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March 28, 2018

Mainebiz Food Insider: TIQA introduces new chef, menu

Courtesy / TIQA Gaetano Ascione is the new executive chef at TIQA Pan Mediterranean, located at 327 Commercial St. in Portland.

Those who eat at TIQA Pan Mediterranean on Commercial Street in Portland may have noticed a new face — as its new executive chef Gaetano Ascione has been getting to know the customers and kitchen over the past month.

The native of Naples, Italy, has led kitchens in Germany, France, Singapore, and has also prepared meals for Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. He’s now bringing his “good food” approach to the three-year-old Mediterranean-themed restaurant at 327 Commercial St., replacing Bo Byrne, who left in January.

Ascione was formally introduced at a special dinner Monday night, in anticipation of the new menu, which will be introduced next week.

Ascione brings an impressive resume to Portland — he was a finalist in the Chef of the Year competition at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore in 2001 and is a member of the Chaine de Rotisseurs, created in 1248, and the oldest food and wine society in the world. He is also a member of the American Culinary Federation and the Gruppo Virtuale Cuochi Italiani.

He also was recently appointed an Italian Cuisine master chef by the Italian Ministry of Tourism, is an American Culinary Federation Certified Executive Chef and is a former continuing education instructor for the Culinary Institute of America.

That said, Ascione said he understands what the area’s restaurant patrons are looking for.

“When I get asked what kind of food I like to serve in my restaurants, I always say, ‘I serve only good food,’” he said in a news release. “I like to meet my customers, talk to them about what they like and don’t like, and use that direct feedback.”

He said his goal with TIQA “is to take the solid foundation that this restaurant has built and improve upon it.”

“Mediterranean is about the way you feel inside,” he said. “I hope to share that feeling of warmth, hospitality and delicious flavors with all the guests at TIQA.”

Co-owner Carol Mitchell said that Ascione will initially introduce specials to the menu as he acquaints himself with patrons.

“He will not make immediate, dramatic changes, preferring to build upon our menu a bit at a time, and working, as he says, ‘to expand the borders of the Mediterranean,’” she said.

TIQA's menu is inspired the ancestral roots of Mitchell and fellow founder and owner Deen Haleem, featuring dishes from different regions of the Mediterranean. The menu changes routinely, focusing on seasonal quality ingredients.

“Gaetano brings global skill, knowledge and experience to our restaurant, which will enhance the dining experience at TIQA,” Haleem said.

TIQA’s interior, designed by Christian P. Árkay-Leliever, Circle T Pro, has a main dining room, lounge, chef’s bar, cocktail bar, heated outdoor patio and private dining room.

Ascione earned a degree in hotel training from Istituto Alberghiero di Stato in Salerno, Italy, and began his career as a chef de partie — a station chef — in Italy, Germany, the UK and the Bahamas.

As the chef de cuisine at the Georgetown Club in Washington, D.C., he served Reagan and Carter, and he was executive chef of the inaugural banquet for President Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa.

He was a finalist in the Chef of the Year competition at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore in 2001, and has been executive chef around the world, from Naples to South Korea to France. His most recent role was at the famed Benny’s Chop House in Chicago.

Mitchell and Haleem also own seasonal TIQA Cafe and Bakery in Deering Oaks Park.

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