When Tony and Becky Fazzini opened Michael Anthony’s Cucina Italiana in 2002, they had no idea the restaurant would grow to what it is today.
Story by Amy Coyne Bredeson + Photography by Rob Kaufman
What started out as a small, family-owned Italian eatery has grown to include an Italian market that sells fresh house-made pasta and meatballs, imported pasta sauces, desserts and more.
The Hilton Head Island restaurant prides itself in serving traditional Italian cuisine.
“If you’re looking for the kinds of things you’d get in an Italian restaurant in North Jersey, it’s not the same,” Tony said. “A lot of these things have been Americanized, and that’s not what we do. We’re more of a traditional, classic Italian cuisine with some nouveau style.”
Michael Anthony’s also now offers several classes each week through its cooking school. Participants can choose between a demonstration class and a hands-on experience.
The demonstration class allows guests to sit back and watch as chefs prepare various dishes, sampling each along the way. The hands-on class gives them a chance to prepare dishes with the chefs. After the class, participants sit down for a family-style meal with classmates.
The restaurant has always offered cooking classes, but they became so popular that the Fazzinis decided to add a school to the second floor of the building. With the help of the well-known J. Banks Design Group, the Fazzinis were able to bring Italy home to Hilton Head Island via the state-of-the-art Tuscan-inspired culinary center.
At a recent Tuesday morning hands-on class, chef Trey Place, who is the dean of the cooking school, and chef Ryan Alpaugh taught guests how to make osso buco milanese, risotto milanese and tiramisu.
The class began with some practice in basic knife skills. Participants learned how to julienne and dice onions, carrots and celery for mirepoix. They enjoyed a little wine as they gently dipped ladyfingers in dishes of cold coffee, then arranged them in individual serving dishes for tiramisu.
Class participants come from all walks of life and parts of the world. Some are full-time Hilton Head Island residents. Some are snowbirds. Others are visiting the island for the first time. They come solo, with a friend or as a group. They come for bachelorette parties, corporate outings and date nights.
Jackie Hornberger and her mother, Stephanie Hornberger, of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectively, have been visiting the island for 20 years. They both love to cook and had always wanted to try out a cooking class at Michael Anthony’s.
This time, they were finally able to make it to a class. Jackie appreciated the tips on preparing certain dishes ahead of time.
“You want to impress your guests,” Jackie said. “But you also want to see them.”
For a menu of osso buco, risotto and tiramisu, Place suggested starting everything the morning before a dinner party. He recommended cooking the risotto about 95 percent of the way that morning and putting the tiramisu in the freezer. That way when the guests arrive, the host just has to sneak into the kitchen to heat up the meat and the risotto.
John Robinson of New Bern, N.C., recently took his second class at Michael Anthony’s and is looking forward to trying his hand at osso buco at home.
“I like that it’s hands on,” Robinson said. “I like that it breaks down the menu in a way that’s easy to follow, and it’s doable at home. It’s a really good experience and a good value.”
Notes from class:
Creamy White Bean and Sausage Soup
INGREDIENTS For the Beans
1 pound cannellini beans
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and small dice
1 carrot, peeled and small dice
1 celery stalk, small dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chicken stock, as needed
DIRECTIONS: To prepare the beans, soak them overnight or at least 8 hours covered in cold water. In a large sauce pot, heat the grapeseed oil on medium heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaves, and saute until vegetables are tender. Strain the beans from their overnight soak and add to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the beans with chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are soft and tender.
INGREDIENTS For the soup
4 cups cannellini beans, cooked
4 cups cannellini beans, pureed in a blender or food processor
Vegetable or chicken stock as needed (about 2-3 cups)
2 pounds Italian sausage, cooked and ground
2 cups blanched spinach, chopped
1 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated
1 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
DIRECTIONS: Add the cannellini beans and the pureed cannellini beans to the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add the cooked and crumbled sausage, the blanched spinach, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Before serving, stir in the Parmigiano and parsley.