Dinner with Chef Jose Duarte of Taranta Cucina Meridonale [Boston]
This post marks my first entry to my
Dinner with a Chef
series, where I chat and dine with the chefs of my favorite restaurants. This month, I had the pleasure of speaking with
, chef and owner of the highly popular and award winning Peruvian-Italian restaurant
, located in the historic North End of Boston.
Finance Foodie: Jose, as you have lived and cooked all over the world (Peru, Venezuela, Philadelphia, Florida), what made you decide to open your own restaurant in Boston?
Jose Duarte: I had no doubt I would pursue a career in the food industry. I love food and always had a strong interest in ethnic cuisine, especially food that associated with culture and history. I spent pretty much my whole life in the restaurant and hospitality industry and have traveled the world from it. My wife is from Boston and an opportunity came up for me to start a business here and the rest is history!
FF: How was the transition from working for someone else to running your own place?
JD: I feel it is necessary to work for someone else to learn, but I always found practices that I could improve upon while observing my old bosses. I have owned Taranta for almost 10 years but still feel that the learning process is continuous. Trends change continuously in the [restaurant] business and it is important to be proactive in learning and improving your methodology.
FF: You are very involved with the green initiative and have won several awards for your efforts [Ed Note: Taranta is one of the few Certified green restaurants in the world]. Can you tell me about how you became involved with this cause?
JD: In the beginning we started as a way to minimize electricity and water expenses. But then I started researching more into this issue and realized there was so much more we could do and how much of an environmental impact can be made. Now, the trucks we use run on vegetable oil for gas and have our own bottling system for water which reduces the carbon footprint. We have a blog on our website that talks in detail on our initiatives to educate and spread the word to our customers and the Boston community on the importance of sustainability and environmental conservation. I also speak to local universities and other restaurateurs about Taranta’s green project and how seemingly small changes can have a huge benefit for the world we live in. I am now known as Boston’s “Green Guy” [chuckle chuckle].
FF: What are the top three traits that a good chef / restaurateur should have?
JD: Knowledge and flexibility, but most importantly, passion and enjoyment for what you do.
FF: Best cooking tip?
JD: Use quality ingredients. You cannot build a house without a good foundation.
FF: Favorite kitchen tool?
JD: Knives. Every kitchen should have a set of fine knives.
FF: Tell me about the dishes on the table
JD: Tonight we are having the Pan Roasted Mussels and Lamb Gnocchi, two of the most popular dishes on the menu. The mussels are sautéed in
's most famous wine) and tossed with Italian bacon and shallots. The gnocchi is made with Peruvian cassava root and marinated with slow braised "Chicha de Jora" (a t
raditional South American alcoholic beverage made from fermented dried corn
) green lamb ragu and shaved parmesan cheese. Tantara is the only Peruvian-Italian fusion restaurant in the
area and maybe in the entire
[Ed Note: Both dishes were delicious – simple in presentation but rich in flavor for the tastebuds. I especially liked the Lamb Gnocchi dish, as the gnocchi pasta was firm and perfectly cooked]
JD: Keeping up with technological advancement and being organized. I spend a lot of time developing out website and learning about all the ways the Internet can help a business. I even use Facebook to connect with chefs from all around the world! I want to continue to develop and perfect these ventures in addition to running Taranta, as well as other initiatives so stay tuned!
Taranta is a restaurant specializing in Italian and Latin food in the North End area of Boston. Chef and Owner Jose Duarte combines his Peruvian roots with Southern Italian cuisine in the kitchen of Taranta. The restaurant has won numerous awards for their cuisine and their commitment to environmental responsibility.
The food at Taranta is a fusion of Southern Italian and Peruvian flavors prepared with vibrant and fresh ingredients. Some reviewers rave about interesting and unique dishes such as the Chicha de Jora featuring slow-braised lamb. Other reviewers recommend the seafood such as the Saffron Trout or Pan Roasted Mussels. Many mention that the portions are generous.
Many reviewers agree that the atmosphere at Taranta is intimate and romantic. The restaurant is a great place for a date, but they also are accommodating of large parties, some reviewers say. Some mention that the restaurant features live music and it can get loud and congested at times.
Most reviewers mention that the service at Taranta is attentive and friendly. The servers are knowledgable about the menu and eager to give a wine pairing. Some do say that on busy nights, the wait times can become long and service can become slower.