By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by James Patrick
Executive Chef Christopher Nicosia develops Sassi’s seasonally inspired menus based on authentic Italian traditions and techniques, proudly employing painstaking Old World methods and emphasizing the big, bold flavors of Mediterranean cuisine.
What inspired you to cook?
Growing up in Chicago, my Italian family and I were foodies before the term even existed. We traveled extensively, and I had the good fortune to taste food from around the globe from a young age. Then, during summer breaks in high school, I worked at a family friend’s restaurant in Cape Cod, putting on clambakes and food-focused beach parties, which led to my unique college hobby – catering on the side.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a chef.
After college, I took a sales job – and hated it. A year into it, when my dad could see cooking was my passion, he asked me where in the world I wanted to seek my culinary education and told me to book a plane ticket the next day. I chose the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in 1996 and never looked back. I worked for LON’s at the Hermosa Inn and Desert Mountain before joining Sassi seven years ago.
What are can’t-miss ingredients on your summer menu?
You are in luck because summer is the perfect time for eggplants, tomatoes and peppers – three staples of Italian cooking.
You also bring in specialties from both near and far for guests. Any favorites?
Locally, we love to bring in fruits and vegetables from Duncan Trading Co. We also fly in olive oil direct from Italy and a specialty mozzarella that comes from the actual water buffalo of the Mediterranean, the only breed of its kind in Italy.
What would WE be surprised to know about you?
I am an avid hunter and fisherman. I’ve been known to cook up guineafowl in the middle of a field in South Africa right after a hunt and prepare freshly caught fish while still on the boat, often while still in the middle of the ocean.
Sassi, 10455 E. Pinnacle Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale; 480.502.9095; www.sassi.biz.