For visitors to Italy, the spotlight is on Milan this year as it plays host to the food-themed World Expo 2015. And while the U.S. aims to redefine American cuisine with an interactive and introspective pavilion called American Food 2.0 filled with vertical gardens and a Food Truck Nation (an area near the pavilion where six food trucks serve American fare), its off-site pop-up counterpart James Beard American Restaurant (JBAR) gastronomically entertains with a rotation of stateside and international chefs who are plating the American dream.
JBAR, or American Restaurant as some are more apt to call it, is the opposite of the USA pavilion — the small restaurant doesn’t reside in the massive Expo complex; instead, it is hidden in plain sight in Milan’s historic center, at the top of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the posh turn-of-the-century shopping gallery in front of the Duomo. Intimate and cozy, the vibe is all about eating and less about food education.
The reservations-only JBAR (serving through October 31) showcases an all-star line up of guests (U.S. first lady Michelle Obama stopped by on June 17) and world-recognized chefs who were handpicked by James Beard Foundation Executive Vice President and USA Pavilion Chief Creative Officer Mitchell Davis and culinary maestro Carlo Zarri. Chefs from both sides of the Atlantic get kitchen time to show off what American cuisine means to them — whether it be a dish straight off the menu from their award-winning U.S. restaurant or clever interpretations in themed dinners (expect Tex Mex, Southern, jazz). The much-anticipated Fourth of July feast by star Italian toque Massimo Bottura (Modena’s Osteria Francescana) has been circled on gourmands’ calendars for months.
The roster of invited chefs is filled with headliners: Along with Bottura, the impressive weekly lineups — meals will be offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays — include names like Rick Bayless (June 23-24), Duff Goldman (July 28-29), Dean Fearing (July 31-August 1), Ken Frank (August 7-8), Hugh Acheson (September 18-19) and Tom Colicchio (October 2-3). With the help of some of the finest regional chefs, JBAR also brings American brunch to Milan on Sundays. For those looking for a celebration, Thanksgiving dinner will also be served on occasional Thursdays every month — but keep in mind, it’s all up to the chef’s interpretation, so save the shock if your turkey and sweet potato casserole get a European twist.