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CFM Asks: Italian Gold Coast

Since joining Chef Tony Mantuano at Michelin-starred Spiaggia in 2014, Chef Joe Flamm has made quite a name for himself on the local and national level. From winning Bravo’s Top Chef in 2016 to recently announcing his departure from Spiaggia to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant, Flamm’s busy life has made him appreciate his rare time off. In his spare time, the South Side native keeps it simple with a visit to a few Chicago haunts to make the most of his precious days out of the kitchen.   

CFM: Where are your favorite restaurants and bars to unwind after work or on your day off? 

FLAMM: I love Sportsman’s Club. Sportsman’s has great bartenders, an awesome patio and a good industry crowd. For eats, I love a burger at Rootstock, it’s one of my favorites in the city. 

CFM: What is your go-to order (drink or food)? 

FLAMM: At Sportsman’s I have one order – Lowlife, an ice-cold bottle of Miller High Life and a shot of cold amaro— it’s the best. 

CFM: Where is the next restaurant or bar you want to check out in the city? 

FLAMMGalit, I really want to eat there. I think it’s a very different restaurant from what we have here in Chicago as far as the ambience and really everything. I’m hoping to sneak in early on a Sunday soon with my roommates (my wife and son). 

CFM: What has been the greatest achievement in your career so far? 

FLAMM: Retaining the Michelin Star at Spiaggia for the past 4 years and winning Top Chef

CFM: How did you get connected with Chef Tony Mantuano and Spiaggia? 

FLAMM: Funny enough, through Craigslist. I applied and interviewed with Tony. This was first time I met him, and obviously I was lucky enough to land the job. However, I do vividly remember the first time I saw him—I was drinking at the Macaroni Grill with Stephanie Izard. We had missed our flight, and were waiting on the next one. Tony was walking by and I said, “Hey there’s Tony Mantuano, and Steph was like, “Oh yeah I know him… “. The best part about that first time running into him was that we were wearing matching velour track suits. 

CFM: Briefly discuss the highs and lows of your time on Top Chef.    

FLAMM: Winning was a definite high and the people I met were truly the greatest part. Being away from my wife, family and the restaurant was the hardest part. 

CFM: If you could open your own restaurant anywhere in the world besides Chicago, where would it be and what would you specialize in? 

FLAMM: I’d open a burger place in Rome and make smash burgers and fries.  

CFM: What is your favorite thing you’ve ever made?  

FLAMM: Pasta pasta pasta pasta! My favorite pasta to make is tortellini. I love the process of creating the noodle. My favorite pasta dish is carbonara. 

CFM: In another life, what would you have done for a career? 

FLAMM: I probably would have joined the military. 

CFM: If you could share a meal with anyone in history, who would it be?  

FLAMM: Anthony Bourdain— I feel like he left so many stories untold. 


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