Sicilian Chef Accursio Lotà Makes Italian Local at Solare Ristorante

By Shannon Essa | January 30, 2016
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Accursio Lotà

Around the time Carlo Petroni started the Slow Food movement in Italy, Accursio Lotà was already growing up "slow food." He grew up in Menfi, a small coastal town in Sicily, rich in local bounty. Fruits and vegetables came from the family garden. Seafood was purchased from local fishermen. Olive oil was produced from his family's own olive trees and cheese was sourced from local goat farms, still warm from production.

His childhood taught Accursio not only the value of the local foods and flavors he grew up with, but the value of any area's local foods and flavors. After graduating from culinary school and a few internships, he went to work for famed chef Sergio Mei at the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan. "Chef Mei gave me his passion for Italian culinary tradition," says Accursio. "Working with inventive, but honest, flavors, I also learned the techniques of fine-dining cuisine."

It was Sergio Mei who would in the end be responsible for Accursio's move to California. After working for Mei for over two years, Accursio was ready to move on and went into Mei's office to request a transfer. Fully expecting to be told off, he was instead asked where he wanted to go. He blurted out "California" because he played drums and loved American rock music.

So, at the age of 22, Accursio Lotà found himself living in Santa Barbara and cooking at the Biltmore Four Seasons Hotel. He moved to San Diego in 2011 and went to work for Bernard Guillas and Ron Oliver at the Marine Room in La Jolla where as sous-chef he learned a lot about new ingredients and fusion cooking. Accursio was grateful for that education, but his heart was in Italian food. So in 2012, when Randy Smerik offered him the executive chef position at Solare Restaurant and Lounge in Point Loma, he jumped on it and now has pagina bianca— blank paper, as they say in Italy—to cook what he wants to cook.

"The cooking process can come from three different places," Accursio says. "One is the ingredient. Another is technique. The third is memory. Usually these three particular things fuse together, but the "spark" comes from one of the three."

Using a combination of local products and ingredients imported from Italy, the food from Accursio's kitchen at Solare blends the ideas and techniques of his home country with its centuries of tradition and San Diego's burgeoning farm-to-table scene.

Besides lunch, dinner and a popular happy hour, Solare presents monthly regional "feasts." Every month a particular Italian region, such as Emilia Romagna or Liguria, is chosen and up to 40 people dine family style on dishes from that region.

"People love these feasts, especially if they have been to Italy.

Imagine you are in Italy and go to eat with your family on Sunday," says Accursio. By bringing both tradition and a sense of adventure to the Solare kitchen, Accursio Lotà provides San Diego diners not only with delicious food, but with an Italian food education. For that, we say grazie mille!

Solare Ristorante and Lounge
(619) 270-9670
2820 Roosevelt Rd #104, San Diego, CA 92106

Article from Edible San Diego at http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/sicilian-chef-accursio-lota-makes-italian-local-solare-ristorante
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