Sasha Rosenfeld makes some very good food at Artusi, though the menu of antipasti, heartier plates, and the famous tripe, becomes downright impressive when you consider that most of it is prepared on three induction burners, one hot plate, and in a tiny convection oven.
Rosenfeld is the sous chef at Jason Stratton’s popular aperitivo bar, which is a few million degrees removed from Rosenfeld’s former life in large-scale catering. Wanting to scale down a bit, he left to work with Sam Crannell at the short-lived Five Corner Market in Ballard before making his way to Stratton and Spinasse. He worked the line in the newly expanded kitchen, before heading next door to the intimate and open kitchen.
And while the space is adjacent to its elder sibling, Spinasse, Rosenfeld says it’s a point of pride that most of his prep and cooking happens in his own spartan kitchen space. “There’s very little we rely on from the Spinasse kitchen except for the extra room and the occasional gas burner to get things up to a much higher heat.” Though members of the tight-knit kitchen crew does trade off on prep tasks, having one cook chop up, say, enough parsley for both establishments.
Here, a few of Sasha Rosenfeld's favorite things.
Dish to make at home: When I cook for myself and my wife I tend to cook a lot of little birds; squab, quail, game hen and the like. I just love little poultry. If I could find ortolan I'd get it in a second.
Dish to impress guests: Probably a pork shoulder. I know it's not the most outlandish or creative dish, but a really well braised piece of pork shoulder is the ultimate in comfort and deliciousness for me, and I think most people when they cook at home don't have the patience to make something that takes most of a day to make well, so when they show up and I've been roasting something for six or seven hours they tend to be impressed at my dedication. Hopefully it also tastes good.
First dish ever made: My mother pushed us to start preparing dinners for the family when we were extremely young, like five or six. So the dish that both she and I remember as, maybe not the absolute first dish I ever made, but certainly one of the first, was a version of a tomato/sausage pasta that my father used to make to go with homemade pasta. So he would make the dough then my brothers and I would roll out the pasta and cut it, then I'd make a sauce to go with. My mother would bake the bread, one of my brothers would make a salad. It was pretty awesome.
Item on our menu: Hands down the tripe. The process takes forever, but every time I make one I feel like I'm given an opportunity to make a small bit of magic. I get to take this off cut, this thing that most people shy from, and turn it into something that is the absolute epitome of deliciousness; tender, yielding, flavorful, comforting, etc. It also makes me feel like an Italian grandmother when I stand over the pot of bubbling tripe and stir it fondly.
Secret ingredient: Lots and lots of time.
Banned from Artusi: Cranberry juice, Paul Simon, and cutting onions during service.
Guilty pleasure: Ezell's fried chicken.
Hangover remedy: Chicken and waffles with a bloody mary.
Open kitchens are...: ... an opportunity to be a different kind of cook. We get to be servers, wine and food educators, PR people, dishwashers, and every kind of in-between role you can imagine. It's really not every day that we as cooks get a chance to talk about what we enjoy and why we enjoy it, or what we'd eat and what we'd drink with it, but at Artusi that's what we get to do every shift.
Place to drink on a day off: The Twilight Exit.
Recently splurged on: Lots of new tattoos.
On the wish list: A trip to Italy to eat everything.
Can't live without: Good bread and cheese.
Work outfit: Jeans, tank top, button up shirt.
What I miss most in Artusi kitchen: A hood fan and gas to cook on.
Cookbook: I kind of wade through Escoffier, Artusi, and Apicius all the time, like every day.
People I'd like to cook with: Mark Ladner, the chef of Del Posto, or Carlos Mirarchi, the chef of Roberta's and Blanca. Both have really incredibly unique approaches to what "Italian" food or "American" food is and I would love to see their thought process at work.
Place to buy cookware: Amazon.com
Craziest Artusi story: I know that this doesn't sound crazy for most people, they all want to hear about how someone spilled coke all over the bathroom floor, or how we had streakers walk by in a super casual manner around pride weekend, but for me the craziest moment at Artusi was when I was in the middle of plating a dish and I felt someone standing next to me and watching what I was doing, and when I looked up it was the chef April Bloomfield. I think I was so surprised to see her in the restaurant and watching me that I just put my head back down and finished plating the dish without saying anything. Later on I had an opportunity to introduce myself and talk with her briefly, which was a really awesome and unexpected surprise for a late Monday night at the end of service.