Massimo Falsini is the executive chef at Solbar, a Michelin star-rated restaurant at the lauded Solage resort in Napa Valley. Our recent visit to the restaurant left us with a meal we still can’t get over, served up in the form of sharable, soulful, farm-to-table dishes where each bite offers a generous mind-body experience.
We met up with Massimo to learn more about his low-waste, high-luxury approach to food and cooking, rooted deep in his Italian heritage. Discover it all below, including a few essential cookbooks and a drool-worthy dish he whips up after hours (trust us, you’ll want to make this ASAP).
In my kitchen you’ll always find plenty of:
Extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, San Marzano tomatoes, basil, good wine vinegar, lemons, honey, anchovies, pine nuts, raisins, wine.
Best food memory:
My grandma Adriana’s house-made spaghettoni with clams, parsley, white wine and fresh chili.
Food philosophy in one sentence:
The magic in cooking is the ability to give others so many sensations in such limited parameters – one dish. In the volatility of a bite. In other words, immediate and non-negotiable. Making great food is creating experience, and experience, once given, cannot be taken back. The first bite has to be good.
Fave ingredient lately:
Midnight snack perfection:
Broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic oil and chili, toasted rye, pecorino, Aglianico del Volture.
Food you love to eat with zero prep:
Buffalo mozzarella, EVOO, frisée, salt, black pepper.
Healthiest habit in the kitchen:
Keep your sense of humor always. In the restaurant industry, most illnesses are due to stress. Humor is the best antidote to stress.
Agrumato lemons. Whole lemons are crushed together with olives in the traditional cold-extraction method to capture the essential oils of the zest in the resulting extra-virgin olive oil.
Best bargain tip:
Use everything possible; don’t waste. This is what we learned to do on the old continent. We have limited access to high quality ingredients in Europe because the focus there is quality, not quantity. My cuisine is the leftover cuisine, “cucina degli avanzi” or “cucina della finzione,” cuisine of imagination.
Italian cuisine, like most cuisines of Europe, was born in small family kitchens where the ladies had to figure out how to feed their big families with almost nothing. Our cuisine was born out of needs, not necessarily pleasure.
So everything in my kitchen is used; every part of the vegetable – for example, fava leaves in my agnolotti – and the ingredients are always very seasonal and used at the peak or their harvest.
Fave veggie + what you make with it:
Artichokes forever – carciofi alla giudia, Grandma Adriana style.
Craziest thing I buy at the market:
I am still trying to understand Tokyo turnips. I’ll get there.
Driving my GTI around the Valley.
Your idea of an ideal dinner setting…
Communal table, 30 – 35 guests, wood grill, sunset, Napa Valley. All food is family style with a ton of small plates to start… wood grilled seafood, fish and veggies, some meat and great wines!
Simple go-to recipe:
Spaghetti, fresh tomato, basil: spaghetti pomodoro e basilica – it is the best!