TRUMBULL, Conn. — Chef Attilio Marini likes cooking with cast iron. He really, really likes cooking with cast iron.
He’s so enamored that he recently rechristened the landmark Marisa’s Ristorante, which his mom opened in 1988, as the Cast Iron Chop House in Trumbull, unveiling a bold new menu that reflects his skill with the skillet.
“I’ve always had a passion for meats,” said Marini, taking a rare break from work in one of the dining rooms in the sprawling Main Street restaurant. “At Marisa’s, we always did a lot of steak, but we didn’t have a plan to showcase what I like to do.
“But I was ready. I’ve been working for eight or 10 years with cast iron, perfecting it, making it better.”
Marini, who first learned about cooking with cast iron from a Saveur magazine story, is so sure the method will succeed with customers that he’s dubbed himself “The Cast Iron Chef.”
So what’s all the fuss about? Unlike cooking over a charcoal or gas flame, cast iron allows meat to cook evenly and slowly without losing fat to keep it succulent. It takes a little longer, but Marini said customers find the char-free results delectable.
“The response has been really great,” he said.
The new focus allowed Marini to change up the menu of the former Marisa’s, which originally opened with more pasta-forward dishes in Bridgeport.
The star of the show is the porterhouse for two, the “king of steaks,” weighing in at a full 4 pounds. Marini cuts all his meat on the premises, including filet mignon served with garlic and butter, a bone-in ribeye and a Chateaubriand for two.
But there’s something for everyone at Cast Iron. Marini has been testing menu items as specials since February to make sure he has plenty of crowd-pleasers.
“I like to think I think like the people,” he said. “As a chef, the challenge is understanding people’s tastes.”
To that end, he’s kept some of the hits from his Marisa’s days, including chicken parmigiana and linguini with white clam sauce. But he’s added pizza fritte strips, his take on carnival food kicked up a notch with gorgonzola cream dipping sauce, and a house-made sausage flecked with pork belly, slab bacon and ground pork.
Other additions include a raw bar, several burgers and flat breads and a selection of small plates, including lamb lollipops and Chop House calamari.
The menu will change with the seasons and feature local ingredients, whenever possible, said general manager Daniel T. Solustri, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef himself.
“We are an absolute scratch kitchen,” he said. “We’re taking time to really focus on the menus.”
Cast Iron Chop House is at 6540 Main St in Trumbull. For more information, visit thecastironchophouse.com .