October 24, 2014

In Shelton: Il Palio highlights fresh, local ingredients

Growing up in the small town of Tucci, in the Piedmont region of Italy, Il Palio’s executive chef Margherita Aloi learned how to cook simply and tastefully using only freshly-picked herbs, vegetables and produce. When she took over the reins at Il Palio, located in Shelton’s Corporate Park, Aloi was delighted to discover she could receive homegrown seasonal fare from Jones Family Farms, located only minutes away.

“Living on a farm, I grew up cooking using only the freshest vegetables and herbs that were hand-picked from our gardens,” Aloi said. “At Il Palio, all of the ingredients used in my specialty regional Italian cuisine is the highest-quality. To me, it’s natural to partner with a local business like Jones Family Farm to ensure that our guests at Il Palio can enjoy genuine farm-to-table meals.” “People these days have a strong interest in eating local, fresh foods,” Aloi continued. “They can taste the difference of food that is made with ingredients that were just picked, that very day, from the garden. This is how food should taste.” These fresh ingredients were put to use last season to make squash blossoms, an Italian appetizer. The dish is made by stuffing squash blossoms with buffalo mozzarella, dipping it in a light batter and then flash-frying it to perfection. Every time squash blossoms are offered, they sell out quickly. “People go crazy over them,” Aloi said. “We can’t make enough of them.”

Aloi and husband Cliff Pereira, Il Palio’s director of operations, recently celebrated their two-year anniversary at the helm of the Shelton restaurant. They are the former owners of Aloi Restaurant, located in downtown New Canaan, where the couple live with their daughter.

Along with its reputation for fine dining, Il Palio is praised for its community outreach. Last year Aloi began serving full-course dinners, including fresh salmon, chicken scaloppini piccata, roasted potatoes and broccolirabe and asparagus, to the residents of the Spooner House. “I have been blessed with so much that I want to give back by using the talents that God has given to me,” Aloi stated. Those who stay at Shelton’s residence for the homeless continuously express appreciation for Aloi’s meals.

The Siena Lounge’s Outdoor Patio is now open and happy hours are Thursday and Friday nights, 5 to 7 p.m. A special grill menu is available. Live music is featured every Friday night.

Additionally, Aloi hosts pasta making workshops throughout the year. “We have a great time,” Aloi said.

“We pair the pasta with one of our fine wines and afterward, participants can relax and enjoy a delicious meal they made themselves.” Reservations are required; the pasta-making classes fill up quickly.

At the age of 18, Aloi was brought over by restaurateur Pino Luongo, of Le Madri Restaurant, as part of its plan to present specialty cuisine from various regions in Italy. Without knowing the language or anybody living in the United States, Aloi arrived in Manhattan to join the restaurant’s culinary team. Aloi charmed Le Madri’s owners and its clientele with her cooking made with the freshest ingredients available and, by the age of 25, was its Executive Chef. In only a few short years, Aloi opened a trattoria, Arezzo in New York.

Aloi said that she grew up learning how to cook from her mother and her grandmother, who made her own cheese. When she was 14, Aloi studied at Castello di Barolo, a culinary school in Barolo, Piedmont.

Il Palio is located at 5 Corporate Drive, Shelton.

Business hours are lunch, Monday to Friday, 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.; and dinner, Monday to Saturday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.ilpalioct.com or call 203-944-0770 and email info@ilpalioct.com.

Margherita Aloi, executive chef at Il Palio, with Jamie Jones and his young son, pick vegetables planted especially for the Shelton restaurant, at Jones Family Farms.

Growing up in the small town of Tucci, in the Piedmont region of Italy, Il Palio’s executive chef Margherita Aloi learned how to cook simply and tastefully using only freshly-picked herbs, vegetables, and produce.

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