JONATHAN BENNO | ChefAs chef of Lincoln Ristorante, Jonathan Benno launches his solo effort in a career that has spanned two decades of fine dining. Lincoln Ristorante is a new modern Italian restaurant at Lincoln Center, which opened in September 2010. For Benno, who was the chef de cuisine at Per Se for six years, this was the restaurant stage he had always dreamed of.
Quality and integrity have been the hallmarks of Benno's career and are consistently demonstrated in his passion for sourcing the finest ingredients. Meticulous by nature and precise by training, Benno has unparalleled experience earned working in the nation's finest kitchens.
Benno attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and worked at the Mayflower Inn under Chef John Farnsworth. During his studies, Farnsworth encouraged Benno to regard education as a lifelong process.
After graduation, Benno relocated to the Bay Area, where he came to appreciate the bounty of fresh, locally grown ingredients available. He worked under Michael Mina at Aqua, and later moved to the Napa Valley to join Keller at The French Laundry.
Keller became an important influence in Benno's life, helping to shape his philosophy about food and dining and instilling in him the drive to settle for nothing less than excellence. While California played a pivotal role in his evolution as a chef, Benno wanted to return to the East Coast to work in the kitchens of Manhattan.
Benno spent time at Daniel, then in France at Auberge du Vieux Puits, returning to New York as poissonier at Les Célébrités in the Essex House. He then joined Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern where he spent two years in the kitchen, and one year in the pastry department. He opened Craft as a sous chef with Marco Canora, and finally returned to The French Laundry in 2003 as sous chef to prepare for the opening of Per Se in 2004.
At Per Se, he oversaw all aspects of the kitchen, working directly with Thomas Keller to create a distinctive brand of American cuisine and service. Under his supervision, the restaurant consistently received the highest of accolades from both national and international press. At launch, Per Se received a four star review from The New York Times. In 2005, London's Restaurant Magazine recognized Per Se as the highest-ranking new entry, and seventh in their global listing. Per Se also received the award for "Best New Restaurant" from the James Beard Foundation. In 2006, Food & Wine recognized Benno as one of ten "Best New Chefs" in the United States. Michelin Guide has given Per Se its most prestigious honor, a three star rating, every year since launching its New York City edition.
Jonathan Benno lives in Manhattan with his wife, Elizabeth, and young daughters.
AARON VON ROCK | Wine DirectorAaron von Rock was born in Maryland and had his first experience with wine at the age of three, stomping Concord grapes along with his siblings for the family’s homemade wine. Aaron's first job in the field was at a barely legal age buying wines for the Baltimore Hotel, where he was introduced to fine wines. He took a degree in Finance and Accounting at Boston University but found his way back to the wine cellar when he moved to New York. Under the mentorship of David Gordon, he moved to Verbena to be the wine director for Diane Forley, and together they opened the Bar Demi (winner of the Food & Wine Magazine, Best New Wine List-New York 2001).
Aaron worked with Italian wines at Tribeca's Della Rovere in 2004, where he featured over 100 wines by the glass, before moving to open Telepan as the beverage director the next year. There he ran a wine program with seasonal features and choices to match the menu of one of New York's most respected chefs, Bill Telepan. Working as sommelier, he paired wines with Telepan's dynamic market-driven menu; Aaron also created the cocktail and spirits program.
At Lincoln Ristorante, Aaron has developed a 400-bottle, Italian list with general manager Paolo Novello. The wine list hopes to remove the distance from vineyard to table by making the selections accessible and telling the story of select vineyards and bottlings. The wine program is built to parallel and complement the cuisine of Chef Jonathan Benno, both with classical and cutting-edge selections. The cocktail menu is also curated by Aaron and highlights Italian traditional liqueurs and products in classic drink recipes.
A member of the American Sommelier's Association since 1998, Aaron also has a consulting business called Vinoceros, assisting restaurants and private clients in developing their cellars. He travels often to the estates and regions from which most of his wines are sourced, and participates in events around the world as a guest sommelier.
