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On June 17, the New York City-based restaurant Dante popped up in Aspen’s acclaimed Chefs Club at The St. Regis Aspen Resort for a year-long residency. After a successful winter season pop-up at The Snow Lodge, the Dante team is continuing to offer its delectable all-day food and cocktail menu, as well as music and wellness programming. Focused on simple, produce-driven dishes with coastal Italian influence, the menu celebrates healthy dining options complemented by award-winning cocktails. For its iconic outdoor patio, the resort also partnered with the designer Zegna for an unforgettable, elevated scene.
At the restaurant's helm is its Culinary Director, Chef Stefano Di Silvestre, who also leads Dante's other establishment in New York's West Village neighborhood. The Abruzzo-born Italian chef's love for cooking started in the kitchen with his nonna, since spanning the dining spaces of top-tier establishments around the world like Cipriani and Eden Roc.
Whitewall spoke with Chef to hear more about his love for raw materials, how he's working with ultra-local produce from Dante's Aspen garden, and how his dynamic environments have impacted his dishes over the years.
WHITEWALL: How did your culinary background in small- and large-scale kitchens lead to aiding Dante's expansion in Aspen?
STEFANO DI SILVESTRE: My culinary journey started in a small family-run restaurant in my hometown and then evolved between all-inclusive and 5-star hotels, relais and chateauxs, and international luxury restaurants, which gave me the opportunity to enrich my professional background and practice my profession in many states of Europe and the Americas. My predominantly Mediterranean culinary experience, with simple but refined dishes, was what the Dante team was looking for to improve their gastronomic portfolio within its locations.
WW: Did growing up in Penne, Abruzzo, impact your approach to cooking?
SDS: It influenced the way I approach the raw materials, trying to exhale their natural flavors, without mixing too many ingredients in the same preparation. Having respect for the work that goes into the growth of an animal or a vegetable.
WW: How do your dishes between Aspen and New York tell the tales of the surrounding areas? What type of locally sourced menu items are different between menus?
SDS: In Aspen and in New York there are different ingredients from the neighboring areas. In New York, for instance, there is the Burrata from a New Jersey company produced according to the Apulian tradition and using local raw materials, local fruit, and vegetables—all used according to the harvest season. Here in Aspen, we have added Colorado lamb and, when available, we use local organic chickens. There are also some handcrafted cured meats made with old-world processes produced by a small company a few miles from Aspen.
WW: How are you working with local ingredients to create the menu?
SDS: In Aspen, the orientation of the menu is more classic Italian with a combination of local and imported products. But we are lucky enough to have a small garden where we grow all our aromatic herbs. Having this product always fresh and at hand enriches the flavors of our dishes.
WW: What's the one must-have dish on the menu?
SDS: Our customers really appreciate our "a la minute" baked bread, fried artichokes, and pasta with nduja sauce.
WW: You have a record of cooking at all-inclusive resorts and in-demand kitchens all over the world, including Cipriani and Eden Roc. How does that environment impact your idea of the importance of good food?
SDS: It allowed me to understand that food has different functions depending on the different types of the environment, and it changes the expectations of the experience that customers have.
WW: Did the pandemic impact your approach to or appreciation of cooking?
SDS: The pandemic didn't have much impact on my cooking, only I had more time to cook for my family and enjoy my time with them. The only impact is the availability of certain types of products which have now become much more difficult to obtain.
WW: What do you like to do in Aspen when you aren't in the kitchen?
SDS: I love hiking with my family, getting to know the area, and giving my children that bond with nature and the surrounding environment. I also love going around town and getting to know the gastronomic offerings that this city has to offer, from fine dining to casual places. Plus, I love trying the local beers.