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“Everything we do turns to shit in a few hours.” James Larsen, owner, The Restaurant, Fort Bragg, CA
Tre Piatti is a regional Italian restaurant in the heart of the Zona Romantica in Puerto Vallarta. The restaurant is filled with beautiful artwork and the small front dining room is highlighted by 2 enormous mango trees between the tables ascending up through the roof. These 2 trees are 120 years old, and I’m told they are very well known in Vallarta.
“Tre Piatti was opened by an American couple who are both chefs (they met at San Francisco’s Quince). The menu changes every two weeks but always with an Italian focus, and the fresh pasta, like Gorgonzola ravioli with fig compote, local vegetables and desserts like blueberry tart, have made the spot a standout. Dinner for two costs about 1,600 pesos without wine.” New York Times
Chef Chanan Kamen “spent five years running the pasta station” at Michael Tusk’s famed Quince in San Francisco. Lucky for those of us who venture to Puerto Vallarta, he brought his famed tagliatelle Bolognese and his Piemontese specialty agnolotti dal plin to Tre Piatti at a fraction of the cost you would pay at Quince.
Everything at Tre Piatti is fresh and flavorful. Chef Kamen uses the best local ingredients and Puerto Vallarta can boast many. Having owned and operated a restaurant myself, I was amazed at the composure of Chanan and his wife Natalie. Occasionally Chanan traverses the packed dining room to greet his customers with a soft but commanding presence. Natalie, who makes the exquisite desserts, greets the customers as they arrive together with her smiling assistant, Valerie. Together they see that each customer is made comfortable throughout the meal.
A restaurant is only as good as its staff, right down to the dishwasher. Chanan knows that as well as anyone. He started his career at age 15 behind the dishwasher and worked his way up to Tre Piatti learning his skills in Miami, New York, San Franciso, and Italy.
“Chef Chanan Kamen’s recipe is simple―he preserved a three-limbed tree and built his restaurant around the concept of three starters, three main courses, and three desserts (Tre Piatti means three plates in Italian.). He uses the freshest local produce possible and changes his menu frequently.” C D Selph
Years ago when I owned the Sea Gull Restaurant, I attended a meeting of educators with my friend and fellow restaurateur Jim Larsen. The purpose was to identify jobs for high school students that might teach them skills that would be useful later in life. It was at that meeting where Jim blurted out the quote I used at the top of this blog post. The fact is that most kids, young and old, find cooking fun and exciting when they see what’s involved behind the scenes. And that’s the other point that Jim made that still sticks in my mind: “It’s a kind of success if you can get these kids to be excited about anything.”
Cooking as practiced by Chanan and Natalie is an art form. It’s not surprising that Jim Larsen’s best friend was the artist Olaf Palm.
“Palm’s specialty subject, many believe, were his genre paintings: people at work, at play, in quiet conversations or contemplative states, ordinary people doing ordinary things, many of them Palm’s friends and family. As a Mendocino resident, as a musician and raconteur, and as an avid supporter of other artists, Palm touched the lives of almost everyone in his community.” Irene D. Thomas
Art and food warm the heart in a symbiotic relationship that defies any easy description. Not everyone gets it, I’m sure. But, it is for those who do get it that Tre Piatti exists. There are quite a few more who get it than you might think, so be sure to make your reservations early on your next visit to Puerto Vallarta.
For more on Art and Food read:
The Attic Gallery Art In … ONE … TWO … THREE
The Attic Where Artists and Browsers can meet
“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”