Julian Marucci, who grew up outside of Philadelphia, worked at the Foreman Wolf restaurant group’s Charleston and then was tapped as sous chef when FW opened Cinghiale. Within a month, Marucci took over as Cinghiale’s chef, later assuming the same role at FW’s Pazo. Recently, Marucci and David Goodman, who was manager at Cinghiale, jumped to the Atlas Restaurant Group, which owns Azumi, Ouzo Bay and other restaurants. This past fall, Atlas entered into a partnership with the owner of Fleet Street Kitchen and Ten Ten to overhaul those two restaurants. Fleet Street was scheduled to open in early 2017 as Tagliata, and the new Ten Ten is envisioned as a clubby hideaway with a game-driven menu. Marucci lives in Baltimore with his wife and their three children, ages 2, 4 and 6.
So the new place, Tagliata, is an Italian concept. How will it differ from Cinghiale?
It’s still going to be my food. I don’t think I can really change that much about who I am. At the same time, the menu will be more approachable, with simpler spins on classics. For instance, meatballs, cacio e pepe [bucatini with pecorino cheese and black pepper], carbonara, saltimbocca.
Is Italian food your forté?
I never worked in an Italian restaurant before Cinghiale. I guess part of it is in my blood, and a lot is traveling. I’ve been all over Italy. From Piemonte, I like the cheeses, stuffed pastas, obviously truffles and desserts. In Sicily, it’s the freshness and simplicity of vegetables and fish.
What was food like for you growing up?
My mother and my two grandmothers were great cooks.
Were they all Italian?
On my mother’s side, my grandmother wasn’t, but my grandfather was from Calabria. On my father’s side, both his parents were from Puglia.
What did your non-Italian grandmother make?
She was Pennsylvania Dutch. Her best dish was probably pineapple stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner. She always made me Jewish apple cake for my birthday.
Pineapple stuffing? Is that a Pennsylvania Dutch thing?
It’s canned pineapple and brioche, almost like a bread pudding.
How did you learn to cook?
I started cooking when I was 13. My parents worked full-time, and when I’d come home from school, I was hungry. Instead of cooking boxed macaroni and cheese, I started experimenting with other things, playing around in the kitchen. That led to watching cooking shows with my mother. When it was time to go to tech school in ninth grade, I could go down the arts road or become a car mechanic. My mother said, “You don’t really like to get your hands dirty, so you probably don’t want to be a car mechanic.” There wasn’t that much money in being an artist, so I thought I would give culinary arts a try.
Why tech school?
I didn’t like school at all. The tech school was part of the high school I went to. My high school was pretty ginormous. Everything we learned, we learned the hard way first. You’re not going to learn how to sauté until you learn to clean the stove. You don’t use a knife until you learn to sharpen it. The program was designed to make people professional chefs.
When did you realize you were destined for greatness?
I wouldn’t say that. I keep my head down and keep pushing. I was sous chef at Charleston and my wife—fiancée at the time—we were planning to leave Baltimore. Tony Foreman sat me down and told me about the new restaurant [Cinghiale]. They were getting a new chef from Italy. We opened in late September, and the chef got fired soon after.
What kind of game do you like to cook?
I fed rabbit to my kids last week. It came from a chef who raises rabbits. I brought it home and showed it to my children. It was a whole rabbit dead and skinned. I did a tomato sauce braise with chickpeas, kale and potatoes.
No ears and fluffy tail?
The first time I had rabbit, I said to my mom, “This is not chicken.” She told me secretly, “That’s rabbit. Nonina just says it is chicken to get people to eat it.”
So you’re raising adventurous eaters.
I try to get them to try everything that I eat. “This is the whole animal, this is what it looks like, don’t be afraid.” A rabbit’s food; people all over the world eat it.