Words | Debbie Burke
Chef Nicola Mersini has worked for some of the most demanding and upscale kitchens in the world, including Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Mexico City and in the US. Since 2004, he has brought sharp skills and a passion for food to his own establishment in Stroudsburg, called Momento Pizzeria & Restaurant.
While half of the restaurant is an informal and family-friendly gathering place for pizza, pasta and the like, the other side of the restaurant provides a fine dining experience. The egg yolk ravioli (Uova da Raviolo) is a velvety and delectable morsel with an abundance of luscious herbal and buttery flavors that swim beautifully in your mouth. Chef adds the finishing touch when he comes tableside, flashing a grin, and with a mandolin delicately shaves black truffle shards atop the ravioli. Truffle (black or white) is considered the dearest ingredient in the culinary world, coming only from Italy and France, and recently priced at $8,000 per pound.
Chef Nicola believes the most impactful part of his education was how food was elevated to become something very special in Italy. “When I worked there, I saw that a man had to have discipline,” he said. “Cooking is a great invention, a great art. I don’t just work in a restaurant. I study the details and play with food.”
The years have brought much acclaim and many awards. In 2003, he was selected as chef for the 45th Grammy Awards in collaboration with Odette Fada and Sandro Fioriti; and in 2011 he won an international competition for his egg yolk ravioli. A local culinary celebrity, his cable show by George Roberts Productions is taped once a month and runs for the entire next month. A particularly long-awaited episode that will air shortly covers the White Truffle Gala. This reservations-only event will be held in the fall (date to be determined), with an early seating at 4 p.m. and a second seating at 7 p.m. It will be a feast of multiple courses, each of which uses truffles, even the dessert.
He’s an author too, having published a book featuring recipes from his friend and mentor Chef Sandro Fioriti. The book, titled Chef Nicola, For Food, Family and Friends, is available at Momento.
What puts the restaurant several notches above the ordinary are the fresh pasta, made on site; fresh, whole fish (“Where else can you find the fish fresh, butchered and fileted in-house?” he asked); fresh, organic chicken and veggies from local farmers; and the occasional bourbon tasting which honors wife Melisa’s southern roots.
The wine menu sparkles with reds, whites, rosés and special blends they create to pair with the different dishes. Dinner choices include a 44-day old aged Angus beef that is so tender you could eat it with a fork alone; a goat cheese tart with sliver-sliced radishes and caramelized onions; a perfectly seared beef medallion with three different, perfect mushrooms, served with a splash of salty broth; and a light, nutty twist on the cannoli with airy cream and a swizzle of lime puree. Chef’s personal favorite for dessert is the Panna Cotta. This is his own recipe that adds a smooth, 24-year old balsamic sauce as a final touch. If you are unsure what to order, their six-course tasting menu is an excellent way to sample the different dishes and educate the palate.
“Our uniqueness is in our elegance,” said Nicola. “We want our customers to love food and wine as much as we do.”
For more information and for details on the upcoming gala, visit www.momentopizzeria.com.