On one of his many trips to Italy, celebrated Valley chef and restaurateur Tomaso Maggiore stopped with his grandchildren in the town of Parma to dine on “something light.” He sampled an eggplant dish and liked it so much that his grandchildren urged him to meet the chef and get the recipe. “So the gentleman not only gave me the recipe, he showed me the way it was made,” he says.
Maggiore returned to the Valley with the eggplant fondue recipe ($17 lunch; $26 dinner) and now serves the head-turning dish at Tomaso’s on Camelback in Phoenix and at Tomaso’s When in Rome in Scottsdale. Cooking eggplant is notoriously tricky, but Maggiore nails it. First, he sprinkles sea salt on thin, purple-skinned slices to sweat out the bitterness and then lightly dusts them with flour and egg wash before frying in very hot olive oil until browned.
To assemble the dish, Maggiore layers five slices of eggplant with a cheese fondue fashioned from cream, egg yolk and Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano cheeses, finished with an infusion of mild and nutty fontina cheese. He tops the stack with tomato-basil sauce and then bakes until it’s cooked through. If that’s not enough earthy and cheesy perfection on one plate, Maggiore seduces with a pile of achingly tender potato gnocchi stuffed with ricotta and fresh spinach that literally melts in your mouth. “That’s what I call a gastronomic orgasm,” he says.
TOMASO'S ON CAMELBACK
3225 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
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