Chef Alberico Nunziata Adds a Taste of Italy to the Beverly Hilton
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As executive chef at Circa 55, the signature restaurant at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Alberico Nunziata is also in charge of the cuisine for the parade of red carpet events hosted annually at the hotel — most recently the 74th Golden Globes.
Nunziata began cooking when he was 14 and attended culinary school in Sorrento in southern Italy. Before he travelled across the pond, Nunziata spent 10 years cooking for the general manager of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Italian prime minister, as well as hosting his own cooking show. He appeared on Top Chef Italy and met Joe Bastianich, who persuaded Nunziata to move to America.
“I preferred cooking in kitchens to appearing on television, so I took a chance and came to the U.S.,” said Nunziata. Bastianich hired him as executive chef for the school at New York’s Eataly, where he taught cooking classes and consulted on the menu.
After a visit to California, which reminded him of his hometown in Italy, Nunziata decided to move west, where he held positions in a number of the fine-dining restaurants at the high-end mall The Grove. He soon moved to Casa Del Mar’s Catch restaurant in Santa Monica. “I love cooking lighter dishes that incorporate fresh fish, so Catch was a great opportunity to showcase my experience,” said Nunziata.
After a year, he spotted a job opening for an executive chef at the Beverly Hilton. “It was such a big job. I knew I could introduce some exciting new flavors so I applied,” he said.
Nunziata was hired and began reimagining what was then the Beverly Hilton’s predominantly Asian-inspired menus. The new, more Italian-centric CIRCA 55 menu opens with appetizers of tomato soup with burrata, fried calamari and shrimp in marinara sauce, tomatoes with burrata, homemade meatballs, and eggplant parmigiana. The pasta menu features ricotta ravioli, sausage and mushroom fettuccine, lasagna bolognese, spaghetti with clams, and black squid ink pasta with seafood. Main dishes include a seafood soup with calamari, shrimp, mussels, and clams; grilled branzino with asparagus and tomatoes; roasted chicken with rosemary, romesco, spinach, and artichokes; a New York steak with potatoes, onions, and chard; and a rack of lamb with rosemary and watercress salad.
The menu also features a variety of pizzas, including tomato and cheese, vegetarian, salami and mushrooms, and a four-cheese option without tomato sauce.
Nunziata also swapped out all of the frozen ingredients used at the poolside Trader Vic’s bar, which he also oversees, and replaced them with fresh vegetables and proteins. “I didn’t change a lot of the dishes at Trader Vic’s as it is a chain restaurant, but I wanted to make sure all the dishes included fresh ingredients,” he said.
These two months are big ones for the new chef and the Hilton, as January and February are the main awards months in Hollywood. The hotel has just hosted not only the Golden Globes award show, but also five after-parties.
“I was very excited to combine the timeless elegance of the Beverly Hilton with my fresh take on Italian fare and introduce guests and award attendees to a totally unique dining experience,” said Nunziata.
Approximately 1,300 of Hollywood’s most celebrated film and television stars and behind-the-scenes creators dined and participated in the live Globes telecast, which aired Sunday, Jan. 8 on NBC. An additional 3,000 guests attended viewing parties and after-parties throughout the famous hotel.
Moët & Chandon provided the bubbly for the awards, with more than 1,500 Imperial minis, 125 cases of Grand Vintage 2006. and magnums of Moët Rosé Imperial. As the official cocktail of the awards, 500 Moët Diamond Champagne Cocktails were served, featuring champagne, orange liqueur, cherry bitters, and rock candy.
Chef Nunziata’s three-course menu for the awards ceremony included a salad of herb-roasted golden and red beets, watermelon radish, arugula, crumbled goat cheese, roasted pistachios, and grapefruit topped with a lime ceviche dressing; filet mignon and roasted Chilean sea bass with celery purée and house-made sundried tomato pesto, accompanied by 24-month-aged-Parmigianino risotto topped with wild mushrooms and broccolini; and finally a trio of desserts, including profiteroles with amaretto vanilla cream, sugared almonds, and chocolate sauce; chocolate gianduja crunch bars with layers of praline and chocolate amaretto mousse; and a Neapolitan almond cake with orange mascarpone cream — all plated with a sweet strawberry coulis.