La Bella Vita is a salute to all things Italian.  Edesia: A Palisade Culinary, Wine & Spirits Adventure has enlisted the considerable skills and experience of Executive Chef Michael Rodgers from Maggiano’s Denver Pavilions to create a special menu for the VIP luncheon.

Edesia, which is scheduled for Sunday, April 8 at Wine Country Inn, will benefit Marillac Health.  The VIP Luncheon is set for 11 am to 1 pm; the main event featuring food, libations, chef demos and live music happens from 2 to 5 p.m.

Guests at Edesia’s VIP Luncheon will have a personalized guided tour of Italian regional foods and wines with the bonus of sampling comparable Colorado vintages, thanks to Chef Michael Rodgers and his culinary team.  WCI Executive Chef Dave Kassera and his culinary staff will assist.

Chef Rodgers’ selections for the gourmet luncheon’s four courses will range from the Apulia Region to Rome, then Florence and finish in Sicily.   For each he has chosen to pair an appropriate Italian selection coupled with a Colorado wine to compare.

“We think our guests will appreciate the opportunity to sample unfamiliar Italian wines  and then to compare those profiles with  Colorado wines,” points out Ian Kelley, Wine Country Inn General Manager.  He declined to elaborate on the menu, opting to protect the element of surprise.

Suffice to say, Chef Rodgers plans to present cuisine that is based on authentic regional dishes.

“The secret is to keep the dishes simple, fresh and local,” he insists.  In his estimation, sometimes Chefs lose the authenticity of Italian cuisine in their quest to be innovative. ”

Although many of his recipes are similar to his Grandmother’s, Chef Rodgers says he’s still learning through travel and cooking in Italy.

The Main Event from 2 to 5 pm, will feature Chef Demos as well as food, libations, and live music.   General Admission tickets are $65 per person.

Chefs who will demonstrate their Italian cuisine skills include Chris Wilson, Ristorante Pantuso’s; Vincenzo Favale, Enzo’s/Ristorante Italiano and Dave Kassera, Wine Country Inn.

Chef Michael Rodgers

Chef Rodgers comes by his expertise easily. You might say Italian is in his DNA.  Chef Michel grew up in a large Italian family where people love to cook. He recalls that he was always surrounded by delicious homemade food. His grandmother taught him skills as a youngster, so that when he was older, he assumed the family cooking responsibilities for his working parents.

As many youngsters, he resisted those early beginnings and sought a college degree in criminal justice.  He soon realized that his chosen path was not for him.  He eventually earned his culinary credentials from Le Chef, the fore runner to Le Cordon Bleu.

Chef Michael has been with Maggiano’s for over 17 years. His favorite aspects of working there are the people, experience and relationships he’s formed over the years.  “If you strip it all away it’s the relationships and experiences I believe that will last a life time,” he says.  Chef Michael is proud “to oversee our scratch kitchen and happy to modify dishes to accommodate any allergy or personal taste.”

Maggiano’s, with 52 locations across the country, specializes in made-from-scratch daily Italian-American cuisine served in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Each restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner and offers a convenient carryout service as well as catering, in addition to beautiful and accommodating banquet spaces for special occasions. The restaurant group opened the doors of its first location on the corners of Clark St. and Grand Ave. in Chicago, IL. Nov. 11, 1991.

Maggiano’s menu features both classic and contemporary Italian-American recipes. The Executive Chefs create homemade pasta sauces, signature salads, prime steaks, fresh fish, and monthly features. The chain carries a large selection of wines from acclaimed vintners as well as their own private wine label, Salute Amico.  Family style service or individual entrees are available.   In Denver, Maggiano’s has two locations.