210 E. Main St., Los Gatos; 408.354.7700
Executive chef / partner Salvatore Calisi
Hometown: Purchase, N.Y.
How many years have you been in the restaurant business? "My whole life. I grew up in the restaurant my grandparents started in 1963. I spent my summers in Italy, working in restaurants in Elba and Sardinia."
Experience: Before coming to the Bay Area three years ago, Calisi was a fixture on the New York City restaurant scene with stints at Valbella, Osteria Stella and Osteria al Doge, and with several of the city's most famous culinary players, including Rocco DiSpirito at Union Pacific, Scott Bryan at Veritas and Charlie Palmer at Aureole.
Mentors: Chefs Scott Bryan and Eric Ripert. "They've never sold out, and they've stuck to their beliefs."
Early inspiration: "My grandfather and grandmother used to cook in the kitchen of the restaurant they owned, not speaking a word of English. Five families lived off this restaurant. They successfully ran the restaurant without computers or speaking any English."
Guilty food pleasure: "Familystyle Italian food. It's like home to me. It's what I grew up with."
What career achievement are you most proud of? "I'm most proud of being able to take Hellenic cuisine and twisting to make it my own, especially because I'm not Greek. I'm allowed to be more creative and come up with my own versions."
Favorite restaurant: A16 in San Francisco.
If you weren't a chef, what would you be? "I'd probably be a lawyer or a pilot. I took my LSATs years ago. When I was younger, I wanted to join the Air Force because I wanted to fly."
Culinary philosophy: "Use the best ingredients you can; don't worry about the price. Never sell yourself out. When you use the best ingredients, you don't have to use a lot of other things. The ingredients will speak for themselves."
For the lamb:
1 lamb rack, cut in thirds and trimmed
I teaspoon imported sun-dried Greek oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
1 pinch garlic powder
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
For the creamed spinach:
2 bunches spinach, preferably local and organic
2 teaspoons salted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
The lamb: Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss. Marinate for up to two days. Remove chops from marinade and grill over a very hot fire until desired doneness is reached.
The creamed spinach: Blanch spinach for about six minutes in one gallon of salted, boiling water. Cook until the spinach is falling apart. Transfer spinach to an ice bath; then strain and squeeze out any excess water. Set aside.
Heat butter and shallots over very low heat. Add spinach and rest of the ingredients and rapidly mix until it becomes almost creamy. For a creamier texture, add a few drops of cold water.
For each serving, place a spoonful of spinach, one or two spoonfuls of roasted potatoes in a bowl. Top with a piece of lamb. Drizzle with the vinaigrette made from one part lemon juice, three parts olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano, salt and pepper to taste.