We’ve been really fortunate this year to have met a lot of new, interesting friends. Through WellPreserved and through the path of life in general. I’ve long made a joke that one of my hobbies is ‘collecting people’. Meeting different people brings all kinds of new perspectives, experiences and flavors into our lives. Our idea of great evening is being able to bring friends together at the table for a fantastic meal. Last Saturday was one of those great evenings, but instead of Joel in the kitchen, Massimo Bruno was our host in his Kitchen Studio.
Massimo learned to cook from his grandmother, mother and aunts in their own kitchens in his native Italy. He came to Canada in 2001 and worked at his aunt’s restaurant 7 numbers. Now Massimo is sharing what he has learned with his catering, personal chefing and at his amazing Italian regional Supperclubs.
Joel and I were introduced to Massimo, his wife Marnee (and their lovely new baby) by our mutual friend Andrea last year…of course over a meal. Andrea’s kitchen table set the stage for our dinner party in which Joel did pre-dinner preserve pairings and Massimo served homemade foccacia and some of his wonderful Italian home cooking. By the end of the meal it was like we had all been friends for decades – the power of amazing food, great conversation and a big table.
Massimo had just started hosting his Regional Italian Supperclubs and with Andrea and Marnee’s help was getting the word out about the great event. Joel and I attended ‘Tuscany’ which he hosted at the Manor and were completely blown away by the meal, and the concept of sitting at a big communal table with strangers passing platters of food back and forth listening to Massimo talk about the region, it’s food and culture. It was such a great time, you couldn’t help but tell everyone you knew about it.
Since then I’ve attended: Piemonte, Venice and Sicily as well (poor Joel was away on business for a couple of those and would always be jealous of the details when he returned home). Massimo decided to get a space of his own to host the Supperclubs and use as prep-kitchen for events and catering…happily finding a great spot conveniently close to WellPreserved ‘headquarters’. The debut of the Kitchen Studio was in October with “Thanksgiving in Piemonte”.
Since then, word has spread and the Supperclubs fill up fast. Last Saturday was no exception, a full house…our group of at least 12 occupied a lot of seats but the two communal tables and the friendly relaxed atmosphere made it feel like one group of 26. Reservations are made via Massimo’s meetup group (you pre-pay, so on the evening of you don’t even have to worry about cash except for your cab ride home) It’s bring your own wine and suggestions are sent out the week before (we’ve discovered a lot of great Italian wines through the experience, a lot of them very budget friendly).
We arrived with our group promptly at 7pm, the studio already smelled fantastic. Andrea added our bottles to the table (the wine is shared throughout the evening), and we claimed our seat at one of the two large tables.
The studio is one room, Massimo’s kitchen is behind a big island, open to his guests. He waves and greets everyone that comes in, popping in and out of the kitchen to shake hands and introduce himself or hug returning guests, all while preparing the meal to come.
After socializing, meeting the other guests and enjoying a glass of wine, we take our seats. Stomachs are rumbling, some had previewed the menu on the meetup site and hadn’t eaten all day in preparation. I had spent some of the week before designing the menu for the event, so among my design duties I was reading about “arancini’ and ‘melanzane ripiene” not to mention “sedani with trapani style pesto” and “cannoli siciliani” and looking forward to dinner.
At the beginning of the meal Massimo spends time to tell us about the region, the influences and the culture of the food…all of this with animation and passion, punctuated by questions from guests and good natured heckling. About 3.5-4 hours later, stomachs are full (some are trying to enjoy a second cannoli despite this, they were just so good), bottles are mostly empty and mouths are tired from eating and talking. The measure of a good meal is also in the ‘afterglow’ of the experience, everyone that attended has been talking about it all week, the food was stellar and the company was perfect…a truly wonderful way to spend a chilly winter evening.
I always forget to take pictures of the food before it’s too late!
I’d encourage anyone with a love of food, or Italy, or people (better yet, all 3) to get yourself a seat at one of Massimo’s supperclubs. You don’t even have to worry about bringing a date…you will definitely meet some friends across the table.
~ sign up here for the meetup group to be reminded of upcoming Supperclubs. The next one is Calabria on February 12th and 19th.
~ you can also book Massimo to cater an event or to cook for you and your friends in your own kitchen. here’s the contact info.
Eleven Design (WellPreserved’s ‘big sister’) is working with Massimo on design and visual identity over the coming months. We love to mash food, design and great people together at every opportunity so this is going to be fun. Expect some more features on Massimo and what we know will be a tasty design relationship.