Recap of the Medaglia d'Oro Media Luncheon with Top Chef Antonia Lofaso

Chef Lofaso during her cooking demo at FESTA!
October 18, 2012

On Sunday, October 14th, a select group of media were invited to enjoy a delicious Italian meal during Little Italy FESTA!  The private luncheon, hosted at Bencotto Italian Kitchen, featured the charming celebrity Top Chef Antonia Lofaso.  Invitees learned about Chef Antonia's new online recipe book, part of her collaboration with Medaglia d’Oro, in which she created a host of recipes that incorporate espresso in surprising ways (well beyond tiramisu!).  Our three course meal prepared by Bencotto's Chef Fabrizio Cavallini featured Maglia d'Oro products in each serving and was an excellent example of how the coffee bean can be incorporated into many different dishes and flavors.

Chef Antonia Lofaso, a contestant on Bravo’s hit series, Top Chef and a finalist on Top Chef All-Stars, has a culinary resume that includes a coveted position with Wolfgang Puck at the widely popular Beverly Hills restaurant, Spago.  Chef Lofaso’s talents have landed her in People Magazine, Parade, Los Angeles Times, Bon App├ętit, on NBC's Today Show, and now SanDiegoVille!

Chef Antonio sat as head of the table and casually conversed with a small segment of San Diego's culinary critics.  She discussed her family life, her two tenures on Top Chef, her partnership with Medaglia d'Oro's family of products, her Busy Mom's Cookbook, and even shared some cooking tips.

"If I were to pick, I'd have to say that my signature dish is probably my mussels," Chef Antonia explained.  "I won with them on a Top Chef competition and people seem to really enjoy them. The secret is that I use sugar with my mussels...sugar is typically overlooked in shellfish."

Chef Antonia was sweet and engaging and did not seem at all nervous about her afternoon cooking demonstration before hundreds of FESTA! attendees in San Diego's packed Little Italy.

"FESTA! rivals some of the top Italian festivals in the world, including New York City's San Genarro Festival," stated Lofaso.

Questions kept coming for Chef Antonia, but we were all there to eat as well.  For our first course we chose between two pasta options.  I chose the Ravioli al Caffe e Tartufo, consisting of hand-made Medaglia d'Oro ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and white truffle and served with a creamy grappa sauce.  The dish was rich and comforting and eased me back to peaceful bliss after being all wound up from an aperitif of ice cold sweetened espresso.

The other pasta option was a Tagliatelle al Caffe in Crema di Grappa e Zucchine with hand cut Medaglia d'Oro fettuccine in a creamy grappa and zucchini sauce.  That dish looked and smelled amazing, and based upon the comments from my culinary cohorts, it was also a success.

For our main, we each received the Brasato al Caffe' con Polenta, a sexy duo of red wine and Medaglia d'Oro braised beef served atop thin, circular and flavorful corn meal polenta slices.  The dish was hearty and moist and the marinade permeated the meat so that it was flavored throughout.

For dessert, we were served a variety of tasty options including Medaglia d'Oro tiramisu, an espresso cannoli, and coffee semifreddo (half frozen dessert, somewhere between gelato and custard).  I felt nice and energized after the meal.

After our delizioso pranzo, many of us took to the streets to see Chef Antonia's cooking demonstration at FESTA!  She had the crowd laughing and loving life as she went through a variety of food preparations and passed around samplings from the fruits of her labors.

The luncheon was entertaining and interesting and made me realize that coffee really has its place in preparing both sweet and savory dishes.  Buon appetito!

Bencotto on Urbanspoon