Photo credit: Katherine Parske
If you think Italian cooking is only carb and calorie loaded, think again. We spoke with Chris Disney, Director of Operations for Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen and learned a thing or two about how healthy eating doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor or enjoyment of your meal. Check out the QA with Chris below and then make Picazzo’s delicious Chocolate Avocado Mousse recipe for dessert tonight!
Q: Italian food is known for being very carb-heavy. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a lot of our readers are looking for ways to work on their nutrition to become their best healthy (and fit) selves – what makes the food at Picazzo’s so healthy?
Chris Disney: Healthy is such a broad term- for some of our guests, it means a gluten-free diet, while for others it means following a vegan diet or just eating “clean” foods. For us, it is offering something for each specific diet where our guests can be confident knowing that they are not filling their bodies with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, genetically modified organisms or artificial preservatives. We have many guests that have food allergies, digestive problems, cancers, diabetes and many other struggles or have made conscious decisions to live a vegan lifestyle and we offer these individuals a dining experience with choices that fit their specific needs. For example, we offer 99% of our menu gluten-free, while offering a completely separate vegan menu that has over 40 different menu items available.
Q: What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with? Why those?
CD: I actually like root vegetables a lot. They are so versatile; they can be braised, roasted, grilled or baked. They can be served hot or cold and they hold up very well. Right now our menu has an herb-roasted sweet potato that is great and we are also adding golden beets into the mix very soon. I also really like using fresh herbs- cilantro, rosemary, thyme, basil- they all have such flavor and aroma and bring a freshness to any recipe.
Q: On your website, you define what a “healthitarian” is, would you mind sharing with our readers?
CD: We have so many guests with different dietary needs from eating gluten-free to vegan to organic. The one thing they all have in common is that they all focus on their health in one way or another, so we decided to define what that meant and become ambassadors of the movement to live, eat and be healthy. Our definition of what a Healthitarian is, is:
HEALTH • I • TAR • I • AN
- A person that enjoys a healthy lifestyle of nourishing the body with health-centric foods and supporting healthy habits.
- An advocate for positive health, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Q: What are the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15”?
CD: The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 is a produce list that outlines the 12 most pesticide-heavy fruits and vegetables as well as the fruits and vegetables that are considered to be the cleanest. Generally, the items that are more porous and exposed will absorb the most pesticides, while items that have rinds or natural barriers give the flesh protection from absorbing large amounts of pesticides. This guideline is helpful to those who want to avoid conventional produce but may not want to pay a higher premium or cannot obtain 100% organic items.
Q: How does balancing a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle impact your way of life?
CD: Balancing a healthy diet and lifestyle is important for me since I am always on the go. I oversee 5 restaurants and my wife and I have three young kids that are 5, 3 and 8 months old so it becomes difficult to sit down and eat a healthy prepared meal, especially on a regular schedule, for all meal periods. In the restaurants, you are constantly taste-testing your product and don’t realize how much grazing you do in just quality checks. I have to be conscious and plan ahead about my choices to avoid the “auto-pilot” of eating whatever is convenient and instead, plan on having healthier snacks available like a banana, granola, yogurt or simply grape tomatoes. It is the same way with physical activity- it has to be planned and prioritized for it to happen.
Photography by: Katherine Parske
Picazzo’s is located at the following locations:
Picazzo's - Location #2
Picazzo's - Location #3
Picazzo's - Location #4
Picazzo's - Location #5
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
Photo credit: Grace Stufkosky
- 2 Very Ripe Avocados, Peeled & Pitted
- 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1/4 Cup Agave
- 1/2 Tbs Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 Tsp Salt
- 3 Tbs Unsweetened Almond Milk
- 1 Tbs Water
Step 1: Blend all ingredients in a food processor (or traditional/immersion blenders will work too) until a smooth and creamy texture is present.
Step 2: Enjoy.