When Executive Chef Matthew Accarrino of SPQR recalls what attracted him to the hospitality industry, he says, “It gave me the chance to tell my story with food.” Accarrino’s family heritage leads back to the wind swept hills and coast of Puglia, Italy. Visits with his extended family and stints spent cooking there at an early age instilled a deep appreciation for quality, seasonal, handmade products and ingredients. Learning to make pasta, polenta, and risotto in Italy also influenced his distinctive approach in the kitchen. “It impressed on me the importance of starch as its own course in that cuisine, which is in a sense, where much of my inspiration comes from.”
Born in the Midwest and raised in New Jersey, Accarrino began his culinary journey in high school working his way up from dishwasher to cook in small local restaurants. With the desire to receive formal training, Accarrino enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America, where in 1998, he received his Associate Degree in Culinary Arts. While earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, he worked as a cook at the nearby Five Diamond Hilton at Short Hills.
Upon completion of his formal education, Accarrino worked in New York City for Charlie Palmer of Aureole and then for Todd English as sous chef at Olives in The W Union Square. In 2002, after working with Rick Moonen at his seafood restaurant Oceana, Accarrino was asked to assist Chef Moonen in the opening of his first solo project, Restaurant RM. The restaurant received three stars from the New York Times, who commended the kitchen under Accarrino’s co-direction for its innovative execution of flavor combinations and meticulous attention to detail. While working at Restaurant RM, Accarrino was also invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House.
After spending extended time staging in Italy, Accarrino returned to New York where in 2004, he joined the opening team at Thomas Keller’s Per Se as a sous chef. The restaurant would go on to earn three Michelin stars and a coveted 4-star rating from the New York Times. Alongside Thomas Keller and other skilled chefs, Accarrino continued to evolve his technique, focusing on honing an exceptional level of execution and operation. In early 2006, Chef Tom Colicchio approached Accarrino to assist with operating three of his restaurants in New York - Craft, Craftbar and Craftsteak. He was subsequently asked to move to California to open Craft and Craftbar in Los Angeles.
Seeking to more fully develop his own personal cuisine and set out on his own path, Accarrino moved to Northern California and joined the intimate restaurant SPQR as Executive Chef in late 2009. Since his arrival, Accarrino has been named a Star Chefs “2010 Rising Star” for his “innovative vision, finesse, and deeply satisfying cuisine,” and in 2011 he took top honors at San Francisco’s Cochon 555 competition. Accarrino was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as a semi-finalist for “Best Chef: Pacific” in 2012 and the restaurant received its first Michelin star under his direction in the 2013 guide. He is also co-author of the SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine book, which was released in fall 2012.
As his reputation as a chef continues to grow, Accarrino reflects, “A big part of the narrative I try to create with food is a combination of the way I employ my Italian heritage and the modern perspective I’ve gained by working with some of America’s greatest chefs. I am constantly challenging myself evolve, further define my vision, and lead myself forward.”
Accarrino lives in San Francisco, California.
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