When Fianco opened, David Tamarkin asked in Time Out Chicago, “Who the hell is Matt Troost, and why haven’t I heard his name before?” The subtle and skillful Italian food he was crafting was unusually good for the Southport strip of faux Irish bars and chain sandwich shops. Then out of the blue, Fianco closed. Now the question became, “What the hell happened to Matt Troost?”
In about a month that question will finally have an answer. A lot about Troost’s next gig is still under wraps, but he gave us a first look at the broad outlines, explained how Twitter helped get him his new job— and got us hungry again for his food.
So what can you tell us about it— Italian food, right?
We’re opening on Taylor Street in mid-September, so you can kind of guess right there that it’s going to be Italian. Smaller plates than Fianco, but the same kind of farm to table philosophy, the same idea of making things in-house whenever we can—mustard, ketchup, anything— so we have complete control over the final product. A lot of pig parts— I know Chicago’s inundated with that, but we gotta do what we love, right?
So that must have been rough, feeling like you were up and coming at Fianco, and then— pfft, we’re closing today.
It was surreal. I don’t want to get into it all, that’s the past and it’s done, but I just couldn’t believe it. When are we closing? Right now? Really, I don’t have a job?
The only thing I could do was just put the word out on Twitter and hope that I had started to make a little name for myself. And it was really great, I got a lot of responses, a lot of interviews. Not only chefs but even just people who were interested in food got in touch with me and said, I heard they needed somebody here or there.
How did you hook up with the owners of... whatever it’s going to be called?
Anthony Potenzo, one of the owners of the new place, was actually the very first one to contact me. He sent me the shortest email, kind of a cocky email that just said “This is kismet.” So I talked to him and Lyle Aker, the other owner, and I really liked their ideas and their energy and I wanted to do it. But it was still a ways off in the future and I said, I need a job now, I’ve got to keep looking.
Then everything else that started out sounding good ended like crap, so I finally said, this is the one that’s meant to be. Kismet.
So where did you come from? Was Fianco your first job in Chicago?
I actually worked at the Peninsula Hotel before that. But I came from Aspen, Colorado, a five star/five diamond resort called the Little Nell that has a restaurant in it called Montagna. We did everything there, we cured our own pig legs and pancetta and guanciale, we made our own cheese. The chef, Ryan Hardy, has his own farm. If you’re going to learn anywhere, it ought to be a place like Aspen, Colorado, where you work with the most amazing produce.
You’ve got to be excited that it’s finally so close.
It’s been rough trying to make ends meet. I’ve been out of a job for a long time, working on menus, doing research. I’m really just looking forward to getting this place going. I can’t wait to get behind the fire again.