ne of New York’s most beloved and respected chefs, Scott Conant brings a deft touch and unwavering passion to creating food that is unexpected and soulful. This year marks his return to the culinary scene with the opening of Scarpetta in New York City’s Meatpacking District and Miami’s Fontainebleau resort.
Conant’s love of cooking began at an early age. Growing up in an Italian-American household in Litchfield County, Connecticut, he began taking cooking classes at the local community college at age 11. At 15, he enrolled in a trade school for culinary arts and went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
While at CIA, Conant had the opportunity to intern at New York City’s famed San Domenico, an experience that had a decisive impact on the young chef. After graduation, he spent a year in Munich, Germany mastering the art of pastry at the Hotel Bayerisher Hof. He returned to the States and San Domenico, working as a sous chef and helping the restaurant garner three stars from The New York Times.
In 1995, Cesare Casella selected him to be chef de cuisine at Il Toscanaccio, an Upper East Side Tuscan restaurant. A year later, Conant went on to revamp two institutions: Barolo in Soho and Chianti on the Upper East Side. When a chance to open a new restaurant presented itself, Conant accepted the position of executive chef at City Eatery. Conant and his modern take on Italian cuisine got the attention of New Yorkers, earning him a loyal following and a glowing two-star review from The New York Times in 2000.
In 2001, Conant was approached about opening a restaurant in a quiet, largely undiscovered Manhattan neighborhood called Tudor City. In preparation, he traveled to Italy for an extensive tour where he worked with some of the country’s most celebrated chefs and reconnected with his mother’s relatives in Beneveto. Inspired by his time there, Conant returned to the States with a menu that seamlessly fused the classic dishes of his childhood with his own interpretations of Italian cuisine.
In September 2002, L’Impero opened in Tudor City. Within weeks, the restaurant received a rave three-star review from The New York Times, and Gourmet declared that Conant “raises the roof on the Manhattan school of Italian cooking.” A year later, Conant’s signature pastas appeared on the cover of Food & Wine, and the magazine went on to name Conant one of America’s “Best New Chefs” in 2004. L’Impero received top honors from the James Beard Foundation in 2003, including “Best New Restaurant” in the U.S. and “Outstanding Restaurant Design.” In October 2003, Conant was featured on the cover of Gourmet for its “Chefs Rock” issue, and in March 2004, Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl named L’Impero one of her favorite New York restaurants.
Following the success of L’Impero, Conant went on to open Alto, a sophisticated Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan that offered his interpretation of Northern Italian cuisine.
Ready for the next chapter in his career, Conant left L’Impero and Alto to bring his years of experience and learning to a restaurant that is 100 percent his own creation. Scarpetta is that restaurant. An Italian expression that means “little shoe” — or the shape bread takes when used to soak up a dish – Scarpetta represents the pure pleasure of savoring a meal down to the very last taste. The restaurant’s design reflects the chef’s earthy yet modern approach to Italian cuisine. In July 2008, Scarpetta received a glowing three-star review from the New York Times and New York Magazine. In November 2008, Scarpetta was named one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine.
A natural on television, Conant has appeared on The Today Show, the Food Network, Bravo’s “Top Chef” and Good Morning America. In 2005, he published his first cookbook, New Italian Cooking, followed by Bold Italian in April 2008, his second cookbook with Random House. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Meltem.