I had dinner at Lupo Verde Osteria in Washington, DC with an Italian date. If the food had been a sorta-kinda Americanized version of the real stuff, she would have been highly insulted. She smiled throughout the meal. I’m very particular about Italian cuisine, as I went to school in Perugia, Italy and gained some rather specific knowledge of how it should be prepared. The kitchen serves some of the best Italian food anywhere. Matteo Venini is an Italian chef from the homeland and cuts no corners with his delicious food. Make a reservation soon at this Washington, DC restaurant, as this is a find and will soon be booked far in advance.

Interview with Chef Matteo Venini

Explore the cuisine and style of Chef Matteo Venini during this interview that highlights his culinary experience and how he ended up at Lupo Verde Osteria in Washington, DC.

Richard Basch for Wander: How did you get into cooking?

Chef: My father owned a butcher shop, so growing up I was always surrounded by food.  I remember assisting my father in his shop at the ripe age of 10. After graduating from architecture school, I spent a year in the Italian army before making the decision to return home and work for my father. I was young so I didn’t always listen to my dad (because I thought I knew everything) so shortly after returning home, my father sent me to work for a big market where I could learn how to cook. I didn’t have culinary experience so I remember calling my mother daily and asking for her recipes. Slowly I realized that people were happy with my cooking, and coming back to the market to eat my food. Shortly thereafter I decided to go to culinary school and I have been cooking ever since.

Wander: Do you have a specialty dish?

Chef: I love making pasta. There is something about the texture of the dough that makes me happy. I have eight house-made pastas on the menu at Lupo Verde, and I'm always experimenting with new recipes. Of course, being the son of a butcher, I also love cooking with meat. Using smoked butter and fresh herbs are key.

Wander: Do you prefer a particular style of cooking?

Chef: I'm Italian so I enjoy cooking the foods I grew up eating, but with a modern twist. I enjoy testing out new combinations of flavors and techniques.

Wander: What kind of atmosphere do you create in the kitchen?

Chef: We always have fun during service. Keeping the kitchen staff happy is the recipe for success. If your staff isn't happy then that reflects onto the food, and the customer will feel it.  Food needs love, passion, and respect.

Wander: What do you look for when you hire other chefs to assist you in the kitchen?

Chef: I look for organization, cooking techniques, and personality. I'm pretty organized. If my dry storage doesn't have all of the labels facing the same direction it drives me crazy. Also, knowing how to sear steak or fish, and blanching vegetables is key. Finally, personality. If the staff doesn’t mesh well in the kitchen that will reflect into the food.

Wander: What is your favorite spice?

Chef: I don't use many spices in my cooking—only black pepper. I do, however, use a ton of fresh herbs including rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, and basil. I never use dry herbs in my cooking.

Wander: What keeps you in cooking?

Chef: Passion! Cooking is a lifestyle. The hours are insane, so if you don't love it, you won't make it.

Wander: Have you had experience with vegetarian cooking?

Chef: I'm a son of a butcher. I started butchering meats when I was 10 years old so cooking vegetarian taboo for me!

Wander: But do you have a favorite vegetarian dish?

Chef: I would say melanzane alla parmigiana, or eggplant parmesan. The combination of the tomato sauce with mozzarella is just amazing and when you add the texture of fried eggplant you bring those flavors to another level.

If You Go to Lupo Verde Osteria

Lupo Verde Osteria is located at 4814 MacArthur Blvd., NW, in Washington, DC. They're open for dinner daily from 5 to 11 p.m. and for brunch on weekends, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch at the Market is Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Visit their website for reservations or call 202.506.6683.

Be sure to check out more things to do in Washington, DC on Wander With Wonder. Read more Chef Chats here.

Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

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