Chef Mike Ponzio
Chef Mike Ponzio comes from a large Italian family and grew up cooking at home. Growing up, he was blessed to spend almost every day with his Nana Kay learning how to cook such Italian delicacies as homemade pasta, neck bone gravy and baccala. Chef Ponzio was first introduced to the restaurant life at the age of 12 when went to go work at his uncle’s restaurant; after one night, he knew he was home. Chef Ponzio attended culinary school at Kendal College where he found his one true mistress… the kitchen.
While in culinary school, Chef Ponzio worked several jobs at bakeries, restaurants and catering companies to learn all he could about food. He would stand over a sauté pan and wonder why certain foods would brown better if they were dry than wet, or why air changes certain foods different colors and not others. Chef Ponzio became so obsessed with food that when he got off his shift at work he would have a list of questions which he would go home and look up the answers to. He would study many of the top chefs in the country, read their menus, cookbooks, and interviews. Chef Ponzio wanted to know why these top chefs did what they did, how they got where they were, and what drove them day to day. Studying top chefs helped Chef Ponzio realize that the reason he was studying these chefs was because he himself had the same drive.
In 2002, Chef Ponzio was hired by Chef Tony Montuano to work as a sous chef for Spiaggia, Chicago’s only four star Italian restaurant. Chef Ponzio worked at Spiaggia for two years learning about Italian cuisine, honing his techniques, and cooking for many amazing celebrities, chefs and politicians. Working at Spiaggia was an incredible culinary journey for Chef Ponzio as it guided him to his true passion as not only a young chef, but a young Italian chef.
Benny Siddu, owner of Volare Restaurant in Chicago and native Sardinian, hired Chef Ponzio as his executive chef. It was through Benny that Chef Ponzio was given the opportunity to work with chefs from all over Italy. He was trained in pizza by a chef from Naples, fish from a Sicilian, vegetables from a Roman, and sauces from a chef from Bologna. Benny, despite Chef Ponzio’s young age, placed him in charge of the new restaurant Volare West because of his intense passion for food. He guided Chef Ponzio in the ways of Italian cuisine and lifestyle and gave his style the authentication it was missing. After a month at Volare West, the restaurant was reviewed and earned a 3 star rating from the Chicago Sun Times. Once the rating came out, Chef Ponzio was blessed with many great customers.
Chef Ponzio is still always out in the dining room talking to customers at their tables, getting stopped at the store by customers who want to talk about cooking, and gets several personal phone calls a day from customers to make reservations. After all, that is what cooking is all about…making people feel special!
In April of 2010, Alex Dana, owner of Rosebud Restaurants, offered Chef Ponzio the executive chef position of Rosebud on Rush in Chicago, IL. You can find Chef Ponzio at Rosebud constantly coming up with new dishes and embracing the beauty of the Italian classics. He often makes visits to the tables to check and make sure everyone is having a good time and enjoying their food. If you are in Chicago, stop by and enjoy some of Chef Ponzio’s Italian food!