You could call Chef Chris Painter Stephen Starr's right-hand man. Along with Starr, Painter is the co-owner of il Pittore at 20th and Samson. Before that he was the culinary advisor for Starr Restaurants, which means he oversaw nearly everything. We spoke to Painter about his latest menu at the Italian restaurant and learned about his possible future endeavors.
You just launched your new tasting menu that uses locally sourced ingredients. What are some of the less obvious benefits of buying from Pennsylvania and New Jersey farms?
To me, first and foremost it's the quality. You don't get that when you use produce from all over. I can call a farm on Tuesday to make an order, they'll harvest on Wednesday and I'll get it on Thursday. It's almost like having your own giant farm where you can go out and pick produce in the evening and use it in the morning. Then, of course, there's the fact that it's more eco-friendly since things aren't being shipped so far.
You've known Starr for years now. Is it safe to say that you guys are buds, or is it just business?
It's not just business at this point. I came in 1999 when Stephen had two restaurants. After five years, I left the company for about four years and then came back in 2008. We became friends over those years.
Before il Pittore opened you took a trip to Italy for inspiration. Now where do you look for inspiration?
Well I'm going back again in the fall for two weeks. And there's a possibility that we'll run a trip in the future and take people over to Italy for a food and wine tour. We'll go to super high-end, really cool places. We're shooting for 10 people, but no more than 12, which is pushing it.
Any plans to open another restaurant?
I would like to. Stephen and I talked about it, talked about different concepts. Maybe I'd do something more southern Italian. We're pretty northern here, a little more rustic. What most Americans think of when they think of Italian is a southern.