We caught up with Chef Matthew Accarrino after his morning bike ride and chatted about how he and the SPQR team are pivoting to accommodate the “new normal” while still being true to their creativity, classical training, and a strong belief in direct sourcing.
MOWSF: How has the pandemic affected your business model?
Matthew: Back on March 16th we shut down SPQR (which is an acronym for Senatus Populusque Romanus and translates to “The People and Senate of Rome”) and pivoted within the first few days to a menu concept of simpler and more travel friendly dishes. We named this Accarrino’s x SPQR and we still use the same types of ingredients from the same farmers and suppliers.
The overall goal was to make delicious food, as always, while having some fun. For example, we have been doing Fried Chicken Sundays paired with Ferrari Sparkling Wine from Northern Italy (a longtime friend of the restaurants). We started that early along with offering our own type of pizza (we had never served pizza before at SPQR) as myself and one of the sous chefs both lived in the New York City area and took some inspiration from the vibrant Italian-American communities there. We serve a pizza that is a thicker style slice and baked in the tin and topped with oregano, Calabrian chili, and parmesan.
MOWSF: How have you been occupying your time during the pandemic and subsequent shutdown?
Matthew: Spare time has been in short supply. We have been working with charities supporting world central kitchen, food relief, cooking for doctors and charities @outride (which focuses on the power of bicycles to bring about positivity in learning and childhood development) and @hi5foundation (which supports athletes who suffer debilitating injuries from which some never fully recover), I have a personal connection as my story involves an injury in young adulthood that changed my life.
MOWSF: Do you have a recipe you’d like to share with our readers?
Matthew: I wanted to share a recipe for tiramisu that I taught to athletes from the USA National Cycling Team as the pandemic was just starting, mostly to entertain them while they all sheltered in place and wondered whether the Tokyo Olympics would be canceled (of course they were) earlier this year and that is often a feature on our Accarrino’s x SPQR menu and we will offer for the labor day weekend in a larger format than usual.
This makes a fairly large batch for home use serving about 8 people. It will work just as well to cut everything in ½, though this dessert keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.
1. Brew coffee and combine in a pot with the sugar bring to a boil and reduce slightly, by 15-20% or so. Add in the espresso and coffee extract if using. Cool to room temperature or chill.
2. Meanwhile, place the yolks, wine, water, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl and whisk till foamy, one minute.
3. Transfer to a double boiler and cook whisking constantly till a pale zabaglione is formed and the mixture reaches 170 degrees.
4. Add in the mascarpone. Whisk well to combine and melt the mascarpone. This will take a minute and the mixture is ready when there are no more lumps of mascarpone.
5. Meanwhile whip the cream with sugar, vanilla, and salt till soft peaks are formed.
6. Add 25% of the whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture and whisk into the mixture well.
7. Add another 25% and fold in with a spatula. Repeat with the next 25%.
8. Reserve the final 25% of the whipped cream.
9. Place the ladyfingers in a single layer in a serving dish. Spoon over some of the coffee mixture.
10. Spoon some of the reserved vanilla cream over top.
11. Sprinkle with cocoa nibs. Top with mascarpone mixture and tap lightly to level the mixture.
12. Repeat this process till you have used all your ingredients, or just make one big one. Up to you.
13. Chill for 20 minutes up to 2 hours.
14. Sift cocoa powder over top and chill till serving. If not serving the same day, best to cover with a lid or cling film.
Yield: 8 small tiramisus or one larger one
For more information about SPQR’s takeaway menu and outdoor dining visit https://www.spqrsf.com/dine-in-and-take-away
For information about SPQR’s Printed & Pressed Wine Selections -Curated Wine Packages by SPQR Wine Director Bianca Jimenez Rivera visit. https://www.exploretock.com/spqr/experience/142881/printed-pressed-wine-selections?date=2020-07-30&size=1&time=20%3A00