One of New York City’s most popular Italian restaurateurs, you might think that Michael White is from the old country. And after years traveling and studying cuisine in Italy, the Midwesterner certainly cooks like a native paisan, but his pedigree is firmly stateside.
Spending time at Chicago’s Spiaggia, one of the U.S.’s best Italian kitchens (and a nominee this year for Outstanding Restaurant), helped sharpen his skills before moving to NYC in 2002 to open Fiamma in Soho, where he received three stars from the New York Times. In 2009, White opened the seafood-focused Marea, where signatures such as fusilli with red wine-braised octopus and bone marrow earned him another three-star review from the New York Times, two stars from the Michelin guide, and a James Beard Foundation award for Best New Restaurant 2009. An empire quickly ensued, with Osteria Morini and Ai Fiori opening 2011, pizzeria Nicoletta in 2012 and restaurants spanning the globe from New Jersey to Hong Kong. This is White’s third consecutive nomination for Best Chef New York City.
This chef profile is part of a series we’re running as part of the annual James Beard Foundation Awards and Gala, commonly referred to as the “Oscars of the food world.” Winners will be announced on Monday, May 6, at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. For more information, see our introductory story.