Nostrano is known for its emphasis on fresh and local food. Andy Ziegler is the personification of that fresh food mission. In his backyard, he grows produce for the restaurant and for his own CSA.
Growing up on a farm in Middleton, food from the garden was a way of life. Meals revolved around what was in season and during the winter, the family lived off of stores of the previous canned harvest. With a made-from-scratch upbringing and a severe food allergy, it was only natural for Ziegler to start cooking on his own in an effort to truly know what was going into the food he was eating.
In high school, Ziegler worked restaurant and landscaping jobs. After high school, he became been a fixture in the downtown restaurant scene with the brief breaks to travel to Italy and France. His resume includes: L’Etoile, The Old Fashioned, Bar Restaro (Italy), The Haze, Sushi Muramoto (Hilldale), and now Nostrano.
Owners Tim and Elizabeth Dahl were pastry chefs in Chicago before opening Nostrano in October 2010. Since then, they have impressed the Madison foodie community with their fresh, seasonal fare and complex desserts. With an emphasis on fresh local foods, the menu pulls form Mediterranean and Italian cuisines.
In Italian, Nostrano means ‘all of us.’ Nostrano is a restaurant that has ingrained itself in the downtown community. With a small dining room and service, customers receive personal attention not found in bigger establishments. The staff has remained consistent in the restaurant’s first year and has grown into a cohesive, collaborative team.
The menu changes throughout the year. Ziegler compared it to rolling admissions at a university. There is no set schedule of changes. When a new ingredient comes into season, expect the menu to shift to include it. For each new dish, the cooking staff holds brainstorming and revision sessions to perfect it before it appears in the front of the house.
Ziegler could not point to any one dish on the menu as a trademark Nostrano meal. He encouraged guests to try new dishes instead of sticking to one. His only piece of advice for ordering was to save room for dessert. “When I eat at Nostrano, I always get dessert,” he told me. With Dahls’ pastry experience, the desserts are complex in composition and flavors. I can’t wait to try them.
Address: 111 S. Hamilton Street, Madison WI
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 5-9 pm
Thursday-Saturday, 5-10 pm
Website: Nostrano Madison Restaurant
Advice to New Cooks
Read recipes so you can learn about them but don’t be constrained by them. Use recipes as a resource but don’t be afraid to modify it to fit your preferences. Start with simple recipes with a small list of ingredient. The less complex, the easier it will be to succeed.
As you start cooking on your own, begin with traditional combinations like tomatoes and cucumbers or tomatoes and basil. If it’s a classic, it’s a classic for a reason.
Ziegler Must-Reads for New Cooks
The Silver Spoon: An Italian classic translated into English. This is particularly helpful if you have a CSA as it has recipes grouped by ingredients. Got an eggplant in your share? Go to the eggplant page and you will find recipes that showcase it.
The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Both Childs’ masterpiece and Joy of Cooking include information on just about any ingredient you will ever use. They are both basic building blocks to learn about food and cooking techniques.
Interested in joining a CSA but not ready to commit for the whole summer? Ziegler and girlfriend, Carly Garfield, run a CSA out of their Middleton farm. Each week, you can choose whether or not you want to opt in for a share.
On Monday, they send out an email detailing what will be included that week. If you would like to receive a share, email them and it will be delivered on Friday. The cost is $20. To join, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to CSA mailing list.
Andy’s Tips and Recipes
I have to thank Andy again for supplying me with blog materials for the next month. He had some great easy recipes that appealed to my whole food cooking values that I will be trying in the next few weeks. He has also promised me a swiss chard recipe that he guarantees that I will love. And if that wasn’t enough, he gave me some tips on gardening!
We will start with this super easy and delicious tomato sauce. (Click on the picture below to see the recipe).