Chef Brian of Piccola Italia Keeps It Close to Home

February 2022

Recipes by Brian Gualtieri, Chef and Owner Piccola Italia, Ocean Township, NJ


Sourcing locally has become one of the most important ingredients when creating bold and flavorful culinary dishes at some of the best restaurants in Monmouth County. Chef Brian of Piccola Italia feels the time and effort in connecting with local farmers and artisans is not simply a trend, but a key component of many restaurateurs who want to ensure fresh and tasty ingredients, support local businesses, and promote environmental sustainability. Chef Brian takes pride in creating unique menus that highlight the best of New Jersey local farms and the beautiful ingredients they produce. The recipes Chef Brian creates are all comfort foods that are hearty and help take the chill off this winter weather and allow his patrons to settle in and enjoy food that reminds them of home. Chef Brian believes that it’s not only what you eat, but who you’re with, and sharing a home-cooked meal is a great way to spend time.

Here, Chef Brian shares some of his favorite recipes including Herb Seared Petite Filet Mignon, Braised Short Rib, Sauteed Spinach, and Truffled Mashed Potato, along with Grandma’s Manicotti, and Chocolate Mousse Cake.



Herb Seared Petite Filet Mignon
Yield: 6 Servings


  • 6 6 oz medallions of Filet Mignon, cleaned
  • Garlic, to taste
  • Parsley, to taste
  • Thyme, to taste
  • Rosemary, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • TBSP of butter


  1. Rub with herbs (garlic, parsley, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, and a little oil).
  2. Let it sit overnight.
  3. Next day, take off the herbs.
  4. Heat a sauté pan with a little oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the filet mignon in the pan with the butter.
  6. Let it sear in the pan without moving it.
  7. Place the pan in a 450-degree oven for 4 minutes.
  8. Take it out and flip them over, then put back in the oven until desired temp (internal temperature should be at least 125 degrees which is medium rare).
  9. Put on a plate and let it rest for 5 minutes, this prevents all the juices from coming out of the center.



Braised Short Ribs
Yield: 6 Servings


  • 3 bone-in short ribs – cleaned
  • 2 oz oil
  • Salt and pepper

Season ribs with salt and pepper and sear in oil. Remove short ribs from the pan.

Braising Liquid Ingredients:

  • 1 onion – small dice
  • 1 carrot – small dice
  • 2 celery stalks – small dice
  • 3 garlic cloves sliced
  • 2 oz red wine
  • Sachet (thyme, bay leaf)
  • 2 qt demi-glace
  • 4 oz aged sherry vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Method for Braising Liquid:

  1. Add garlic, onion, carrot, and celery to the pan and sweat.
  2. Deglaze with red wine.
  3. Add demi-glace, sherry vinegar, sachet, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add ribs and cover with aluminum.
  5. Braise in the oven at 275 degrees, until fork tender. Approximately 5 hours.



Truffle Mashed Potatoes
Yield: 10 Servings


  • 3 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 ½ lb  butter
  • ¾ of a quart heavy cream
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste


  1. Bring the potatoes to a simmer, until fork tender.
  2. Mash and add butter and heavy cream.
  3. Add salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Fold into the potatoes.
  6. Finish with truffle oil to taste.



Sautéed Spinach, Garlic, and Oil
Yield: 10 Servings


  • 5 lbs. triple-washed spinach
  • 1 bulb garlic, cloves sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for the finish (to taste)


  1. In a large sauté pan, roast garlic in olive oil until golden brown.
  2. Add spinach, butter, salt, and pepper.
  3. Cover.
  4. Cook until wilted.
  5. Strain off extra liquid.
  6. Finish with EVOO to taste.



Recipe: Grandma’s Manicotti
Yield: 8-10 Servings

Ingredients for Crepes:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil (as needed)

Ingredients for Filetto Di Pomodoro Sauce (makes 1 gallon):

  • 8 cloves of garlic (sliced thin)
  • 1 Spanish onion (sliced thin)
  • 8 oz olive oil
  • 4 oz white wine
  • Kosher salt, pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz basil (chiffonade)
  • 4 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 5 lbs. can peeled canned tomatoes, (coarsely blended)

Ingredients for Ricotta Stuffing:

  • 2 pounds fresh ricotta (cone) pressed, drained
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated Romano
  • Kosher salt, pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes


Method for Crepes:

  1. Whisk eggs and milk together.
  2. Sift in flour and add salt and pepper.
  3. Strain thru china cap or other mesh strainer.
  4. Keep refrigerated for 30 minutes.
  5. In a 10-inch Teflon pan, add oil to coat bottom.
  6. Pour crepe batter, just to line pan and heat until set (no color).
  7. Flip onto parchment and let cool

Method for Filetto Di Pomodoro:

  1. In a large, thick bottom sauce pot, add garlic, white onion and olive oil. Steep on medium-low heat to infuse oil (light brown) for about 20 mins.
  2. Add white wine, canned tomatoes.
  3. Bring to simmer for 1 hour
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Add basil, extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.

Method for Manicotti:

  1. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate.
  2. Lay out crepes and spoon 2 inches across the crepe and roll it up.
  3. Add ¼ sauce to the bottom of the pan and lay crepes across the pan leaving a small space in between each manicotti.
  4. Cover each manicotti in sauce.
  5. Wrap pan with aluminum foil and bake 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove foil, sprinkle with parmesan and serve.



Recipe: Chocolate Mousse Cake
Yield: 12 Servings

Ingredients for Crust and Mousse:


  • Oreo crumbs
  • 3 oz butter melted

Dark Mousse:

  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 4 oz butter
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
  • 1 cup vanilla
  • 1 cup of amaretto

White Mousse:

  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 4 oz butter
  • 5 egg white whipped until soft peels
  • 2 cups heavy cream, whipped soft peaks
  • 1 cap vanilla
  • 1 cap amoretto


Method for Crust and Mousse:


  1. Add melted butter and Oreos into the food processor.
  2. Add that mixture to the bottom of the springform pan, chill until set.

Dark Mousse:

  1. Add chocolate and butter into a double boiler until fully melted.
  2. Add yolks, vanilla, and amaretto.
  3. Fold in whites in 3 stages, until completely incorporated.
  4. Add mixture on top of crust in pan and chill.

Light Mousse:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over medium heat.
  2. Fold in whites in 3 stages, until completely incorporated.
  3. Add vanilla and amaretto to whipped cream.
  4. Fold in the whipped cream, 3 stages until completely incorporated.
  5. Add the light mouse on top of the dark mouse in the pan.
  6. Level light mousse off with knife until flat.
  7. Chill for 3 hours or until set.



While regional Italian dishes anchor the menu at Piccola Italia, Chef and Owner, Brian Gualtieri, calls on his training from the Culinary Institute of America & versatile experience working in some of the most prestigious kitchens around the country including San Francisco’s acclaimed One Market Restaurant, Mumford’s Culinary Center in Long Branch, New Jersey & two renowned New York City restaurants, Chanterelle and Montrachet.

At Piccola Italia, their aim is to provide the highest quality products by supporting local, eco-friendly farms that practice sustainable farming and fishing. In keeping with this philosophy, they continually change their menu, often on a daily basis. Chef Brian is committed to the highest quality cuisine and creating a healthier, more eco-friendly world.