Jaime Laurita is something of a lifestyle alchemist. The Chicago resident — and brother of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Caroline Manzo — has spent the past several years combining his passions for cooking and design to create his own gold standard: a fashionable food line. Launched this year, the Chef Jaime Laurita brand (Chefjaimelaurita.com) has already grown to include everything from pasta to Prosecco to olive oil. “I want to be the Tiffany of the food business,” says Laurita. “Everything should be really good-looking and high quality.”
Laurita certainly isn’t short on inspiration. He has trotted the globe as chef to A-listers like Sarah McLachlan — even co-authoring her cookbook, “Plenty” — and designed backstage environments for Madonna, Sting and The Police. But Italy is a constant muse for the global chef. “I’m finding mom-and-pop vineyards and pasta producers in Italy, and making deals to bring their products over here so people can enjoy their passion and their work,” he says.
His two pillar products, Bello Boy Rose Petals Moscato and The Perfect Prosecco, have developed a loyal following. “They’ve become available in the last six months, and they’re becoming so popular that it’s hard to keep up,” Laurita says. “It’s a great problem to have.” The bottles, carried at Binny’s and in grocers like Mariano’s and Sunset Foods, aren’t just about the taste — they’re about the story. “The Bello Boy is the Italian guy you can depend on. He’s Mr. Right,” says Laurita. “On every bottle it says ‘Feel love and gratitude.’ Those are the two ingredients I never forget to put inside.”
For Laurita, it’s essential that every product stamped with his name exudes his personality. “Everything in my world has that little bit of extra glamour,” he explains. “Steven Tyler told me that all you need to do is let your freak flag fly, and that really stuck in my head. I dream big. I put myself in it 100 percent.”
Here, the chef/designer pops open his perfect Chicago Sunday.
8:30 a.m. Laurita and his partner, Rich Lane, start the morning with a yoga lesson from their favorite instructor, Veronica Bruce (left), at Ebb and Flow (above, 1834 W. North) or Om On the Range (3759 N. Ravenswood).
1 p.m. To stock up on groceries, the chef goes to Mariano’s (40 S. Halsted) for organic produce and cheese, and to check on his stock of Bello Boy Moscato.
2 p.m. Laurita and Lane bike north up to Hollywood Beach (above, W. Hollywood and the lake) for a relaxing afternoon. “The eye candy there is priceless,” Laurita laughs.
4 p.m. Time for some retail therapy. Laurita hits Andersonville stores like Scout (left, 5221 N. Clark) and The Haymaker Shop (5507 N. Clark).
6 p.m. For dinner Laurita heads to his old stomping grounds: Spiaggia (980 N. Michigan). “It’s a place that’s near and dear to my heart,” he says. “It’s where I got my start as a chef in Chicago.”
Story by Zak Stemer