NYT: Italian Food With Southern Soul
Andrew Ticer met Michael Hudman on the basketball court in the sixth grade. Back then, when they played for rival Catholic schools in Memphis, no one could have predicted they would become the city’s restaurant royalty, winning national recognition for their restaurant Hog & Hominy.
Mr. Hudman has always been bigger, louder and gregarious. Mr. Ticer is quieter, gentler and more of a tactician. But they share the Italian gene, the one that is fiercely loyal to friends, food and family. (Mr. Ticer’s roots go back to Sicily, Mr. Hudman’s to Tuscany.)
They discovered a mutual love for restaurant life after attending different colleges. Together, they headed to Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, S.C., and picked up culinary degrees. Then it was on to Calabria to study Italian food.
People who work for them say they move through their days running four restaurants in Memphis and one at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans like a single organism.
The dishes will show up here at Andrew Michael Kitchen, which they opened in 2008, or Hog & Hominy, which became a favorite of the national food media after it opened in 2012. (The name Hog & Hominy comes from a nickname Tennessee earned in the mid-1800s for its corn and pork production.)
The two have also opened Porcellino’s, a butcher shop and breakfast place, and, most recently, Catherine & Mary’s, a restaurant in a revitalized part of downtown Memphis that people now call South Main.
The big, lofty building is a short walk to Beale Street and was home to WHBQ, the AM radio station where the D.J. Dewey Phillips was the first to broadcast an Elvis Presley song. (In Memphis, these details matter.)
It is the most directly Italian of their restaurants, named after their Italian grandmothers and heavy with pasta. Still, they haven’t stopped building Italian food with the Southern ingredients they love, both here and at their other restaurants. Leftover biscuits become the base for gnocchi. Smoked catfish stands in for bacalao, or salt cod. Thick slices of sweet potato spend an hour slowly cooking in pork fat until they become almost custardlike but still hold their shape.
The idea for that dish came from their mutual love of the pecan-topped sweet potato casserole that Mr. Ticer’s mom makes.
Slices of the sweet potato confit are crisped on a griddle, then coated with pecans, chorizo and butter. Mint and crème fraîche punched up with yuzu add brightness and tame the chorizo.