Chef Erik Pettersen’s culinary mantra is these five words: What do you believe in?
One dinner at Pettersen’s Evo Italian restaurant in Tequesta, Fla., gives you a clear answer. Pettersen believes in authentic Italian cuisine cooked with passion, presented with flair and served with style.
It’s a formula learned from his Sicilian grandparents while growing up in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
“All my grandmother did was cook, clean and raise kids,’’ Pettersen said. “I helped her cook.’’
Armed with his grandmother’s passion for cooking, Pettersen left high school when he was 16 years old to pursue an education in kitchens of some of Manhattan’s top restaurants.
“I learned from a lot of French chefs,’’ Pettersen said. “I learned how to cook French sauces and Italian sauces. That’s what gives the flair to my cooking.’’
Ten years ago, Pettersen kept a promise to his mother, who was ill with cancer, to bring that flair to his own restaurant.
“While she was sick we would sit up and talk about that,’’ Pettersen said. “All of that talking inspired me to open my own place.’’
Ten years ago, Pettersen opened Evo (Evolution) Italian as a 30-seat restaurant in Tequesta and drew rave reviews from locals and food critics.
“It just kind of exploded,’’ he said.
Slightly more than five years ago he moved Evo Italian into a larger space in Tequesta.
“Thankfully everybody followed,’’ Pettersen said.
And why not? Pettersen’s menu is a showcase of classic, authentic Italian cuisine, from the imported cheeses (you gotta have the Buratta Pugliese) to the housemade pastas and sauces, along with family recipes.
My favorite? The Lasagnette Bolognese (Pettersen’s grandmother’s recipe) made with homemade semolina pasta sheets, whipped ricotta, Pecorino Romano, layered with bolognese sauce and imported bufala mozzarella.
Well-crafted and put together, the Lasagnette Bolognese doesn’t fall or get sloppy when eaten. It might be the perfect Italian dish. But that’s no surprise. It’s what Pettersen believes in. One visit to Evo Italian, and you will believe, too.