Anthony Piscioneri: Hot dogging it

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Entertainment,Alexandra Greeley

It takes a talented chef with great humility to tackle the challenge of creating haute hot dogs -- that is, serving hot dogs decked out with more than drizzles of mustard and relish. Just such a guy is Anthony Piscioneri, executive chef of DC-3 (a hot dog eatery on Capitol Hill) and a sometime chef for other Matchbox Food Group restaurants, such as nearby Ted's Bulletin.

Perhaps his California background -- specifically San Francisco -- has helped to spark his creative genes, letting him come up with such unusual dogs as the bacon-wrapped Tuscan Sonoran and the falafel-garnished California Left-Winger. He agrees: "A lot of my culture comes from San Francisco," he says. "I fished off Fisherman's Wharf. So my culinary leanings are California-influenced." That fishing might also explain his adult passion for cooking with seafood.

Although Piscioneri is self-taught, he had very positive and direct influences on his culinary education: Both his father and his grandfather were chefs. "My granddad was from Sicily," he says. "He taught us that culture as I was growing up. Cooking runs in the men's side of the family," he says, adding that his dad did the cooking at home when he was growing up. "It was all Italian," he says.

But, says Piscioneri, although he did not attend culinary school, he certainly has paid his dues in the industry. Moving from California to Washington 20 years ago, he has worked for numerous local restaurants. "I have worked in many restaurants and with many chefs," he says. "They all broadened my culinary horizons, but Chef Tunks (of Acadiana, District Commons, Ceiba and others) was the greatest influence."

If you go
DC-3
» Where: 423 Eighth St. SE
» Info: 202-546-1935; eatdc3.com
» Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

With such great training, it is no wonder Piscioneri is tackling the dog business with such fervor. Gathering inspiration for his doggy creations, he says he turns to current events for ideas. For example, for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, he plans on making duck sausages with cherry gastrique. For Thanksgiving, he made in house what he called a Thankfurter, a turkey sausage with stuffing and a cranberry sauce. "It was one of my favorites and a No. 1 seller," he says. But perhaps the most popular of his wild creations has been the andouille sausage served with traditional red beans and rice on a fresh loaf slathered with chow chow. "I have learned that the hot dog is a blank slate," he says. "I try to have fun."

It is no surprise then, to hear him say that his heart really belongs to cooking. "Just put food and a knife in front of me," he says, "and I'll make it happen."

Q&A

What is your comfort food?

Fried chicken. Popeye's is awesome. I wish it were spicier. I love the wings. I love hot sauce.

What is your cooking style?

It is American comfort food with a modern twist. I use different parts of what I have learned and compile them into one dish. ... I'm going for delicious. I love heavy dishes, such as short ribs with potatoes and foie gras.

What is in your fridge?

Milk, eggs, Lunchables, water, vitamin water, maybe some leftovers. I never eat at home.

Which is your favorite restaurant?

2941 and CityZen

What is your must-have ingredient?

Veal stock, because you can fix anything with veal stock. That and butter.

Recipe

Potato salad

The chef suggests serving this salad atop your hot dog.

Serves 4

4 red bliss potatoes, peeled and skinned

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

7 strips thick bacon, cooked and diced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons grain mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 to 2 jalapenos, roasted till charred or pan-seared until soft

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch cubes. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the potato cubes. When the potatoes are tender, drain and shock them in ice water to stop the cooking.

When cold, combine the potatoes, onion, celery, red bell pepper and bacon in a salad bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, mustard and vinegar. Combine the jalapenos with 1/4 cup water in a blender and process to make a puree. Stir this into the mayonnaise mixture. Spoon the mayonnaise over the potato mixture and toss to combine. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

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