martin: Assuming you actually have a night off, where can you be found when you’re not cooking?
Chef Nunez: Whether the weather is good or bad, hot or cold, I can be found with my girlfriend Erin fishing Oak Creek in Sedona, AZ for Rainbow and Brown trout on the fly. Relaxing in nature with the fresh air and sunlight, bugs and crystal clear waters while trying to perfect the perfect roll cast with my handmade flies is where you would find me. If we stay in the Valley you will find us at Tea Light Café, off of Scottsdale and the 101, which we eat at every week and enjoy the Pho with chicken, eggrolls, and peanut sauce paired with some tea; I’m in heaven.
Amy Martin: Do you have any strict kitchen rules or guidelines known throughout your kitchens?
Chef Nunez: Rules are made to be broken; guidelines are a way of making sure that things get accomplished. For instance, being in proper uniform and ready for the day as soon as you walk in the door, which I get from my Navy background. “Just Be Squared Away” is a phrase that means you are ready to go; your station is squared away, cleaned, clean cutting board, sharp knives and proper mise en place. Overcome, adapt, and improvise.
Amy Martin: What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Chef Nunez: Last year in September I took a trip to Springer, NM to visit my grandmother for a family reunion where others came from all over the country to get together. Close to the last day spent with her, the house cleared out and she made me breakfast; two fried eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, some of her homemade green chili with homemade tortillas, and one of the most powerful cups of coffee that mankind has ever tasted. I loved it, her and I sitting at the kitchen table, set with a plastic table cloth, novelty salt and pepper shakers from a swap meet sale as well as mismatched plates and silverware. The best of all, my coffee cup had Alf on it. Priceless.
Amy Martin: Do you have a recipe that you would be willing to share with our readers?
Chef Nunez: Yes, that would be our Brioche Crusted Salmon; it is with a baby wild arugula and artichoke heart salad and finished with a lemon cream.
- Brush salmon with EVOO, top with brioche & trim bread to fit fillet
- Sauté salmon in non stick pan, brioche side down until toasted
- Flip and finish in oven until cooked to medium-well
- Rub toasted brioche with fresh garlic clove before plating
- Artichoke Saute:
- Combine EVOO & garlic in sauté pan and toast
- Add artichokes & sauté until hot & edges are seared
- Plate Up:
- Place salmon off center of a large oval plate
- Surround with lemon cream & place warm artichoke salad at other end of plate
- Garnish sauce with toasted garlic slices
For more information about Marcella’s, Chef Peter or the menu, visit marcellasscottsdale.com.
Marcella’s Italian Kitchen | 7014 E. Camelback Road | Scottsdale, AZ | 480-947-2105