Coco Pazzo exec chef and partner Chris Macchia is leaving the restaurant to fill the soon-to-be-vacated spot by Todd Stein at The Florentine. Macchia, who started working with Jack Weiss at Coco Pazzo Cafe eight years ago, will move into his role at the upscale, modern Italian restaurant inside the JW Marriott hotel on April 23.
At that time, Stein, who was the restaurant's opening chef and who is going to work with Tony Priolo at Piccolo Sogno Due, will become a consulting chef. In somewhat of a full-circle moment, Macchia was promoted to exec chef at Coco Pazzo following Priolo's departure to open the original Piccolo Sogno.
"I was just ready to do something new," Macchia said. "I've worked here since I was 24 years old. Now it's time to do something with all that I've learned." Macchia has traveled to Italy a number of times and will take his knowledge of Italian cooking, not to mention the skills that have earned him numerous local accolades, to the restaurant.
Macchia and Stein will work together to create a new seasonal spring-into-summer menu taking advantage of spring vegetables and fresh ingredients, but won't tweak the menu too drastically. "[At first], we'll keep most things intact so customers can ease into the transition," Macchia added. "I've learned that chefs come in and try to change things too fast before you know what your customers want and who they are. By the summer and into fall it'll become more mine."
Once Macchia truly takes over the menu, he said he's very excited to do more with pizza and may bring over his creation of goat cheese, wild ramps and coppa that won him a spot on Chicago magazine's top 20 pizza list. But he's truly excited to be able to do breakfast. "It's one of my most favorite meals to go eat," he said. "It'll be exciting to do breakfast and put my Italian twist on things. Most chefs think breakfast is the last thing they'd want to get involved with but I'm excited." While he doesn't have anything specific yet planned for the Florentine's breakfast menu, he wants to create new frittatas, use Nutella and even find fresh market ingredients to create new dishes, like a sweet melon, fresh buffalo ricotta, Tuscan honey and fresh mint dish he once made.
As for leaving Coco Pazzo, it's bittersweet. "I think they were disappointed because I get along with everyone here," Macchia said. "They wished me the best. Jack and I have become family. He's mentored me with everything I've done in my life."
· Todd Stein Leaving Florentine for Piccolo Sogno Due [~EChi~]
Chris Macchia [Photo: Tasting Table]