RICHARD CAPIZZI | Pastry ChefPastry Chef Richard Capizzi has derived his cooking philosophy and enhanced his skills from the time he spent in and out of the kitchen with some of the world’s most renowned chefs, from Thomas Keller to Jean Louis Palladin and Pascal Brunstein.
Assisting, and tasting the pastries of his Sicilian and Neapolitan family led him to take a job at a local bakery. His ever-growing passion prompted him to attend The Culinary Institute Of America in Hyde Park, NY. While studying, he conducted a stage at Le Cirque in New York City with Pastry Chef Jacques Torres and later became a Pastry Cook Extern and then Pastry Assistant at Chef Jean Louis Palladin's Napa Restaurant at The Rio Hotel, Las Vegas. After graduation Richard remained in Hyde Park for a continuing education program on Artisan Breads and Viennoiserie.
Capizzi later relocated to France to begin an apprenticeship at The Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo. The following year, he worked at The Royaume du Chocolat in Lyon, honing his skills in chocolate work, gelatos and sorbets.
Richard returned to the U.S. in 2001 and worked at The Russian Tea Room as a Pastry Assistant under Pastry Chef Andrew Shotts. A year later he moved on to Mondrian Pastry as Sous Chef under Michelle William, and finally to The Chocolate Loft/Garrison Confections as Assistant Chocolatier.
Capizzi, working closely with Pastry Chef Sebastien Rouxel, was named the Pastry Sous Chef for the opening of Per Se and was promoted to Pastry Chef of Per Se and Bouchon Bakery two years later. At this post Capizzi worked closely with the Head Baker on a specialty breads and pastries program for Bouchon Bakery, Per Se, and other wholesale accounts.
At Lincoln Ristorante, Capizzi will turn out the most authentic and refined Italian desserts using modern methods and the finest ingredients. Capizzi will also be at the helm of the bread service, which will be comprised of four types of bread and taralli as a bar snack.
Capizzi won the title of Pastry Chef of the Year, as well as gold medals for "Most Artistic Plated Dessert," The Vatel Club's "Technical Prize" and the Societe Culinaire Philanthropique's Award for Exceptional Taste at the 14th Annual US Pastry Competition in New York in 2003. He was the youngest and the first pastry chef ever to sweep the entire competition. While at Per Se, Capizzi was honored by Dessert Professional, as one of the top 10 best pastry chefs in 2009.
MISHA MARIANI | DirectorGrowing up in a family where the food cultures of America, Italy, France and Russia were part of everyday cooking and entertaining, Misha Mariani learned from childhood the irrepressible pleasures of the dinner table and entertaining. Born in Tuckahoe, NY, he traveled a good deal with his parents (his father is a food writer and historian, his mother a cookbook author and painter) to Europe and dined out weekly in New York, so that throughout high school and Iona college, where he majored in English, working in restaurants—from pizzerias to fine dining—came naturally to him, and he was drawn to the business in his early twenties.
Misha’s career in the hospitality industry began as a server, working in a range of restaurants, from more casual eateries to fine dining restaurants in NYC. But five years later after developing a passion and belief that his future was in restaurant management, Misha also recognized he would be far more knowledgeable about both sides of the kitchen door if he learned to cook professionally. Misha enrolled and graduated first in his class in 2005 at the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center). Straight out of school he was hired by Chef Gabriel Kreuther at The Modern, a Danny Meyer-owned restaurant in The Museum of Modern Art, where he worked his way through the ranks of the kitchen over the course of 3 ½ years. This is also where he met his future wife, a pâtissier who shares in the love of the business.
From there he cooked at Michael White’s acclaimed Italian seafood restaurant Marea, also moving through the ranks of the kitchen, at which point Misha felt he was ready to move into restaurant management and so joined Patina Restaurant Group, where he started with Lincoln upon their opening in 2010 as a Dining Room Manager, and has now been overseeing operations as its director since 2013.
“Whether it’s casual or fine dining,” says Misha, “attention to every detail of service and executing it on a consist basis is not only what defines a restaurant’s quality, but also makes it tremendously satisfying when all works smoothly and people are happy. ”
Misha lives with his wife Priscilla in Astoria, Queens.