RED BANK: CHEF RENEWS PASSION AT DISH
Anthony Ferrando discusses his newly rediscovered appreciation for hands-on cooking while preparing ravioli from scratch. Below, the completed ravioli. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By SUSAN ERICSON
Like movie stars who return to their roots by taking a role in a Broadway play or indie film, experienced chefs sometimes also need to revive themselves.
For chef Anthony Ferrando, a partner in the restaurant Dish in Red Bank, that means returning to the kitchen, where many of the routine tasks have been taking up by helpers, to do more inspired cooking. It also means means bringing together raw ingredients to form a recipe.
“I have a great kitchen staff here,” Ferrando said. “My sous chef, John Bonilla, has been with me for nine years, and Antonio Comacho started here as a dishwasher and is now in charge of the grill. They know what to do. They can run this kitchen.”
“There are going to be some great changes here, though,” he added in the next breath.
Housemade pasta rolled paper thin by Ferrando will become a ravioli appetizer. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
Ferrando’s new mindset follows a period in which he considered a position as consultant at Gaetano’s, another Red Bank eatery. In the end, Ferrando decided that was not going to be a “good fit,” and instead resolved to get back to his roots by cooking and baking in his own kitchen at Dish.
A 53-year-old borough resident who downplays a stint at the highly regarded Rao’s in Harlem, Ferrando started Dish in 2004 with partner Judy Matthews. That partnership is now in the process of being dissolved.
“The focus is on fresh food,” Ferrando said while mixing pasta dough, stirring together a ravioli filling, taking a delivery of bowls from a vendor and handing over a key lime pie to his spin instructor, who just stopped by.
That dough, by the way, was turned into paper-thin sheets filled with a potato, carmelized sweet onion and panchetta filling. Each ravioli, formed by capable hands, made clear that this has been done before. After cooking, the ravioli were finished with a brown butter and sage sauce, touched with white wine and shallots. The lightness of the dish, the slippery texture of the ravioli combined with the earthy, rustic flavors of the filling were swoon-worthy. They immediately brought to mind a light, airy pierogi, made better by its presentation and flavor.
“We sell out of these fast,” Ferrando said. “I’m on a pasta kick right now, thinking about making cannelloni and free form lasagne. Have you ever heard of ‘silk handkerchiefs?’ They are these really light, Italian pasta sheets like lasagna.”
Ferrando has a number of of creative meals planned, and he knows exactly what his customers like. It takes a seasoned professional to have a competent attitude about changing an established menu.
“My sous chef is happy I’m back in the kitchen too,” Ferrando said. “I love Red Bank. It’s becoming a real food town.”
Dish is at 13 White Street.