By Joy Manning
Photography by Courtney Apple
George Sabatino, chef-owner of Aldine, slated to open this summer, knows a thing or two about cookbooks. In fact, they’ve provided most of his culinary education.
“I dropped out of cooking school after about a month,” says the chef. A lack of formal training did nothing to stem the torrent of acclaim Sabatino won at Stateside: Philadelphia magazine ranked it the best restaurant in the city during his tenure.
Sabatino has more than 400 titles in his culinary library. But there’s one specific book more precious to him than the others: Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli, who is most famous for his time at Chez Panisse. Sabatino’s battered copy of the 2003 book is filled with fading Post-it notes indicating recipes that informed his menus at Barbuzzo. “I cooked every pasta in the book, from A to Z,” says Sabatino. He credits the heavily dog-eared charcuterie chapter for his mastery of all things cured and meaty. Lately, he’s been handing photocopies of key pages to his line cooks in preparation for opening Aldine.
Of course, more often than strictly following the book’s recipes, Sabatino uses the ideas as a jumpingoff point. Bertolli’s passages inspired him to create something unexpected when he was asked by Stateside’s owners to include fried mozzarella and red sauce on the opening menu. Instead, Sabatino made a fresh cheese from local milk and gave it a crisp, citrus-kissed panko crust. The requested red sauce became a light tomato vinaigrette. The dish is now such a signature that he plans to feature a version of it at Aldine.
If you want to replicate it exactly, you’ll need to learn how to make your own cheese. But Sabatino says some fresh, locally made goat cheese, as the recipe here calls for, is almost as good.
1901 Chestnut St., Philadelphia
Opening Summer 2014