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Fratelli La Bufala redefines urban chic pizza on the Upper West Side

Red hair and a contagious smile, Chef Ceffo (Francesco) Spilabotte is the man behind the talk of the town, Fratelli La Bufala, the new Italian pizza franchise that redefined the term “urban chic” on the Upper West Side! A proud native of Naples (Italy, not Florida!) Ceffo worked in some of the most iconic restaurants in Naples and abroad, including the famed Virgilio Sporting Club in Posillipo, the Gallo Nero, Rotweiller, Michele e Ma`, Anema e Cozze and others. Since 2007, Ceffo has collaborated with Emme Sei Group (owner of the Fratelli La Bufala brand), working on the openings and launches of their locations in Miami, Madrid, Istanbul, Dubai and now in New York City. We met during a small pause, of course in front of a delicious Neapolitan Pizza.

What five ingredients in your kitchen could you never be without?

Authentic Neapolitan Chefs cannot work without exquisite Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a good pasta, a choice of garlic and onion and, in my case, a variety of tomato distinctive of my area called “Pendolo del Vesuvio,” a true gem

Have you thought of putting together a cook book?

Not yet! I did contribute 4 recipes for a Swedish cookbook.

Are all your ingredients imported from Italy?

Not all of them, but the most crucial for the performance of the kitchen: olive oil, tomato, exquisite buffalo mozzarella, flour, coffee, pasta and buffalo dairy products.

Have you had any formal culinary training?

I was passionate about cooking since a child and have grown professionally over time. My Maestro was an iconic one, Chef Vettosi of Naples.

What is the most extravangant pizza you have made?

Ha! …A pie shaped like a racket, with the “handle” filled with ricotta cheese and prosciutto!

Do you have a signature dish ?

Sometimes the simples dishes are the most difficult: as they say, less is more. My signature dish is “Spaghetto alla Ceffo”: garlic, olive oil and red hot pepper, or eggplant with cherry tomatoes, pecorino cheese and basil.

What makes your pizza different from everyone else’s?

The mixture dough is quite the secret, along with excellent, high quality ingredients.

What is the essential key to making your specific pizza dough?

The flour and… passion!

What is your favorite olive oil and why?

I especially like first-press extra virgin olive oil. Italy produces a great variety of oils…. I of course like the balanced acidity and texture of the one from Campania, or a strong and flavorful Apulian one, and even a good, light Tuscan Olive Oil. It depends also on the dish and what kind of temperature and style you have to use!

What are some of your cooking triumphs and disasters?

So many memories… A memorable one was cooking for Madonna, the rock star. It was 20 years ago in Los Angeles in a place called L.A. Trattoria.

How do you think American chefs differ from Italian chefs?

I am not sure they really know the Mediterranean cuisine, its “culture” and techniques.

Do you recall any recipes from your family growing up that you use today?

Of course! Beloved grandma meatloaf, a special veal dish called La Genovese (with onions), the authentic, Neapolitan Style red sauce (or do you call it gravy??), Peas & Pasta and so many more….

What is your favorite italian movie and why?

In addition to the classics (we have a great tradition) a recent movie I appreciated is “Benvenuti al Sud” (Welcome to the South) which captures the philosophy and simple lifestyle of Southern Italy in contrast with the North.

Fratelli La Bufala, is a fresh casual resto-pizza concept, which offers recipes and products typical of the Neapolitan tradition and characterized by very high quality and organic ingredients, centered on the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana and other buffalo milk dairy products. The menu includes starters, pasta, entrees, salads and a wide  selection of pizza plus an original dessert menu.

Fratelli La Bufala is located at 2161 Broadway @ 76th Street, New York, NY 10024. Tel. (212) 496-5303. For more information, please visit fratellilabufala.eu.

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About Cynthia Parsons McDaniel

Cynthia Parsons McDaniel works as an artist in the mediums of video installation, collage and illustration and diorama. She recently attended the National Academy Museum School in New York City for Drawing and Visual Story Telling and Monotype Printmaking. She had her first collage piece in a group exhibition at the museum. She has written about design, film and theater for METROPOLIS, ELLE DECOR, IN STYLE, ELLE, DAILY NEWS, FASHION JOURNAL and NEWSWEEK. She has contributed to five books on design and film related subjects. She was nominated for an emmy while a producer at NBC. She was head of pr and marketing at Cannon Films, New Line Cinema and VP Grammercy Pictures, then special projects editor at IN STYLE and Features Editor New York Daily News. McDaniel then went back to working with actors on MAD MEN, WEEDS AND 30 ROCK and doing personal publicity and creating Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Academy Award Campaigns. She has produced events and handled press including European Film Awards in Berlin, Cannes Film Festival Party at Hotel Du Cap With WME, at Sundance Film Festival and Elton John's Oscar party, re-opening of the Hall of Mirrors and the Royal Opera House at Versailles and the Bob Hope Memorial Library Ellis Island. The short she co- produced was shown at both the Tribeca Film Festival and the London Film festival. She recently did props for Boardwalk Empire including window displays using antiques from Olde Good Things. She is a member of Pen + Brush and the Art Directors Club. She has most recently written a one act play about early broadway and created the props by hand using various antiques and paper techniques. She currently writes travel pieces and continues to profile actors and directors. She is currently working on her first solo exhibition.
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