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Local Chef Keaton Hopkins Brings Italian Home with Cucina 39

Jordan Wright, June 2010

Chef Keaton Hopkins with his pasta sauce - photo by Jordan Wright

Chef Keaton Hopkins with his pasta sauce - photo by Jordan Wright

If you want to delve into the cuisine of Italy you could do no better than to spend a year in Marches, a region surrounded by Umbria and Tuscany, at a cooking school nestled in a countryside known for its highly-prized white veal, wild boar, white truffles and the abundant seafood found along its Adriatic Coast.

After attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and graduating from the CIA in Hyde Park, that’s exactly what budding chef, Keaton Hopkins, elected to do.  Later he worked at Michael Mina’s Aqua Restaurant in the Bellagio in Las Vegas and under Fabio Trabocchi at the former Maestro in the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner.  He fell crazy in love with Italian food and took off for the little town of Jesi, Italy, to attend the school of Italian Regional Cuisine.  It was there that he could assuage his desire to learn from the best chef instructors in Italy and receive his Masters Degree.  At last he could realize his dreams of creating his own line of traditional pasta sauces.

The line-up taken at The Organic Butcher of McLean - photo by Jordan Wright.

The line-up taken at The Organic Butcher of McLean - photo by Jordan Wright.

When he returned to America he founded his company, Cucina 39, in McLean, VA.  The “39” is for Italy’s international calling code.  I’ve tried Hopkins’ lovely, smooth and delicately flavorful sauces, influenced by the Bologna region, and they exhibit nary a hint of acidity.

Using all-natural and gluten-free ingredients, he creates his artisanal sauces in small batches.  His light and tender Turkey Lasagna is blessed with hand-rolled pasta noodles that he makes with organic eggs and finely milled Italian Tipo 00 flour.  It comes frozen and is pricey, but sublime, and easily serves four.

You can find his authentic Italian pasta sauces in gourmet emporiums such as Dean and Deluca and The Organic Butcher in McLean, though some Whole Foods, Giant and Safeway stores in our area also carry them.  Out of the five delicious tomato-based sauces, Porcini Mushroom, Olive and Caper, Fra Diavolo, Garden Vegetable and Classic Marinara, I’ll take the Fra Diavolo and add some veal meatballs or chunks of fricasseed lobster to the sauce.  Now all you need is the pasta and a nice bottle of Montepulciano.

Marches, Italy - photo courtesy of

Marches, Italy - photo courtesy of

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