The South Bronx now has a homemade pizza joint. Courtesy of executive chef Erminio Conte, La Grata recently burst on the scene. With a simple menu of unique pizzas, a handful of classic pastas - including a cacio e pepe - plus a few gorgeous salads, things couldn’t be more idyllic.
The neighborhood, fast becoming the new hot must-check-out spot, has been waiting for some new love and attention here on Alexander Avenue. Conte, plus his team, brought exactly that. “We did not find this space, it found us,” says Conte. “The people and businesses in the neighborhood have been very welcoming to us.”
In fact, the area reminds the chef of his hometown. The big difference is that Conte is originally from Italy, and that town is Taranto. “It is right in the heel of the country and is close to the water like New York and its surrounding neighborhoods,” says Conte.
But for this chef, life in the kitchen started in that exactly little coastal town, Taranto. “I grew up in the kitchen to spend time with my father, who was the best maître d’ in the world. He worked in the restaurant industry for 55 years – he worked for many of the popes!” says Conte. “My grandmother’s specialty was always spaghetti and meatballs, and I use the same recipe today at La Grata.”
But before coming back to New York, Conte worked all over the world - as a chef on a cruise line followed by opening Italian restaurants in Brazil, Turkey, Japan and South Korea. But the love for New York has forced him to root again right here - with plans to open La Grata in Manhattan and the other boroughs. The ethos, however, will remain the same - just keep it simple.
Part of his philosophy lies in the making of his own mozzarella and dough; the latter receives a 36 fermentation fondle - which makes it light and fluffy beyond comprehension. “I am not a chef with a big beard or tattoos; I work hard, I love my job, and I love the local people,” says Conte. “My passion goes above and beyond the new look of chefs and the trend of chefs going on TV. For me, I find pleasure when my customers send back a clean dish. To know that they enjoyed the meal I put in front of them is for me, the best sensation.”
Make sure to explore that dough at 136 Alexander Avenue, Bronx. Their website is http://lagrata.com/ for further information.