Hot Chef: Kristin Sollenne cooks up lightened Italian fare

Kristin Sollenne is the chef at all three Bocca di Bacco locations in the city, including the newest, at 169 Ninth Ave. (212-989-8400).

It’s no wonder Kristin Sollenne developed a passion for food: “I was always in the kitchen with my parents and my grandparents for big Italian family dinners,” she says. But when she noticed her parents gaining weight, she applied the nutritional know-how she got at California State to help them drop some serious pounds. Her folks’ new healthy lifestyle was the kicker she needed to move to New York and make a name for herself. As the chef at Bocca di Bacco, which is opening its third location in the city Thursday, she’s out to prove that Italian food does not have to be calorie-dense.

So what’s on the menu?

As specials we’ve introduced fresh spinach spaghetti with sundried tomatoes and pine nuts — just a very simple dish. I have a chestnut and porcini ravioli. We did an eggplant pasta. I like introducing things to people that taste amazing. It’s not that you have to compromise on your taste, and it’s  healthier than the traditional Italian food.

What are some foods you’re looking forward to cooking with this season?

Especially around this time I love incorporating pumpkin: pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin gnocchi. I love butternut squash for purees and soups. Chestnuts, I love making a really nice pureed sauce with those. I do a chestnut ravioli. A big thing for me this winter is definitely infused pastas. Instead of the heavy starches that the normal pastas are, why not fill them with spinach or eggplant, pumpkin or chestnut? We make all of our pastas fresh, homemade, so that’s definitely something that I always look forward to.

Do you have a favorite item on the menu?

Oh, I have lots of favorites. We do something that’s very rare that you probably won’t find at any other restaurant: It’s called our Cavatelli Di Grano Arso, which is burnt wheat cavatelli. It’s a flour that actually comes from Puglia, Italy, and I was introduced to it by a colleague of mine. They don’t distribute it to the U.S., so basically we had to develop our own way to create this flour. After several attempts, we came up with the perfect combination and we created this burnt wheat cavatelli. We serve it with a venison sausage and a light gravy sauce which is absolutely delicious. And that I like just because it’s so different.

What would you cook to impress a date?

Is he Italian? [Laughs] Just kidding. The grilled octopus, the homemade fettuccine Bolognese — you can’t go wrong with it — and then our pistachio profiteroles for the dessert. Pistachios I think are great for cleansing the palette. It’s a great way to end the meal.

What should home cooks be picking up at the farmers market this winter?

I would definitely say butternut squash — you can do so much with that and incorporate it into a lot of different dishes. You can always pick up great spinach. I’ve noticed more people have brought up kale, which is interesting because that’s kind of something new. Fresh pumpkin, you can do so much with that this time of year, I would definitely say eggplant — all these great vegetables that you can use in so many different forms.


Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.


Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.


Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.


Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…


Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."


Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.


Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).


Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.


Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline


Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…


Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.


Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.


What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.


Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.


Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.


Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…