The Arcadian’s Chef Matt crafts local-Italian pasta
MIDDLEBURY — Bucatini tossed with house-cured jowl bacon, Pomodoro and parmesan cheese, Vermont lamb neck ragu with orange, black olive, shaved pecorino and fried breadcrumbs over potato Paccheri, black orrchiette with pan-fried rock shrimp, Calabrian salami and chili: these are the sorts of dishes that jump off the dinner menu at the Arcadian in Middlebury.
Chef and co-owner Matt Corrente says these dishes draw on the flavors of his two homes: his parents’ Italian household in coastal Rhode Island and his chosen home in Addison County. At the Arcadian, you can ask the staff where each ingredient listed on the menu comes from, and the list of offerings is likely to change if Corrente gets word from a local farmer or vendor that something new and compelling is in season.
Corrente, along with his wife Caroline, opened the Arcadian in the fall of 2018. Caroline runs Haymaker Buns out of the same space; and in the mornings, the building is home to her cozy café-bakery.
The pair are veterans of Burlington’s food scene with roots in Middlebury — Corrente graduated from Middlebury College in 2006 with a major in studio art and all of the coursework necessary to attend dental school. He did two stints at Two Brothers; the first while a college student and, most recently, as the restaurant’s chef.
“Right after graduating from Middlebury, I started looking into lab work and medical school. It was hard to see the light at the end of that tunnel,” said Corrente. He decided he wanted to indulge his growing interest in art. “At that point, I’d worked for seven or eight years as a bartender, waiter, a busboy, but never in the kitchen.”
But Corrente knew he wanted to cook.
“Even working in the front, I used to spend a lot of time in the back, trying to learn and watch the cooks,” he said. “Food emerged as the perfect marriage of art and science.”
His fine art background and knack for precision led him to fine dining. After attending the prestigious Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, he apprenticed under internationally renowned, multi-Michelin star chef Daniel Boloud for three and a half years.
“That was my entrée into the New York fine dining scene,” said Corrente, who said that despite having to work 100-hour weeks for $8.25 an hour, he was hooked.
When he eventually moved to Greenwich, Conn. for training, he found himself working once again in Italian restaurants.
“I worked with a few chefs who were literal pirates in the kitchen,” Corrente explained. “They were pretty sexy role models to have, these kind of scary, Anthony Bourdain-esque figures.”
When some fellow Middlebury College graduates asked him to help them launch the French bistro Pistou, where he met Caroline, who graduated from the University of Vermont in 2012 with a degree in Anthropology and later studied pastry making at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
They moved to Middlebury together in 2015, when Corrente was offered the position of executive chef at Two Brothers.
CORRENTE MAKES PASTA at a station near the Arcadian’s front door.
Independent photo/Steve James
When Corrente launched the Arcadian, he knew he wanted to combine regionally-specific Italian cuisine with Vermont’s culture of farm-to-table dining.
“In Italy, food and dining is farm-to-table,” he said. “The thought is, if you took an Italian cook out of their small town in Italy and plopped them in the middle of Middlebury and said, ‘make food,’ what would they do?”
The Correntes are committed to honoring Italy’s regional cuisines, but also to sourcing their ingredients in Vermont and New England. Corrente says that is relatively easy to do: Vermont, like Italy, has a diverse agricultural landscape with mountains, rolling hills, valleys, a lake and the sort of food artisanship in its small communities that breeds terroir.
To do this, Corrente has kept the traditional format of an Italian menu, complete with an antipasti section (of which half are fresh salads), a pasta section featuring dishes around nine varieties of fresh, housemade pastas and a secondi section, with meat and seafood options.
In Italy, Corrente says that there are more than 100 varieties of traditional pastas. To guide diners and let them tailor their meal around the cuisine of a particular region, the Arcadian’s pasta section is divided into three sections, with dishes from Italy’s southern, central and northern regions. Traditional dishes like Tagliatelle Bolognese and Spaghetti cacio e pepe populate the menu, along with creative fusions like the Pumpkin Mezzalune, which features half-moon pasta stuffed with local pumpkin, and served with brown butter, almond and sage breadcrumbs.
“We try to run everything we do through the Vermont, New England filter. We ask, can we get good ingredients for that dish here? If not, should we do it?” Corrente said. Often, the answer is yes — with a little creativity.
“Right now, we are kind of in the winter doldrums of local produce,” said Corrente a couple weeks ago. “For our caprese salad, which would traditionally feature fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, we’ve opted to keep it local. Instead of tomatoes, we are serving beets. We made and smoked our own mozzarella in-house [with Vermont milk]. We added a little blood orange to the mix for some acid.”
With regard to the pasta, Corrente chose to make it the focus of his menu because he enjoys making it. “Pasta brings me a lot of joy to make.”
Hashtag “sparkjoy” everyone.
BLACK ORECCIETTE, A seafood dish that features pasta made with fresh squid ink, is a specialty at the Arcadian in Middlebury.
Independent photo/Steve James
To make the nine varieties of pasta on the menu, Corrente and his cooks use an extruder machine and a mix of old-fashioned rolling pins and delicate handwork.
“We have four or five varieties that can be cranked through the machine,” Corrente said. “These doughs use semolina flour, which is very fine, and can be hydrated with things like spinach puree, squid ink or wine as well as water.”
The linguine, tagliatelle and ravioli are all made by hand. Linguine and tagliatelle are rolled and cut from a high-protein flour dough with lots of eggs for chewiness and strength, while the ravioli is softer and designed to have a gentle give when chewed.
Once formed, the pastas are portioned and cooked fresh when a customer orders. Corrente is working now on developing a new pasta dough, hydrated with saffron tea from a local farm in Addison County. He’s also working on a house-made gluten free option.
Corrente doesn’t count out the individual pieces of pasta made but said that, “in a really busy week, we’ve gone through as many as 100 dozen eggs and 200 pounds of flour.”
In addition to specialty pasta dishes like the black orecchiette, a seafood dish that features pasta made with fresh squid ink, the Arcadian features seafood like the Arctic char with local sunchokes, sweet onion and cider glaze and Steak Diane, a mustard-crusted hanger steak with roasted cippolini and crimini mushrooms.
Each dish can be paired with one of the restaurant’s rotating list of more than 24 wines, each of which are hand-chosen according to region and variety. Most are old world and half are from female vintners. Or try one of the creative cocktails, which are herbally infused with creative ingredients inspired by the food cultures of First Nation Peoples across North America (looking for a sidecar? Try the Balama, which features brandy, apple preserves, rose orgeat, toasted honey and cappelletti).
“We want to build accessibility in our menu,” explained Corrente. “So people can come for a dish of pasta and a drink after work or sit in the dining room on an anniversary and share a meal that inspires memory with service that makes them want to come back.”
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