Giovanni Mauro

Nora’s passionate, opera-singing chef cooks up a nice piece of fish, Italian-style

For those of us who maintain a connection between fine dining and music, I offer, as an example, Giovanni Mauro. He’s the son of Italian parents who run the locals’ favorite Nora’s Cuisine, 6020 W. Flamingo Road, and he’s one of the most passionate Italian chefs in the city.

Gio, as everyone calls him, studied opera at Long Beach State University and later in Milan with famed tenor Carlo Bergonzi. He’s fluent in both Italian and Italian cooking. Today, he expends most of his energy at Nora’s Wine Bar & Osteria in Boca Park.

Nora’s Wine Bar is notable for cicchetti—small bites, akin to tapas—that he matches with some 48 wines by the taste or glass, poured from one of his three Enomatic dispensers. He started a chapter of the Slow Food Movement here in town and is a proponent of that philosophy.

When I catch up with him at his restaurant, he urges me to taste a stuffed lemon leaf. “You remove the leaf,” he says, “and eat the grilled meat inside.” It’s a mixture of lamb, pork and beef—pure sensuality. He also insists I try his soothing Tuscan soup, pappa al pomodoro. What a treat!

But what I came here for is this recipe for escolar in cartoccio, which is fish cooked in a light bag.

“I chose this because it’s easy, flavorful and impressive,” he says. “And I like to use a cooking bag made of plastic because it’s lighter, and semi-permeable.”

Escolar in Cartoccio

Ingredients (per individual serving)

  • 5-ounce filleted escolar
  • ½ cup cooked garbanzo beans, preferably split
  • 2 ounces fish stock (he recommended the frozen stock at Whole Foods)
  • ½ cup finely minced potatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper


Use a clear plastic baking bag normally for turkey or chicken, sold in most supermarkets. Cut into a 12-by-12-inch square. Season the fish on both sides to taste with the salt and pepper.

Place the plastic square on a plate and layer the surface, first with the diced potatoes, then with the garbanzos. Place the fish on top, and then pour in the fish stock, being careful not to let any of it drip off.

Put the sprigs of thyme on top and carefully bring the four corners of the square together, forming a pouch. Tie the pouch at the top with butcher’s twine or the tie band that comes with the baking bags. Then place on a baking dish and cook for about 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.

After opening the bag, drizzle the top with a little of your favorite extra-virgin olive oil.

Wine Pairing

Nora’s Wine Bar wine director Morgan O’Connor prefers to pair this dish with Ribolla Gialla ’07 by Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region’s celebrated winemaker Jermann. She likes it for the “racy acidity and subtle notes of fresh herbs that play off the thyme.” It is $16 a glass, $69 a bottle, and available for less than $40 retail.

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