David Di Stasi’s brilliant Italian cooking
By Charles Dubow
“For the holidays this year I am thinking of doing something special and traditional, like a variation on the Feast of the Seven Fishes,” says David Di Stasi, head chef and co-owner of Materia, a new Italian restaurant in Bantam. That would be a meal worth eating, given that David knows his way around a fish. After all, before opening Materia in March with his brother Michael, he was cooking in southern Tuscany for three years and before that worked for five years at Le Bernardin, arguably the world’s greatest seafood restaurant.
The brothers, who were born and raised in Watertown, took over the former La Cupola and David introduced a menu that focuses on fresh meats and produce sourced from local farms. “Everything we do here is seasonal,” he says. “That was something I learned in Italy. When you use the best ingredients you don’t need to make food complicated. Fresh pasta, fresh ragu, and fresh herbs. Who needs more than that?”
The emphasis on the best ingredients is the basis of the restaurant’s name. “La Materia Prima is Italian for the best raw materials,” says David.” That’s what we are all about here. Keep it simple but delicious.”
And the food is delicious. I am a native New Yorker who lived in Rome and have enjoyed my fair share of Italian food and David’s work is easily some of the best I’ve ever eaten. His terrine of pumpkin, brown butter, parmigiano and ossetra caviar drizzled with aged Modena balsamic vinegar was decadent and revelatory. The combination of sweet and sour, soft and crunchy, with just the right balance of umami made me want to weep with pleasure.
He is also a wizard with more traditional fare as well. His tagliatelle with a ragu of beef and pork was perfection. The fresh pasta—all the pasta is made in-house—was light yet firm, the ragu hearty yet delicate. Equally fine are the roasted King Trumpet mushroom, squid ink ravioli, vitello tonnato, and braised pork chop. In fact, everything is pretty terrific. Expect great things from this young man.
637 Bantam Rd., Bantam