Delicious dishes


By Jessica Farthing | Photos by Madison Elrod

Michael Anthony’s Cucina Italiana has been a Hilton Head institution for 20 years, a one-stop, self-described culinary destination.

It’s a place to eat fine Italian food, visit a casual café, shop for Italian goods or attend a cooking class taught by trained chefs in the gourmet instructional kitchen. It’s also the place that Open Table gave a Diner’s Choice award in 2022.

The cooking school is popular on the island, offering both hands-on and demonstration-type classes.

For a demonstration class, around 30 people are seated in the classroom with a glass of Prosecco as one of the restaurant’s talented chefs prepares food.

Guests may sample the Lemon Lovers Class: Tagliatelle with lemon, chicken limone and lemon and buttermilk panna cotta.

Or it could be the “Hooked on Shrimp” demo with shrimp creole and shrimp and grits. Every seat in the house has a great view, a flat screen TV focused right on the pan, making sure everyone can see methods of preparation, the desired colors of sauces or cooked ingredients.

Guests are happy to sample each course with a glass of wine, savoring the delicious dishes.

“It’s kind of like Food Network, but you get to eat,” says Ian Mason, General Manager.

The hands-on experience is more intimate, with a 10-person limit and individual instruction from the instructor. Attendees might learn professional knife skills or make recipes like veal Valdostana or rosemary pork tenderloin with peaches step by step, then sitting down together for a family-style meal with their finished dishes.

“Once the knives come out and we start drinking some wine, it can be quite a party,” said Mason.

Two chefs oversee the cooking school events, working to teach the recipes and answer any questions. Both are highly knowledgeable in different types of cuisine, working in other restaurants and earning degrees from respected culinary institutions.

Chef Trey Place earned his diploma from the Culinary Institute of America while Chef Kenny Warthen’s degree came by way of Johnson & Wales University.

Regulars come week after week for the experience, enjoying the ever-changing schedule of classes. New students are encouraged to sign up for whatever beccomes available, as the slots regularly sell out.

Mason said, “These guys get along with the customers so well and each other. They have such a nice chemistry between themselves.”

The cooking school doesn’t limit itself to just Italian food, though that’s the most popular choice. They may sample French or Spanish cuisine, instruct guests how to debone a chicken or inspire cooking as a healthy gourmet. One of the classes that’s quickest to sell out is the holiday dinner party, with ideas for the schedule leading up to big, traditional meals.

Fall is a hot season: the locals in town keep the cooking school busy.

“Sometimes we put new classes out on e-blast, and they are full within 10 minutes,” Mason said.

Signing up for the emails is an easy option on Michael Anthony’s website, allowing subscribers to be the first to know about new offerings. If a group is large enough to do a private class, the restaurant offers that as an option as well. A call to the event coordinator can get that scheduled for any class in their rotation.

Mason knows his chefs work hard to keep the school fresh.

“The big challenge now is finding new recipes because we often have the same people coming week in and week out,” he said. “You have to build these things from scratch, and it’s like a full- time job to research new recipes and put concepts together. We’re always looking for new ideas.”

In his opinion, personal connections are the reason that Michael Anthony’s school is special.

“The connection that people make with each other is different than a typical cooking school. People come in, take classes and hang out with each other afterward,” he said, “They visit the class just to say hello to our chefs. It’s picking their brains, hearing the stories about restaurants that people love."

For more information and pricing, visit