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Published:December 18th, 2012 15:13 EST
Chef Massimiliano (Max) Convertini and Zio Ristorante Up Close and Personal

Chef Massimiliano (Max) Convertini and Zio Ristorante Up Close and Personal

By SOP newswire2

Driven by the powerful entrepreneurial flair and hospitality expertise of Darren Berman, Roberto Manfe and Executive Chef Massimiliano (Max) Convertini "who brings his unique culinary passion and creativity to their unique business partnership--Zio Ristorante has, since its opening in mid-2011, become one of the most dynamic and popular go to " dining hotspots in NYC. Nestled into the heart of the Flatiron District on 19th Street "and just steps away from the Flatiron Building, Madison Square Park and Union Square "Zio excites adventurous patrons from all over the city with its lively atmosphere, cozy, inviting ambient glow and a delightfully diverse menu that changes from season to season.

Its ever-evolving selection of antipasti, dall orto, pizza alla griglia, Panini, primi, le carni and pesci includes the freshest seasonal ingredients and draws inspiration from the flavors of Italy and the Mediterranean, the home region of Chef Max, who grew up in Ostuni, a city of 32,000 located eight kilometers from the coast of the Adriatic Sea in the province of Brindisi (the Puglia region) on the heel of the boot " of Italy. Since coming to live and work in New York, Chef Max has been acclaimed by food critics and patrons (who are always eager to post internet reviews) alike as the hottest, most talented and inventive chef on the competitive Manhattan restaurant scene.

The lunch menu includes paninis and grilled pizza specialties (with dough cooked just right on top of a grill), and everything from a traditional Caprese and Crudo Panini topped with prosciutto, stracchino cheese and arugula to homemade pappardelle with lamb ragu and a selection of tantalizing meat and fish entrees. Some of his signature dishes have included the Riso al Salto, a crunchy saffron risotto cake, bone marrow, and gremolata sauce, to the Polipo e Panelle, a grilled octopus, with chickpea cake and chicory. The majority of Zio`s pastas are freshly made and organic, and Chef Max enjoys making daily specials of antipasti, homemade raviolis or risotto or pasta along with his fish and meat specials. He believes that once patrons become regulars they can continue to enjoy the ongoing creativity in his selections.

In addition to the 90 seat main dining room and a bar area that can seat 50 plus, Zio offers private dining for parties of up to 45 in the Vineyard Room "perfect for business luncheons and birthday, anniversary or wedding celebrations. Chef Max creates a menu specially tailored to the tastes of the group. Zio also offers the very personal touch of Tavolo di Max, " where Chef Max joins a table ranging from two people to ten and builds a personal tasting menu based on his trademark freshest local ingredients. He will create seven or eight courses of new dishes not on the regular menu based on the diners` personal preferences.

With a charming Italian accent that invites people into the magical culinary mysteries of his homeland from the moment he says Buon giorno, " Chef Max brings a fascinating personal history to every dish he imagines and brings to life at Zio. Known as the White City, " Ostuni is a town perched in the hills, with a breathtaking view over the olive groves towards the Adriatic Coast "and just across the sea from Greece. Growing up helping out doing various behind the scenes tasks in the restaurant owned by his family, he quickly learned the value of thinking local when it came to creating a menu. Our region was known for a unique mix of wildlife, from wild rabbits and roosters to lamb, and many of the dishes were products from the mountain, " he says. Being near both mountains and the sea, Puglia is well known for its roasted lamb and fish, even octopus, and our meals favored a lot of peppers and tomatoes. "

Focusing naturally on his future career, Chef Max attended a culinary institute in his town for three years and later traveled throughout Italy to learn about its different sub cultures, their culinary distinctions, different techniques and special recipes. Moving to the U.S. in the late 90s, he attained his first position as Chef of Cuisine at Il Posto in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. After a year, he followed his dream to New York to become a chef for several years at one of the locations of the world renowned chain Cipriani, whose locations include Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Venice, Italy. Chef Max was later chef at Bottega Del Vino in midtown Manhattan (known for their Veronese cuisine). He first collaborated with Darren Berman and Roberto Manfe when they worked together at San Rocco, also in the Flatiron District, several years before they upped their collective business and culinary games and opened Zio.

Growing up in an Italian family that owned a restaurant, I really appreciate the whole family atmosphere we have created here, which begins with me, Darren and Roberto and extends to our wonderful customers, " says Chef Max. It is always so delightful to watch them enjoy my creations and hear what they love best. The three of us did the original menu together so everything is something I created. I am asked what my favorite dishes are all the time and that is hard to answer. But I would guess the signature Riso al Salto con L`osso (crunchy saffron risotto cake, bone marrow and gremolata sauce) because everyone goes crazy about it. Then there`s the pasta, such as the pappardelle and the lobster raviolis. Ask me in three months, after the next change of seasons, and my response might be completely different."

For More Information;

Zio Sizzle Reel: (shot on location with "Chef Max")