Before Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman opened A|M Italian Kitchen in 2008, Memphians struggled to find innovative Italian cooking in fine restaurants outside of national chains and greasy spoon Italian eateries. By the 1980s most cities began to see a decline in Italian restaurants with red and white checkered tablecloths, bloated bottles of bad Chianti wrapped in straw baskets, and red gravies charred on a stovetop for days. You can still find the comforting foods of old Italy in family style restaurants in Memphis and other cities. Such places offer an important window into a time when people perceived Italian food as exotic ethnic cuisine.
Over the years, the A|M empire expanded to include Hog and Hominy and Porcellino’s Craft Butcher in Memphis’s Brookhaven Circle and Josephine Estelle in the New Orleans’s Ace Hotel. A few weeks ago, Ticer and Hudman expanded their territory in Memphis with a new restaurant named for the grandmothers who taught them about cooking: Catherine and Mary. Each new venue builds upon a foundation of American Southern and Italian cuisine with cured meats, flavorful pastas, creative cocktails and hard-to-find Italian wines.
When approaching C&M’s on the first floor of the Chisca Hotel building on South Main Street at night, the brightly lit kitchen bustles with activity through the floor to ceiling windows.
The dim lighting of the bar and dining room obscures the rough surfaces of the concrete columns and slab ceilings but creates cozy nighttime atmosphere. On one wall near the kitchen hangs a large painting with two older women looking down at us like culinary goddesses. One stirs a pot of red gravy. Grandmas are watching.
For our first visit we were able to secure a few seats at the bar where the full menu is available. To ensure a table in the dining room, plan ahead with reservations. When at the bar or a table, our friendly servers demonstrated detailed knowledge of the menu and wine list. We asked for wine pairing suggestions with fine results. Wine Director Ryan Radish organized the full wine list by flavor profiles (fruity, earthy, etc.) rather than by varietal or region to make pairing easier for the customer.
C&M’s bar offers house-made cocktails with Italian inspirations of Prosecco, Campari, and Aperol. Try the Horse’s Neck (similar to a Moscow Mule), Monkey Gland or the Worth Street (a twist on the Sazerac) or a simple apertivo like an Aperol Spritz to open up your palette.
The menu offers small sharable snacks, plates and pastas along with full-sized entrées. We enjoyed the cured meats of the Saluma Board with fruity olives and cocktails: bresola, lonzo, capicola and country pâte. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Brussel Sprouts with toasted garlic, croutons, Parmesan and cool creamy Caesar dressing makes a perfect earthy salad for early Autumn (⭐️⭐️⭐️). The 2015 Ca’Brione from Lombardy paired deliciously with the tuna Crudo in brown butter with toasted hazelnuts, Meyer lemon and sorrel (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) and the Cannellini Beans with pork terrine, egg yolk, black pepper brodo and gremolatta (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️).
Of the pastas we tried the Cassarecci with foie gras, squash, vin santo, giblets and sage; the folded Scarpinocc with mushrooms, garlic, fonduta, lemon, brown butter, and fried Parmesan; and Mafalde with Newman Farm pulled pork, Parmesan, tomato, and garlic ranked as favorites. For an umami adventure, try the Chitarra with squid ink, arrabiata, lobster, panna grata and bottarga. Four stars (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) for these pastas.
The Porchetta with lentils, red cabbage, Porcellino’s sausage, and Salmoriglio proved a hearty entrée perfect during cooler months (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️). We didn’t get to try the other entrées, but the sous-vide Newman Farm lamb looked promising in the kitchen.
During our second visit we tried four desserts with friends:
- The Neapolitan – white cake layered with strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice creams ⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Torta del Nona – a chocolate goat cheese cake with hazelnut crust ⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Pignolata – nuggets of deep-fried pine nut batter sweetened honey and colorful sprinkles ⭐️⭐️
- C&M Cannoli ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The savory items on the C&M menu proved a hard act to follow. We enjoyed a rich Espresso Dupio with dessert with sleeves of sugar in the raw presented in a gray flat metal case to the table.
When talented chefs expand their culinary empires by opening new restaurants, maintaining the quality of the food, wine, spirits and service presents a challenge. Ticer and Hudman overcame that challenge with their fifth restaurant. After a few visits to Catherine and Mary’s, it’s clear that the A|M empire hasn’t over-extended itself.
Catharine and Mary’s
272 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Small Plates: $9-20