As a junior at Kendall College, the acclaimed school for hospitality management and the culinary arts, he was offered the opportunity of a lifetime and he seized it.
As a result, he found himself interning at Trattoria Delle Tele, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Porretta, Italy.
Growing up, Serritella vividly remembers watching his culinary inspiration, Mario Batali, on television, and years later he was cooking in the same kitchen that Batali once trained at.
Serritella’s father, Domenico, hails from Ricigliano, Salerno, and a family friend and attorney helped Nico make contact with the famed trattoria during his search for an internship opportunity.
“It is a very traditional Bolognese-style restaurant with a modern twist,” Serritella explains. The menu embraces more than 300 recipes in three major categories: traditional, revised traditional and lunch for working people.
The only American interning at the restaurant, Serritella started working in October 2012 and was there for more than five months.
Even though his only compensation was room, board and college credit, it was a dream come true for Serritella to wake up in his apartment in Italy and walk down the street to work at the internationally renowned trattoria.
“I was able to put my input in to the recipes, but I was really there to learn!” states Serritella.
Now, he’s back at Kendall in hot pursuit of his bachelor’s degree while preparing dishes for the dining room at the college, a respected training ground for up-and-coming chefs and a popular dining experience that has earned positive reviews from the Zagat Survey as well as local critics.
Students at Kendall typically work on their general education requirements such as math, science, and a language in the first few years, then dive into their concentrations. Dishes are graded on a point system, and students enjoy multiple opportunities to learn from guest chefs.
“I am very passionate about Italian food. Mediterranean food is where my interest lies,” he explains. “My studies are also on the business side of running a restaurant.”
When he’s not in school, Serritella enjoys cooking for his biggest fans: his family. They try his dishes and give him passionate feedback. Serritella also likes to whip up creations of his own. “I watch food network, come up with new ideas, go to the grocery store and then get to work in the kitchen!” he enthuses.
Serritella has worked for Rex Italian Foods in Norridge, and he likes to broaden his horizons by trying new restaurants. His favorite is Piccolo Sogno in Chicago.
He also enjoys a busy life beyond the kitchen. An Eagle Scout and a member of the Sicilian Band of Chicago, he recently portrayed Columbus in the Columbus Day Parade.
So what does the future hold for this well-rounded student chef? “It is definitely in my mind that I want to open my own restaurant,” he explains. “I want to work for a while and maybe even work in Italy again and learn as much as I can there and bring it back to Chicago.”
Serritella is only in his early 20s, and what he has experienced thus far has definitely put him on the fast track to success. Wise beyond his years, he has this advice to offer other aspiring chefs. “I would tell them to work hard and believe in yourself, don’t let the little things in the kitchen detour you from doing what you are doing: Keep on moving forward.”