“Strada” means street or boulevard in Italian. The restaurant calls to mind a traditional neighborhood trattoria. Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, the building is a renovated late Victorian building completed in the 1880’s when the railroad first came to Asheville. The ambiance with rich woods, warm tones and custom copper architectural is welcoming, casual and romantic. Our service is friendly and welcoming. Strada is the perfect place to enjoy an evening with friends or dinner for two.
The menu includes dishes representing all regions of Italy, including Chef Anthony Cerrato’s traditional family recipes. Hand-tossed pizzas, savory pastas, grilled or sautéed meats and seafood, house-made desserts, as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options are all made to order and feature locally sourced ingredients from Sunburst Farms, Ivy Creek Family Farm and Fork Mountain Farm, among others. The drink selection includes local brews on tap, biodynamic and organically produced Italian wines, as well as a host of fine liquors and cocktails.
Strada adjoins the Social Lounge, a craft cocktail bar with a unique rooftop patio and light fare. On request the full Strada menu is available next door. Catering and private dining are available.
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHEF ANTHONY
Why did you decide to become a chef?
When I was a child, my mother and grandmother always brought me into the kitchen to help them, I was always interested in the food and how it was prepared. I remember looking through the oven window at my mom’s “heart healthy” lasagna. She was blown away when I used my sense of smell to determine that she had used cottage cheese instead of ricotta. She swore me to secrecy. When I was 9 I remember making dinner for my whole family, my mom took me to the store where I selected ingredients for salad, bread, meatloaf, fresh veggies and potatoes. It took me all day and I remember being so proud of my accomplishment-especially the scratch-made bread.
There were three things I wanted to be: photographer, engineer or chef. I almost took a scholarship to New Jersey Institute of Technology but my father (who was in construction and later the restaurant business) pushed me towards the chef route. I made a ricotta cheesecake at his restaurant and Sheila Tillman, who was an instructor in the AB Tech culinary program and is currently the dean of the department, asked to see who made the cake. She basically insisted that I join the program.
What is your food point of view?
Classic preparations that are fresh, simple and authentic. Traditional with a modern flair. To me it’s about using high quality ingredients, pairing them with complimentary flavors and letting them speak for themselves.
What is your regular comfort meal?
Definitely a cheesy pasta dish. I love anything with contrasting textures and flavors like creamy with crispy or spicy with sweet.
You offer gluten free and vegetarian options why is that important to you?
Any dietary restriction or lifestyle choice is important to me because I feel people should have options and be comfortable trusting that we will take care of them. There is a lot of anxiety around going out to eat when you have a dietary restriction or food allergy, I want people to relax and enjoy their experience knowing that we will take their considerations seriously and provide them with options. This is one reason we prepare food a la minute so we can provide alternatives for each dish.
How does your family and culture influence your menu?
In Italian culture, family is the most important thing. My family is always honored on my menus by having special dishes named after them. For example the Johnny Aversano stuffed pizza is named after my cousin and uncle who are both named Johnny. They are both bigger guys and the stuffed pie really matches up with their tastes.
Having an Italian background and a large family drives me to create fresh food with simple applications which also can be adapted based on everyone’s preferences.
Ingredients make the dish how do you choose your ingredients and do you have a favorite?
Quality ingredients, local when possible, are always the way to go. You don’t have to worry about making it taste great because it already does. My favorite is cheese, I love cheese, any kind of cheese. I also choose ingredients, whether local or not, by the history of the producer. A good story makes for a good ingredient. It builds a bridge with the product and is more fun to sell.
Do you have a favorite wine?
Cantina Zacagnini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Even the bottle is unique- each bottle has a piece of the vine attached to the neck. I also like Valpolicella Ripasso by Michele Castellani, I had the opportunity to meet him at his winery on a trip through Italy in 2013. He had the most massive, weathered hands that in his late 60s he still used to pick the grapes which he would then air dry in a barn on the vineyard. Seeing the process and meeting the people made the wine taste even better. Learning his story and knowing how deeply involved he was connected me to the wine.
What is important when it comes to making a cocktail?
I think its technique. Knowing when to stir or shake is very important. Just like in food, high quality ingredients make for the best product. You also must understand your guest’s palate and create something they will enjoy.
How do you strike a balance between local and authentic?
It all comes down to quality. Just because something is local doesn’t make it the best match for your menu. You must regularly examine each ingredient to determine what source is best.
What is your favorite thing about Asheville?
Its home to me and has been for a long time. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. It boils down to that sense of familiarity and comfort that makes a place your home. You could go on forever about the visual and performing artists, breweries, farmers, chefs but it comes down to pride in the community and its grassroots connections and efforts that make it what it is.