Meet Chef Justin Severino, Pennsylvania Tastemaker

Chef Justin Severino is known for his emphasis on local ingredients, and inspired interpretations of Mediterranean cuisine. The world has taken notice.

Justin’s been recognized as a nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Mid-Atlantic four times, and has been awarded the People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic by FOOD & WINE twice. His restaurants, Cure and Morcilla, have become much-praised culinary destinations for those seeking upscale fare in a casual, neighborhood atmosphere.

Creative chefs like Justin are changing the minds and palates of America. Cure’s website says that the vision for the restaurant “is for it to be a reflection of the seasons in Western Pennsylvania and its local farms.” The menus at Justin’s restaurants are indeed an evocative representation of everything local, including meat, cheese, produce, spirits and wine.

The idea of wine-pairing plays heavily into the food at Cure and Morcilla. A carefully curated wine list put together by the General Manager Martina DiBattista and co-owner Hilary Prescott Severino, showcases local Pennsylvania winemaker Briar Valley Winery. “It’s delicious,” says Justin. “We know the owners, and they’re both really nice people.”

With the ever-changing menus at both of Justin’s Pittsburgh restaurants, pairings can be ephemeral.

However, his favorite wines are as sure as the change of seasons.  “My favorite Pennsylvania winery is Briar Valley. I love them,” Justin confides. “I think they do a really great job with all of their wines. The one I’ve enjoyed best is their cabernet franc. It’s all kind of up in the air in terms of how it pairs with food.”

On the menu now at Cure is an amazing bite to savor with local wine: Brûléed Goat Rodeo Chèvre with caramelized onion & tahini babka, sour prune and pea tendrils. Pair with Briar Valley chardonnay from Bedford for a combination that is at once revelatory and transcendent. Cure’s menu changes frequently (as does Morcilla’s), so ask for recommendations from your server if you happen to visit but don’t find this duo available.

One of the big draws to Cure and Morcilla is the house-made charcuterie. Justin is a skilled whole-animal butcher, and creates world-class cured meats for each restaurant from locally sourced ingredients.

Cured meats are very wine-friendly, as Justin expounds: “White wines and pink wines…something dry would probably be my favorite. You’re typically enjoying charcuterie at the beginning of a meal…so you want to start light, so you can build up to something robust.”

The idea of local wines fits with Justin’s approach to cuisine. “We try to source so much of what we use in the restaurant from what’s local. It makes sense to us….We want our food to reflect what our farmers are doing. Likewise, if you can round that whole concept off with wine that was sourced with the same mentality as the food, I think it makes sense to people.”

Chef Severino’s success has been largely built on the cornerstone of dramatically fresh local ingredients. With Pennsylvania’s being fifth in the nation for wine production, there’s a bounty of amazing local wines to be explored, from all over the state. In the Pittsburgh area alone, there are dozens of wineries with award-winning offerings waiting to be discovered. Don’t wait to find out what gems are waiting in your backyard. Go to pennsylvaniawine.com to find out more about the great wineries you can visit to taste locally made specialties, and even bring a bottle home!

 

The Pennsylvania Winery Association is a trade association representing more than 100 member wineries and an advocate on behalf of the state’s growing multibillion-dollar wine industry. With some of the most fertile grape-growing land on the East Coast, Pennsylvania ranks fifth nationally in the amount of grapes grown, seventh in wine production, and seventh in the number of licensed wineries. To learn more about Pennsylvania wine or to plan a trip, visit PennsylvaniaWine.com.

Nathan Greenwood

Photo credit: Adam Milliron

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