Philadelphia LOVES Italian restaurants and is full of ’em, yet Scarpetta Philadelphia has carved out its place amongst the greats. The modern Italian restaurant dedicated to creating bold flavors by amplifying the essence of seasonal ingredients is helmed by Chef Michael Loughlin. Let’s get to know the FEASTIVAL participating chef a bit better!
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I really wanted to build houses [and] actually started out my professional career as a residential construction manager. I learned so much about building materials and design, and I was lucky enough to lead the rehab of 88 apartment units at 48th and Baltimore streets. It was so much work and it took a ton of business communication. I use those skills every day as a chef and in my personal life.
I actually built my first restaurant. It was a coffee shop in Drexel Hill. It just ended up that I changed course and decided to be an Executive Chef by 35. I was given the opportunity 6 days after my 35th birthday! I love my profession and the tools I’ve used to build a healthy lifestyle.
What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in Philadelphia or the food scene over the last decade?
Componentry. Most chefs agree that the flavors and combinations have existed forever and today’s modern gastronomy is driven by refinement. Wherever you go to eat – look at the componentry. What would the dish taste like if just 1 component of the dish was remiss?
Scarpetta’s signature spaghetti is a great example. It has 10 ingredients in 4 major components: fresh egg pasta, tomato sauce, Grana Padano cheese, and EVOO. We have refined these components all the way down to making sure our robot coupe has a well-sharpened blade for grinding the cheese into powder.
Everything matters in componentry. Most chefs build new creations by using a previously mastered component and combining it with other components. In fact, menus are built with componentry.
What was the first play or concert you ever saw?
The nutcracker. I remember it was winter and freezing outside, but when we sat down I felt so warmed by the first time experience of being in a show theatre. No movie screen! As a child that was really new and interesting. ‘How does it all work?’ was probably what I was thinking the whole time.
Today, what is your favorite pre-theater dinner spot?
Estia is great. I love the seafood display and the shrimp appetizer is incredible. The last time I went was before Shen Yun at the Walnut Street Theatre.
What is your favorite post-theater drink spot?
No doubt Monk’s Café. Their Trappist beer selection is incredible, and I love the Ghent Chicken sandwich with thin hand-cut fries.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Last year, I went to Hawaii with my wife and we went to a magical place on Maui called Hanna. My friend Jon drove us miles on a road with frequent accidents and auto collisions. After the hours-long drive, we finally made it and set up a tent.
We had brought 2 chickens and mixed vegetables for grilling. I have a picture of my wife doing veg prep with a machete. We built a fire in a raised grill and stoked it until we had red hot coals. We were so freaking happy and as dusk fell we were looking at the doneness of the chicken with headlamps and decided to add the vegetables. When we butchered it into quarters and began eating the three of us were just quiet with contentment.
On the edge of the world, full belly and enrobed in moonlight and stars. Amazing!
Thank you to Chef Loughlin and Scarpetta Philadelphia!
Visit Scarpetta at 210 W Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103 for dazzling views of Rittenhouse Square park & the spectacular Italian fare.