Shifting Careers: Chef (copy)

Chef Dan Bonanno owns A Pig in a Fur Coat restaurant on Williamson Street with Bonnie Arent. With their sous chef and Dan's brother, they're opening a new deli on South Brearly Street. 

It’s no easy thing to find paper-thin prosciutto sliced to order in this town.

Alimentari, a new deli set to open later this summer on the east side, wants to change that.

“Everything’s going to be cut fresh to order, so if you get prosciutto, mortadella, capacolla, it’ll be sliced to order for you in whatever size you want,” said Dan Bonanno, the chef/owner of A Pig in a Fur Coat and a co-owner of Alimentari.

“That’s something that is very lacking in Madison as a whole, very much, including the big box stores. Nobody has fresh cut stuff anymore, nor do they really know how slice," he said. “If there’s one thing we learned from my dad, my brother and I, we know how to slice meat on a slicer to get nice, thin prosciutto.”

Bonanno and Bonnie Arent, a co-owner of A Pig in a Fur Coat, are partnering with Pig sous chef Jonathan Huttsell and Bonanno’s older brother, Enrico Bonanno.

They’re in the midst of turning an 1,800 square foot former laundromat at 306 S. Brearly St. into a Italian American deli that would sell fresh and dried pasta, charcuterie and cheese from all over the world, dry goods, high-end tinned fish, olive oils, vinegars and more.

“It’ll be a specialty market, a specialty store,” said Dan Bonanno. Enrico, a former specialty buyer at Whole Foods, will be primarily the one running it, though all of them plan to work there.

Dan and Enrico grew up in a deli, specifically the 68-year-old Tenuta’s Deli & Liquors in Kenosha. That’s where their father Tony Bonanno got a job at age 14, two weeks after he got off a plane from Calabria, Italy.

“He’s been there ever since,” Dan Bonanno said. “He has a passion for it. This has always been on our mind, a deli like this. It’s the exact opposite hours of the restaurant, and … I have so much resources with my family, not just on my dad but my mom’s side. My uncles own stores in the Chicagoland area.

“We have enough resources to pull this off, do a good job. And it’s part of my family.”

Alimentari will be focused primarily on retail, including prepared items like pate and rillettes. It would have little to no seating, no fresh produce, eggs or dairy, and no in-house bakery, deferring to Willy Street neighbors Madison Sourdough Company and Batch Bakehouse.

What it will have are sandwiches, each made to order, and take-and-bake lasagna. They’ll offer stocks and bone broth. The team wants to hold pasta classes and sell fresh-frozen stuffed pastas, made by hand and with an extruder. They want to stock wine, sherry and specialty spirits like amaro.

Down the line, Dan Bonanno said, Alimentari might serve gelato and start curing its own meats (a somewhat challenging process in terms of regulation). Chamberlain Associates Inc. is completing the buildout of the east side space, according to a Madison Magazine story.

The name “alimentari” means “foodstuffs” in Italian, and it’s also a name for some small markets in Italy. Dan Bonanno and Arent have thought about opening their own for years.

“It’s something we always talk about,” Bonanno said. The deli will mean “more buying power for us. We want to get more whole animals. We get a better price on stuff, can help our farmers a bit more.”

Does the team envision a fleet of Alimentaris around the city someday?

“I take it a year at a time,” Bonanno said. “I’m not getting an empire. I just like doing stuff I like to do.”

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Since 2008, Lindsay Christians has been writing about fine arts and food for The Capital Times. She loves eating at the bar, going to the theater, fine wine and good stories. She lives on the east side with her husband, two cats and too many cookbooks.