Mario Rizzotti is a man on a mission, and he’s coming to Augusta as part of it.
“One of the reasons I’m taking this tour is to promote the healthy side of Italian cuisine,” said Rizzotti, a Food Network Iron Chef judge who is traveling to all 50 states as part of his “4 the Love of Italian Food” tour. He will be in Augusta on Feb. 20 at Ristorante Oliviana, at 399 Highland Ave. in Surrey Center.
When many Americans think Italian food, they have wrong concepts, and some dishes made in America under the banner of Italian would receive looks of confusion in Italy, said Rizzotti, who is a native of Rome.
The idea that Italian food is full of garlic, fat and carbohydrates isn’t the case and along with the help of Oliviana’s chef, David Alcaraz, he intends to prove it.
The five-course meal will include crostini with mushrooms, squash soup and rigatoni amatriciana, a dish native to Amatrice, Italy. He chose this dish to honor those in the region, which was hit by a 6.1-magnitude earthquake in September 2016. The dessert will be a panna cotta.
“The whole purpose is to have a real Italian experience at the table,” Rizzotti said.
In addition, Rizzotti will talk about Italian products such as olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which isn’t just for salads. Many of these products aren’t what they claim to be. He’ll have an olive oil tasting, which will allow people to know what the real product is like.
Rizzotti’s “4 the Love of Italian Food” tour only travels to four cities in each state. Ristorante Oliviana was chosen after several months of interviews with its chef and others to make sure it was the right fit, said Rizzotti.
Restaurants are independently owned with chefs seeking to make authentic Italian cuisine.
Alcaraz, originally from Mexico, started his 28-year career under an Italian chef and has specialized in five different cuisines. He said he’s looking forward to Rizzotti’s visit.
“This is a very big endorsement for Oliviana,” he said. “Someone of this caliber is looking at us.”
The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. with a meet and greet at 6 p.m. The cost for the meet and greet is $120 per person, or dinner alone is $100 per person.
To make reservations, call (706) 723-1242.