DISHcover Lehigh Valley – Molinari’s in Bethlehem
Video released on: February 27, 2015
Previously on DISHcover Lehigh Valley…
Kim: You’re making me try mushrooms, whch I don’t like.
Man: Derek made this for you. This is our Portobello mushroom sandwich, Patio Portobello. Your crew put me up to that.
Kim: It figures.
Today, I’m on the cold, snowy streets of Southside Bethlehem. But I have the feeling once I get through these doors, we’re going to be transported to Italy. And I can’t wait to get into the warm kitchen at Molinari’s.
Chef Michael: We have a nice mix of mushrooms, and it’s just great in the wintertime.
Kim: Mushrooms… ugh.
Hi, I’m Kim. Executive Vice President at Discover Lehigh Valley. I’m a graduate of the CIA. No, not that CIA. The Culinary Institute of America. I’ve got the perfect recipe to uncover the best dining and dishes in Lehigh Valley. Let’s go!
Hi, you must be Chef Michael.
Chef Michael: Hi Kim. Pleasure to meet you. Welcome to Molinari’s.
Kim: Thank you for having me today. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Chef Michael: The owners, Fran and [inaudible 00:01:09] Molinari had a vision for an Italian restaurant that was authentic, that featured homemade pastas, gelatos, and a wood-fired pizza.
Kim: What makes this place so special?
Chef Michael: We all share a shared vision and passion for hospitality, for Italian food, and supporting the local community.
Kim: What got you into the business?
Chef Michael: I just started working restaurants as a young kid in high school, and I just realized that I love cooking for people, and that I’m really comfortable in a kitchen.
Kim: Can’t wait to get back into that kitchen.
Chef Michael: Let’s go to the kitchen. Can I grab your coat?
Kim: Sure. Thank you.
Chef Michael: So we’re making one of our homemade pastas, which we make here in house. So it’s a really nice, dried whole wheat penne with whole wheat flour, a little semolina, and water – real simple.
Chef Michael: But we’re going to make a real quick pan sauce that goes really well with that, the heady kind of whole wheat flavor.
So we just get a really good olive oil. I’m just going to toast a little garlic until it’s fragrant. So we have a nice mix of mushrooms we get from a local farmer. We have some oysters, some shiitake, and a little maitake. Really aromatic, wonderful mushrooms that are just great in the wintertime.
Kim: Mushrooms, my favorite.
Chef Michael: Grab some of that kale right there. Throw a nice big handful into here.
Kim: Good protein. Do you have a favorite ingredient?
Chef Michael: You know, mushrooms have become one of my favorite ingredients, but at this point, we’re just going to cook our pasta.
Kim: What’s your patron’s favorite meal here?
Chef Michael: Our best-selling pasta that we’ve actually had on the menu since we opened is a canestri, which is another pasta shape with a Tuscan ragu. Very hearty meat sauce with tomatoes and pancetta and veal and pork that people just love because it’s a very Bolognese-like sauce.
Kim: What’s your favorite tool to use in the kitchen?
Chef Michael: You know, it’s funny, the spoon is one of the things that’s indispensable. It’s an extension of your hand. It’s kind of how you plate food, how you cook, and it just really is wonderful. To kind of fortify that wonderful mushroom flavor, we’re going to add Porcini butter. Every pasta needs a little bit of butter in it. It really makes the sauce cling to the pasta itself. We also get a really awesome balsamic vinegar. This just adds a little–
Kim: –balances it out.
Chef Michael: –it adds a little sweetness to it, a little acidity which awakens the food.
Kim: What’s the secret to making good pasta?
Chef Michael: Pasta at its most simple is two ingredients – flour and water. So it’s funny, I think you could work a lifetime perfecting pasta. It’s the kind of thing you just need to get in the kitchen, get your hands in the dough, and fool around with it and make it on a constant basis. It’s one thing that I’m constantly learning about because there’s so many different shapes and options that you can do with pasta. It’s limitless. And that’s really it. That’s our homemade whole wheat penne with local mushrooms, toscano kale, and porcini butter.
Kim: Well I’m definitely not a mushroom connoisseur, but it does smell really good.
Chef Michael: The great thing about our food is that the pastas are all made a la minute, so they’re very quick. We also have the wood-fired pizza oven. So our pizzas are in the oven – which usually hovers around 1000° – in the oven for about two minutes. So they’re incredibly quick.
Kim: What’s your favorite pizza topping?
Chef Michael: I’m a white pizza fan, so right now–
Kim: Ah, me too.
Chef Michael: –right now, we have a pizza bianco that features homemade sausage–
Chef Michael: –then broccoli rabe, a little ricotta, and we put a farm egg right on it.
Kim: I notice on the table here, you have Seasons Olive Oil & Vinegar Taproom, which is right up the street from us here.
Chef Michael: Yeah, they’re great. We’ve been working with them since we opened. They’ve really kind of opened my eyes to the seasonality of olive oil. It’s the kind of thing we all kind of think of as just a dry ingredient that’s on the shelves, and it lasts forever. It’s actually extremely perishable. Depending on the time of year, we get an olive oil that’s been pressed within six months from either southern hemisphere or northern hemisphere, or Australia, or Spain, or even Italy.
Kim: What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
Chef Michael: I’ve looked for the best chef in the country that reflected my ideas with food, and then worked for them. Work hard, work for the best chefs, travel, eat, read. You want to immerse yourself in it if you’re serious about it. Work hard and really absorb the food culture.
Kim: Sure. Sounds like a good plan.
Chef Michael: Yeah.
Kim: Every episode that we film, there’s mushrooms involved in it in some sense. Why is that?
Chef Michael: Mushrooms are an ingredient that I think people either love or hate. And being in Pennsylvania, it’s become one of my favorite ingredients. The majority of the mushrooms in the country are produced in Pennsylvania, especially in this area outside of Philadelphia. It’s a huge mushroom culture. So it’s become an ingredient for me that I just love cooking with because they’re extremely versatile, and they’re available year round.
Kim: Well, I’m willing to give it a try.
Chef Michael: Try. I appreciate it, and hopefully, we can turn around your opinion of the lowly mushroom.
Kim: Thank you. Very good. And there was a mushroom on that fork.
Chef Michael: Cheers.
Today, I’m on the snowy streets of Southside Bethlehem, and I can’t wait to get inside these doors because it’s really freaking cold.