Chef Q&A: La Scala’s David Landrigan and Stephen McLain

Photo by Angela Hopper

A chat with David Landrigan, Executive Chef, La Scala and Circa 1875, and Stephen McLain, Chef de Cuisine, La Scala

 

 

 

On creating the menu

DL: We spent some time in Italy during development, mostly in the north. We started in Milan and went to Parma and Florence, Lake Como, and we left out of Venice. 

We’ve always served seasonal and regional food at Circa, and we wanted to continue that here. When we wrote the menu, we included what we’d want to eat. We take real care with each dish. We had a lot of time to refine the menu. Stephen and I call each other any time we have a new idea.  

SM: This is very authentic, rustic Italian comfort food made with the freshest ingredients you can source and refined technique in the preparation. Leonardo da Vinci said it best, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” 

On Italian food

DL: I grew up working in pizzerias and trattorias around New York. Once, when I was working as a chef at a golf course, there was an Italian restaurant around the corner from work. I loved going there so much that I’d help the Italian grandma in the kitchen every once in a while. I’d leave, and my clothes would smell like Italian food. I loved it. 

On dreams of fettucine

SM: We’d been doing so much menu preparation that when I went to sleep, it followed me. Everything was so vivid; I could see the whole plate, and it woke me up. I jotted it all down immediately. It’s the fettucine frutti di mare, a black squid-ink fettuccine surrounded by little neck clams, diver scallops, wild Georgia shrimp and a grilled baby octopus tentacle, finished with shaved botarga, a little fennel frond and a house-preserved grape tomato. 

On living in Savannah

DL: Savannah reminds me of a Southern version of my hometown — just the right amount of people. I like being able to sneak off to the beach every once in a while. It’s funny, when people see me outside of the restaurant, they don’t recognize me. I do exist outside of the restaurant — sometimes. 

On food & culture

SM: When I worked in a restaurant in Portugal, we’d do family meal at the restaurant, and even though the ingredients were totally different, it reminded me of my grandmother. Instead of Southern comfort food like she made, it was squid, whole fish and rabbit. But the feeling of it, the family style, was exactly the same. Different ingredients, different language, but food is one of the things that unifies us as people. 

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