Cocina Toscana

Cocina Toscana | Charlotte, NC

The Event


On Sunday, July 31st UGK came down into Charlotte, NC to get around the table and share a meal for an evening inspired by the centuries-old culinary traditions of the Italian peninsula. While Tuscany, with its lavender fields, timeless sunsets, and warmth of cuisine and culture was our jumping-off point, there was no avoiding the Southern atmosphere in which we found ourselves. The entire Italian feast that lay ahead was filtered through the lens of the American Southern culinary traditions, and the end result was a delicious and inventive culinary hybrid.

Stagioni (Charlotte, NC), graciously opened their doors up to our community, and chef Drew Dodd (Stagioni) prepared a menu that took Italian influences, fresh food, and his own creative touch, blending them together in a meal that elevated locally sourced natural ingredients with an eye towards hundreds of years of Italian culinary development.
As the guests arrived at Stagioni, they entered into the bar past a portrait of Blanche Reynolds, the original owner of the house-turned-restaurant, and were served a Lavender Collins, an herbaceous take on the classic Tom Collins cocktail. The Lavender Collins utilized a home-made lavender simple syrup to bring the aromas of Tuscan fields into the glass, and was topped with a bit of seltzer to bubble onto the palate, awakening the tastebuds for the impending meal.
After being introduced to UGK and seated around the table in the beautiful Reynolds-Gourmajenko House, guests took a moment to absorb the Tuscan influences of the Southern Villa’s architecture as passed hors d’oeuvres of Carolina Gold Arancini with Local Mushrooms made their way around the room. Even in this initial “taste,” the flavors of Southern and Italian cuisine were melded beautifully, with Carolina Gold rice (one of the staple crops of the early Americas, coming to the continent as early as the 17th century) being used to make Arancini, a fried-rice dish that dates back all the way to the 10th century in Sicily, when the Island was under Arab rule. 
Following the passed hors d’oeuvres the first course was served. A Salad of Pork Belly, Local Watermelon and Cucumbers, Basil, and UAV Feta was course number one, a savory and refreshing beginning. The fattiness of the pork belly was the perfect compliment to the crisp watermelon and cucumbers. And the feta cheese, sourced locally from Uno Alla Volta, could have stood on its own, truly- the mildly tangy, slightly sour, subtly sweet curdles even had a peppery finish that made them a tasty exploration in and of themselves. 
Course number two was another harmonious fusion of Southern and Italian cuisines. Chef Dodd took pimento cheese (“the caviar of the South” as it is affectionately known), and made tortellini with charred corn, local kale, blistered cherry tomatoes, and a ham bone brodo that was poured table-side. The charred and blistered flavors and aromas of the corn and tomatoes brought out an earthy spiciness in the ham bone brodo that was exceptional. 
The final savory course of the evening was served in stile familiare, neatly arranged and plated in the middle of the table to create a sense of community and comfort as the meal began slowly drawing to a close. For this dish, Chef Dodd made aCalabrian hot Chicken with Cucumber Salad to dull and balance the heat. The spice of the chicken was similar to an “all’arrabbiata” style of cooking, where the heat is described as “angry.” Chef Dodd hit this mark squarely with a dish that had enough spice to keep the palate engaged and coming back for more without burning out the tastebuds. 
Finally, to conclude the meal Chef Dodd prepared a Buttermilk and Peach Cannoli, a perfectly sweet end to an equally outstanding evening. The flavors of fresh peach in the filling worked to tame the sweetness of the creamy indulgence. 
At the end of the night, we said “Ciao” to friends new and old, and went home with warm thoughts of a delightful evening spent in the mode of food, wine, and good company. UGK can’t wait to return to Charlotte, NC and check in on Chef Dodd and the rest of the outstanding staff at Stagioni. Maybe a trip out of Charlotte with the Stagioni crew is on the horizon…

Don’t forget to like and share this post and keep accumulating those UGK Points! And if you recreate any of the recipes from this event, be sure to send pictures of your creations to! Not only will you get points, but we will post them to our instagram and possibly include them in a follow up post!
Check out Stagioni, and see what they’re up to as they continue to source local ingredients, prepare outstanding cuisine, and bring people together with great food. 

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The Chef


Drew Dodd is the executive chef at Stagioni. He joined the team at Stagioni in late 2014, and was promoted to executive chef less than one year later.

A native of Nashville, Drew has been working in Kitchen since he was 15 years old. He started as a dishwasher, and quickly moved his way up to cooking. Drew fell in love with the “controlled chaos,” as he describes restaurant kitchens. 

Drew moved around the US and worked in kitchens in Seattle, Spokane and Boston before moving to Charlotte in 2007 to attend Johnson & Wales University. 

He worked in several restaurants in Charlotte, including his role as executive chef at George’s Brasserie, before joining Moffett Restaurant Group in 2014. Drew couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with award-winning chef Bruce Moffett, saying “It’s a wish list item.”

Drew describes Italian cooking as a respect for ingredients. Drew’s own respect for fresh, locally sourced ingredients and rustic dishes prove to be the perfect match for Stagioni and Moffett Restaurant Group. 

(This Chef Bio taken from the Moffett Restaurant Group Website)

Keep up with Chef Drew Dodd and the rest of the family at Stagioni!

Check out their Instagram for a look behind the scenes in the kitchen, and to see the glorious locally sourced food the kitchen is producing now!

Follow Stagioni on Twitter, and see what exciting developments lay on the horizon!

Like them on Facebook! And definitely, definitely pop in to say hello and share an outstanding meal next time you are in Charlotte. Surely, the Stagioni crew would love to see you!

The Food

Passed Hors d’Oeuvres
Carolina Gold Arancini with Local Mushrooms

Course One
Salad of Pork Belly, Local Watermelon and Cucumbers, Basil, UAV Feta 

Course Two
Pimento Cheese Tortellini, Charred Corn, Local Kale, Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, Ham Bone Brodo

Course Three
Calabrian Hot Chicken with Cucumber Salad

Course Four
Buttermilk and Peach Cannoli

The Wine

Lavender Collins (Gin, Lemon Juice, Lavender simple syrup, garnish with Lavender sprig and Lemon wheel)

Course One
Louis Chavy Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire
Burgundy, FRANCE, 2014

Course Two
Caleo Nero D’Avola Terre Siciliane
Sicily, ITALY, 2014

Course Three
Domaine Des Versauds Morgon
Southern Burgundy, Beaujolais, FRANCE, 2012

Course Four
Marchese dell’Elsa Moscato d’Asti
Piedmont, ITALY, 2015