Downtown Knoxville’s event center, The Press Room, provides a space for weddings, corporate events, and special occasions with in-house catering from Spaces in the City’s City Catering. In the culinary driver’s seat of this company is Chef Matt Conti, who brings a distinctive international flair to his menus.
Raised in New Haven, Connecticut in a large Italian family of restaurateurs, Conti learned early on that good food could bring people together. His mother’s home cooking and generous heart inspired his love. “She fed a lot of kids and less fortunate people around our neighborhood and welcomed in people for Sunday dinners,” Conti says. “And that kind of stuck with me.”
Time spent in restaurants in New Haven and Manhattan honed Conti’s craft and deepened his interest in different cuisines and food traditions, as well as the similarities and differences between them. “The melting pot of our culture is what I try to use as the influence of my food,” he says. Conti combines techniques and ingredients from French, Ethiopian, and Asian cuisines in his recipes, but deeply grounds them in his Italian roots.
His favorite ingredients to work with are Italian cheeses. “I love the fact that it can be used in everything from desserts to entrees, ravioli fillings to cannolis,” he says. “There’s just so much complexity when it comes to it.” And he couldn’t live without his immersion blender, a staple as he prepares any number of his complex sauces.
Creating special memories and menus for his guests drive Conti’s work as a catering chef: “That’s their one day that they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.” And for eachˆ of the events he builds menus for—like Top Chefs—he stands by his purpose and encourages everyone around him to do the same. “Every ounce of what we do is driven by the passion and the heart that I have behind my recipes.”
Spinach and sweet ricotta gnudi with shaved portabella basil salad, candied pine nuts, citrus poached leeks, and smoke tomato sabayon. Paired with a 2019 Diora ‘La Splendeur Du Soleil’ Chardonnay, Monterey.
Filet of beef with lardo and garlic, wrapped in speck ham, topped with mushroom and feta, served with spice-fried kataifi nest, okinawan sweet potato puree, and a charred pepper demi-glace. Paired with Quattro Mani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy.