2010 Chef of the Year: Matthew Porco
Porco, a self-described protein lover, is passionate about correctly preparing meat—whether it’s leaving short ribs or Amish chicken on the bone after cooking to bring out the best flavor or making sure duck is cooked until the skin is perfectly crispy.
Chef of the Year
P art of what makes a great chef is having confidence in your vision, and Matthew Porco, executive chef and owner of Mio Kitchen and Wine Bar, has that in spades.
“My philosophy is to develop recipes and menu concepts that create continuity,” he says. “In general, cooks are artistic to some degree, but we’re also very methodical, which is why I want ingredients on the line to be in the same exact order every day. Inconsistency comes with things changing around too much.”
Porco, a self-described protein lover, is passionate about correctly preparing meat—whether it’s leaving short ribs or Amish chicken on the bone after cooking to bring out the best flavor or making sure duck is cooked until the skin is perfectly crispy. In keeping with his initial plan to create a wine-driven restaurant, these and other dishes—rich in flavor but without a surplus of overpowering ingredients—easily pair with wine.
Offering about 170 bottles and 20 to 25 wines by the glass, Mio is a great spot for experimental sipping, and the staff is knowledgeable and encourages creative pairings. Porco’s days are filled not just with cooking but also sourcing the best ingredients possible, whether from Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance or from a friend from high school (Porco grew up in Aspinwall) who’s now growing organic vegetables and herbs specifically for the restaurant.
His partnership with local pastry chef Barbara Ferguson has yielded a terrific dessert menu, which dovetails with the menu’s sensibility in such dishes as a brownie sundae with salted caramel ice cream, banana sorbet, hot-fudge sauce and glazed peanuts.
Ever ambitious, Porco has spent part of this year developing a new concept for an old-school New York-style pizzeria (takeout and delivery only); it’s scheduled to open this month just a stone’s throw from his restaurant. Ultimately, Porco says his goal in having a restaurant is simple: “I want people to look at the menu and have their eyes get big because so many things look good—and then come back again and again because they taste as good as they look,” he says. Our vote says “mission accomplished.”
Mio Kitchen & Wine Bar: 225 Commercial Ave., Aspinwall; 412/781-3141, mio-pgh.com.