Italy has always been a part of Marco Canora’s world—from his Lucca-born mother, who grew the vegetables and cooked the dishes of her homeland, to his time spent cooking at chef Fabbio Picchi’s renowned Florence restaurant, Cibrèo. Since 2003, Hearth Restaurant chef–co-owner Canora brings Italian-accented farm-to-table cooking to New York’s East Village. And at his wine bars, Terroir East Village and Terroir Tribeca, he and business partner Paul Grieco offer what many have called a fabulously “quirky” list. The two have long been known for their loving and irreverent takes on classic food and wine. At their former restaurant, Insieme, a midtown Michelin one-star, the wine list featured Grieco notes, such as the nine reasons to drink rosé, which included: “Jim Morrison always consumed a bottle before sitting down to write poetry.” Makes you want to read that list.

A graduate of Pace University, Canora traveled around the United States on a motorcycle after college, cooking in Denver and San Francisco along the way. And when he returned to New York he landed a job on the line at Tom Colicchio’s Gramercy Tavern. Mentored by Colicchio, Canora moved up the line to become sous chef and later took Colicchio’s advice to explore Italian cooking hands-on in Italy. The result was Canora’s first restaurant of his own, in 1996, La Cucina Ristorante, on Martha’s Vineyard (where even President Bill Clinton stopped by for a meal).

Back in New York, as Tom Colicchio’s executive chef, Canora launched Craft (which won a 2001 James Beard award for Best New Restaurant in the country), and offspring Craftbar and Craftsteak. Then, once again, he went out on his own again to open Hearth in 2003. And in the spirit of the mentors that helped him become the chef he is today, Canora leads annual cooking classes in Tuscany.

Canora was a 2010 contestant on The Next Iron Chef, and in 2009 he published his first cookbook, Salt to Taste: The Keys To Confident, Delicious Cooking (Rodale), which was nominated for a James Beard Foundation award and selected as one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best of The Best. Mario Batali is a fan. He said the book “takes [Canora’s chef’s sense of the delicious] to the home, simplifying his cooking into a beautiful, lyrical melody.”