Fortunato Nicotra arrived in New York City to work for celebrity chef Lidia Matticchio Bastianich in 1995. Hired as her Executive Chef of the famous flagship restaurant, Felidia, the restaurant earned three stars from Ruth Reichl from the New York Times only three months after his arrival. Again in 2006, Frank Bruni wrote a second raving review with a three-star rating. Wine Spectator named Felidia one of the “Top Ten Italian Restaurants in the United States” in 1998, and in 2008 Jerry Shriver of USA Today named it number #2 in his end of year round up of restaurants around the world.
Nicotra earned his first Michelin Star at the young age of 23 at the Villa Marchese Restaurant in the beautiful seaside town of Milazzo, Sicily. Although Nicotra is Sicilian by birth, he grew up in Torino where he completed his culinary degree at the prestigious Hotel and Restaurant School prior to working in several restaurants in northern Italy and then in Sicily where he left his mark. Prior to Nicotra’s 30th birthday, he ran two one-star Michelin stars — Villa Marchese and Villa Esperanza — simultaneously. In 1994, the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina granted one of his meals “Dinner of the Year” in all of Italy.
In addition to being featured in publications such as New York Magazine, Fine Cooking, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits and Food Arts, Chef Nicotra has appeared on several television food segments including six episodes of Lidia’s Italy and Lidia’s Family Table. In 2007, he appeared on Food Network’s Iron Chef where he battled Iron Chef Morimoto. He prepared several meals for Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to New York and has conducted cooking demonstrations and meals outside of Felidia for organizations such as De Gustibus and the Culinary Institute of America.
He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Shelly, a producer of Lidia’s Italy, and young children, Alex, Julia and Luca. He is proud to say that his children thrive on extra virgin olive oil and although still go through phases, eagerly eat artichokes, green beans, tomatoes, Boston lettuce, Romaine and mache — especially when grown from their very own garden.