Interview: Chef Alex McWilliams, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of New Restaurant Chió, Wants to Make Sure You Never Eat Olive Garden Again

September 10, 2012 2:42 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Chio
I spoke with Executive Chef Alex McWilliams, half of the brain behind Chió, the Columbia Waterfront's newest culinary addition. His mission? To re-educate Americans about what eating Italian actually entails. Put away the veal picatta, and don't let him catch you scarfing down chicken parmesan. Here's what he had to say about the way Italians really eat, and how Chió is honoring that. (Photo: Facebook)

I spoke with Executive Chef Alex McWilliams, half of the brain behind Chió, the Columbia Waterfront's newest culinary addition. His mission? To re-educate Americans about what eating Italian actually entails. Put away the veal picatta, and don't let him catch you scarfing down chicken parmesan. Here's what he had to say about the way Italians really eat, and how Chió is honoring that.

FoodNRecipe's Anthony Smith: What's your restaurant's mission?

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Chió's Executive Chef Alex McWilliams: It's a little bit different. We're focused on authentic regional italian cuisine, you know, without any of the cliches of the Italian American cuisine. We don't have any traditional family-style entrees. Instead, we have lots of small plates called stuzzichini, salads and handmade pasta.

We also do a sardinian style flatbread pizza that's very thin and crisp, and we use a little bit of grano arose, which is burned wheat, in the pizza dough. It gives it depth of character and a very earthy flavor.

We offer beers and wines, and do our best to source authentic ingredients and wherever possible use local farms that focus on humane treatment of animals. We don't use a lot of meat and fish, a lot of our menu is vegetarian or can easily be made that way.

AS: For those of us who aren't in-the-know about Italian food, to which cliches are you referring?

AW: Chicken Marsala, the picattas, oversized veal chops, and a lot of those things that people associate Italian food with that actually don't exist in Italy. Chicken Parmesan

AS: Your last restaurant was in Connecticut. What made you choose Brooklyn as your next destination?

AW: It's really up-and-coming, this area in particular is really slated for a growth spurt with the park going in here. There's also talk of a hotel being built on the waterfront.

It's a wonderful location. My partner, Jeff, has lived in Carroll Gardens for 20 years, I've been there on and off for ten. It's the best of both worlds: everything that Manhattan has, and it's sort of the suburbs a little bit, and we like the neighborhood feel as well.

Not to mention that the rent is a fraction of Manhattan!

AS: If a restaurant patron could only try one item, which would you recommend?

AW: All the pastas, definitely. But our most popular dish has been the charred octopus. We opened quietly last Wednesday and we opened for regular service on Friday, and by far the octopus has been our number one seller every night.

Check out more about Chió here!

Chió

117 Columbia Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231



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