Photography by Michael Persico
After years on the Philly restaurant scene, at places including Snackbar and Pub & Kitchen, Jonathan Adams surprised fans by hanging up his chef ’s jacket in 2012. He wanted to focus on Rival Bros., a coffee biz that Adams has grown from a roasting operation to a truck and now a sleek brick and mortar café with some of the finest joe in town. Another motivation: He wanted to spend more nights with his family. “I was giving my best work to the restaurant and coming home drained,” says Adams, who was named Philadelphia Magazine’s Best New Chef in 2007. “I want my kids to get my best years.”
It’s not that Adams has given up cooking. Far from it. In fact, he relishes making dinner nightly with his wife, Melissa, and their three young kids. Many times Adams turns to memories of a special Valentine’s Day meal he and Melissa shared at Frankies 457 Spuntino in Brooklyn for inspiration. For recipes, he looks to that restaurant’s cookbook (The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual).
The page featuring the recipe for fresh cavatelli with sausage, sage, and brown butter is particularly splattered. Adams’s sons help by rolling the dough into long snakes and turning them through the hand-cranked pasta maker. “My kids love doing it,” he says. The dough is so forgiving, even unpracticed hands can make great cavatelli.
Though the Adams family makes their pasta from scratch according to the book’s recipe, this dish is equally good with fresh ricotta cavatelli from Talluto’s or Severino Pasta; and though the original recipe calls for pan roasting, slicing, and browning sausage links, Adams recommends crumbling the sausage out of its casing and browning it to save a step.