Monday, 09 May 2016 18:37

It’s Amore: Q&A with Chef Jenna Arcidiacono

Written by  Mayra Monroy
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Chef Jenna Arcidiacono at Amore Trattoria Italiano Chef Jenna Arcidiacono at Amore Trattoria Italiano James Richard Fry

Jenna Arcidiacono, a self-proclaimed foodie, is the owner and founder of Amore Trattoria Italiana. Arcidiacono brings authenticity and passion in every dish at Amore, having learned from her own observations in Italy, working alongside her husband and mother-in-law while studying other ristoranti e trattories. 

Amore’s specialty is simple but striking dishes. While seemingly simple in nature, her menu is packed with high quality, local ingredients.

The proud “farm-to-fork, fork-to-mouth” advocate chatted with Revue about her humble beginnings and what’s most exciting about West Michigan dining these days. Here’s what she had to say. 

 

How did you first delve into a career in dining?

My first job ever was in Kentwood at Cook’s Drive-In. It was a small, family-owned, hot-dog-chili-dog-root-beer-in-a-mug joint. I never thought that it would eventually become my passion to cook for others. I started to realize that food was a happy place for people. It built memories and made me feel good when I felt they were enjoying what I cooked. I already knew at age 14.

 

When you’re not being a chef extraordinaire, what do you do in your downtime?

I love going to concerts, comedy shows, riding my vintage moped, traveling to Italy — I take people on culinary tours every year through Amore. 

 

For newcomers to authentic Italian cuisine, what do you recommend at Amore?

We have a five-course tasting menu every day of the week. It is a great way to be introduced to our food. It consists of an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert. There are two choices for each course, just in case you aren’t a fan of one, you’ll usually like the other.

 

Being a part of the West Michigan foodie scene, what’s the most exciting thing happening right now?

I love that vegetables are making a comeback, especially because I’m a vegetarian. I’m always looking for creative and delicious ways to eat healthy, yet still feel like I’m eating something tasty and fulfilling.

I also love watching our food scene evolve. It has grown so much and since I’ve lived here most of my life, I feel proud to be a part of it. We are so diverse. I love the Facebook page EatGR where over seventeen thousand locals post photos of food from the area. I learn about new places [and] restaurants I never knew existed just by being in that group.

Amore Trattoria Italiana
5080 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park
(616) 785-5344, amoretrattoriaitaliana.com

 

What are some local establishments you’d recommend to our readers? 

I love to eat. It’s one of the first things I think about when I wake up. What should I eat today? I love Pho Soc Trang [4242 Division Ave. S, Kentwood] for Vietnamese. I eat at Donkey Taqueria [665 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids] almost every Thursday night after work for flautas and tequila. I also love TerraGR [1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids]. I could eat their miso kale salad and turtle pie daily. 

 

Grand Rapids has a lot of choices, but what’s it missing? 

I’m dying for someone to open a Korean barbecue in town.

 

Do you believe the farm-to-table movement is still going strong in West Michigan?

Absolutely. I deal with local farmers every day. I’m lucky that Amore is near the “ridge” where many farmers have even asked me what they can grow for [the restaurant]. How cool is that? For example, Dunneback and Girls farm grow heirloom tomatoes just to supply Amore’s caprese salads in the summer months. They are gorgeous. 

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