Meet Fedele: Citarella’s Executive Chef

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Old World tradition in every dish.

The sun is sinking into the late afternoon sky, painting the clouds along New York’s East River bright pink, but inside Citarella’s kitchen there are dozens of cooks, dressed in fresh white aprons and crisp, checkered chef’s pants, hard at work. Friendly banter is exchanged in time with the rhythm of their work: heavy, stainless steel pans clang as they are set atop the stove; fresh garlic sizzles in cooking oil; and knives tap on cutting boards. Throughout the kitchen cooks are busy —peeling and chopping a colorful medley of fresh produce, braising beef in red wine, and carefully seasoning big batches of creamy homemade chowder.

“Delizioso!” a man in a tall chef’s hat smiles as he tests a spoonful of scratch-made Marinara. “Thank you, Chef” the cook replies before giving the sauce one final stir.

Chef Fedele’s approval is the mark of a job well-done within the Citarella kitchen. Chosen by Citarella’s owner Joe for his outstanding culinary experience in Italy and New York, his knowledge of gourmet cooking and ingredients is superlative and his commitment to upholding authentic, time-honored culinary traditions, steadfast.

Fedele’s passion for fine food began many years ago, when he was a teenager in Italy. Having already worked in a restaurant during high school, he decided to become a chef. After completing a 20-month culinary program (and cooking in many other restaurants around Italy), the then 19-year-old Fedele was given the opportunity to work at the prestigious Leonardo da Vinci Hotel in Rome. With 3 kitchens and a staff of hundreds, it was there that he sharpened his skills, learning how to cook with distinction on a grand scale.

His diligence paid off: not long thereafter, Fedele was recruited for a culinary position in the United States — the move that eventually led him to Citarella. After 3 years in that role and several more running the 6th Avenue kitchen at Balducci’s, Fedele and former co-worker, Charlie (Citarella’s original butcher) started a small gourmet food business in Roslyn, Long Island. In time, Joe learned of Fedele’s talent and asked him to join the growing Citarella team. And, much like Charlie, Fedele could see Joe’s passion for quality — so he agreed.

fedelepic1Though the kitchen at the time was small (and operated out of the basement of Citarella’s original Upper West Side location) Fedele wasted no time in producing authentic Italian favorites for Joe’s growing gourmet market. Silky poached salmon, tender calamari salad, and savory stuffed artichokes: Joe and Fedele worked together to bring dozens of delicious, scratch-made recipes to local New Yorkers — fresh every day. And, should locals pass Citarella’s storefront, at the right time each day, they could even watch fresh pasta being made by hand in the front window.

The press and local shoppers took notice and Citarella’s chef-prepared foods flourished, leading to the need for a bigger kitchen space. So, in 1996 Joe opened a warehouse and commissary on 18th street. The rapid addition of other Citarella locations (The Upper East Side store in 1997, Water Mill in 2000, East Hampton in 2002, and Greenwich Village in 2003) however, meant that Fedele’s team of cooks were outgrowing this space. Not wanting to compromise his commitment to having a world-class chef overseeing all the cooking, Joe moved his team to a bigger space. Citarella’s kitchen relocated to one of the world’s largest food hubs: Hunt’s Point — giving Chef Fedele and his team undisputed access to the freshest and best ingredients coming into New York.

In the year’s that have followed, Fedele has helped to shape the menu at Citarella and create some of our most beloved dishes — the towering Italian masterpiece that is our lasagna Bolognese, peppery sautéed broccoli di rabe, three different varieties of meatball, and more —remaining true to his Italian roots while catering to New York City’s melting pot of culinary traditions. In fact, many of the dishes he lovingly creates for our gourmet markets are the exact same ones that he serves around his own family table.

Try one of Fedele’s dishes and you’ll know that he’s been cooking for decades. But, ask this seasoned chef about his recipes and he’ll tell you that he thinks of them as his children (sources of pride that he has helped shape and develop over the years) — a true testament to his passion for cooking and the loving care that goes into every handcrafted batch.