photos by Dakota Fine
all words: Svetlana Legetic
It is a cold and rainy day and after already doing a radio interview at 8am, now, at 9:15 Mike Isabella is not only opening the doors to his fridge to us but he’s also making us food. Shrimp with that famous pepperoni sauce that everyone’s been talking about since TOP CHEF ALL STARS finale (Washington Post has the recipe-fyi)
We’re here to talk about both Graffiato, his new Chinatown eatery set to open VERY SOON (more on that in a separate story) but also to see what a TOP CHEF has in his fridge.
But, first things first: He’s chopping, he’s sauteeing, he’s spreading the pepperoni sauce gospel (yes, it WILL BE on the Graffiato menu and YES, it really does go with everything).
You instantly notice how easy he is to hang out with-just a dude, in his kitchen, making you the food that millions of TV viewers would kill to taste. NBD. When he says that the whole concept of GRAFFIATO is food he likes to eat, drinks he likes to drink, served in a place he’d love to hang out with his friends at (and open late) – you actually believe him. And get a little more excited for it, now that, you know, you KNOW him.
And yes, the final product is very delicious: sweet and savory, with a nice little spicy kick at the end. The only complaint Dakota and I have is that we would love some bread on the side to sop up all the sauce, like greedy little pepperoni loving sauce people that we are.
BUT REALLY this is all about the fridge, so bellies full, we open the doors to the kingdom.
As we have learned in fridges past, the doors are always a good way to start since chefs love:
- a. their condiments
- and b. their drinks
Isabella’s fridge door has a compartment just for Asian sauces (your chilli sauces and srirachas) and another one for the kinds America loves: your ketchups, dijon mustards and steak sauces.
Naturally, there is also some serious “chef butter”, as we like to call it (Mike used to bake nutella cookies for Chinatown Coffee co, so lots of remnants of the baking days remain):
The bottom of the door reveals:
- one lone Red Stripe (“Spike left that here”)
- A couple of bottles of champagne (“My wife is a champagne drinker”)
and starts a conversation about Mike’s love for bourbon, which he takes straight or with apple cider, which he is kept on the top shelf of the fridge, alongside other non-alcoholic drinks:
- mountain dew (“I try to buy smaller bottles now”)
- vitamin water (“For the wife”)
- Milk (they have cereal every morning)
- Snapple Ice Tea
- Tonic and plain water.
The Isabellas like to stay hydrated.
#1 bourbon choice is Basil Hayden’s which is whipped out, looked at lovingly, and then taken away since, you know, it is 9:30am. Next time.
As you can expect, there is A LOT OF CHEESE and A LOT OF CURED MEATS in this fridge. Isabellas love the Dupont Farmer’s Market and Cowgirl Creamery and are constantly trying out new products (like Olli Salumis from locally raised Virginia pigs)
(you can never have enough pepperoncinis)
Then, right next to it:
- greek yoghurt (Of course, the man did spend years at Zaytinya)
- Mike’s favorite black bean salsa
- and a sea of home made sauces and reductions:
- Fig compote
- Stone Fruit Chutney
- Balsamic Reduction
- Curry Pastes
- roasted shallots
- and A LOT of olives and artichokes
- the crisper is filled with citrus:
And then as I am madly scribbling away, Dakota opens up the freezer door and screams “WE’VE HIT THE MOTHER LOAD”. Isabellas cook a lot, and as such, they also freeze A LOT (“that vacuum packing thing is my wife’s favorite home tool”).
We attempt to inventory wealth:
- skirt steaks
- flank steaks
- home made tomato soups
- kefir lime leaves
- brussel sprouts
- and a solid, honest amount of Gelato
One thing is for sure, you will never go hungry in this house: