Chef Roberto Deiaco talks about New York’s Armani Ristorante

A native of Italy’s Dolomites mountains, Chef Roberto Deiaco is a classicaly trained chef who brings his vast experience to Armani/Ristorante, merging traditional cooking with his own modern approach for an elegant Italian dining experience. Having started as a kithen apprentice when he was 14, Deiaco then studied under highly-regarded chef Andreas Helrigl at the Istituto Alberghiero di Bressanone—and then continued his culinary endeavors in Germany, Italy and Thailand, and at famed The Rainbow Room in New York City before taking the helm at Armani/Ristorante where he enjoys the authentic Italian experience. —Tracey Ceurvels

Haute Living: What’s new at Armani/Ristorante?
RD: I think what’s really great at Armani/Ristorante right now is that we are elevating our team, trying to bring the restaurant to the next level in terms of skills, quality and creativity; and at the same time expanding our business. It’s exciting to see the restaurant growing and getting busier by the week, and still maintain this high quality of product and continue to see and bring in this amazing and diverse clientele that we have.

HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at Armani/Ristorante?
RD: My favorite dishes on the menu at the moment are the new variation of Capesante Scottate (Sautèed Sea Scallops over Potato Fondue, with Crispy Baby Artichokes and Black Norcia Truffles), Fegato Grasso (Cold-Marinated Goose Foie Gras, with Variation of Pear and 1992 Port Wine Reduction), and of course the spring menu pastas – Homemade Ravioli of Ricotta Cheese and Quail Egg Yolk (with Zucchini Pesto and Black Truffles), and the Tagliarelle Integrali (Homemade Whole Wheat Tagliarelle Pasta with Crispy “Alto Adige” Speck, Zigher Cheese, and Fava Bea Purée), to name a few. I also love the freshness of the Risotto ai Fiori di Zucca – the freshness of the Zucchini Blossoms is a wonderful compliment to the flavor of Langoustine.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
RD: I like to explore new restaurants, places that have recently opened. I am intrigued by all types of cuisines and concepts. It’s so interesting to see how the (restaurant) landscape of this city changes and evolves year after year. And it’s also important to stay up to date on what the industry trends are and where they’re heading.

HL: What’s your ideal meal?
RD: In my home we have a wine collection that’s been built over the last 12 years. My ideal meal is a nice bottle of wine, and a great meal…cooked by my wife!

HL: Where do you like to dine on a special occasion?
RD: For me, a special dinner is usually connected with travelling. I like visiting small restaurants in unique or exotic locations, but where the food is really phenomenal. Northern California and the wine country is a favorite destination, so I greatly enjoy visiting places like Manresa (Los Gatos, CA), or Thomas Keller’s restaurant, The French Laundry (Yountville, CA). When overseas, St. Hubertus in Alta Badia, Italy is a special destination. The Alta Badia Dolomite Valley has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants in an area of just 7km, so there’s a lot of talent and creativity to enjoy there.

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
RD: Difficult to say. All the amazing meals I’ve enjoyed have been equally memorable – it’s impossible to single out just one!

HL: What is the most difficult ingredient you have ever worked with?
RD: strongly believe to respect the product and working w/ Italian seasonal ingredients. Having worked for 25 years with these ingredients I don’t find anything particularly difficult to work with. I do love to utilize different cooking techniques to achieve different outcomes.

HL: What is the dish you are most proud of at Armani/Ristorante?
RD: The various Risotto’s we make. The rice comes from a very small/boutique producer from Veneto and we are the only restaurant in town to make Risotto w/ out any Butter!

HL: What do you love the most about being a chef at Armani/Ristorante?
RD: To work for the Greatest Fashion Icon. I am proud that I was chosen to represent his vision in terms of food and fine dinning and to serve his clientele dishes that are creative but at the same time simple and elegant.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
RD: My five favorite ingredients, which are a basis of many of my dishes, are:
1) Olive oil
2) Citrus – I like to use a all kinds of citrus, and in a variety of different preparations: dried, powdered, fresh, compote.
3) Fish/seafood
4) Seasonal Truffles
5) Fresh herbs and different lettuces

Armani/Ristorante is located at 717 5th Ave at 56th St; (212) 207-1902.

For more haute food ideas, visit food + travel writer + Haute Dining columnist Tracey Ceurvels’ blog, The Busy Hedonist