Celebrity chef Donatella Arpaia Stewart knows food can be both good and good for you. Raised on a Mediterranean-inspired diet, she spent her childhood summers at her mother’s family olive groves in Puglia, Italy. Still, Donatella wasn’t into fitness when she met heart surgeon Allan Stewart in 2010 at the New York City Marathon: He was a marathon participant; she was a celebrity wearing a beautiful dress and Louboutin shoes.
They hit it off anyway. Donatella says she was amazed by Allan’s commitment to good health in all aspects of his life. “Allan would work out for an hour after performing five heart surgeries in one day,” says Donatella, a lawyer-turned-culinary-icon and longtime Food Network head judge of Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef, as well as a restaurateur, author, and lifestyle brand ambassador. (They were married in 2011 at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.)
Allan knew cardiothoracic surgery was his calling since watching the first pediatric heart transplant on a Nova TV special as an 11-year-old. In 2004, he was tapped to be part of the New York–based surgical team who operated on President Bill Clinton’s heart. Today he’s known as a leading expert on minimally invasive heart surgery in the U.S., and works as the Medical Director and Chief of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery for HCA Healthcare East Florida, which includes Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, Kendall Regional Medical Center, and Mercy Hospital in Miami-Dade.
Donatella was 27 when she started her culinary career. Born and bred in her family’s restaurant business, she realized after earning her law degree that food—not law—was her calling. “The restaurant business chose me,” says the chef, whose family members taught her to love seasonality and high-quality ingredients.
In 1998, she opened Bellini in New York City followed by David Burke & Donatella, Anthos, Mia Dona, Kefi, and Eos—all receiving a variety of awards. (Zagat dubbed her the “hostess with the mostess” because of her front-of-the-house hospitality skills.) “I know how to make people feel welcome; I love to host as well as cook,” says Donatella, also classically trained at Le Grand Diploma for Classic Culinary Arts at the French Culinary Institute and the Italian Culinary Academy.
She now owns two Manhattan locations of Prova Pizzabar—one in Grand Central Station and another in Moxy Times Square—which serve Neapolitan style pizza inspired by her studies with Italian pizza master Enzo Cocci.
Though the couple loved living in New York, by 2018 it was time for a change. “We liked Miami’s warmer weather,” says Donatella, who contributes to ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today show, and sells lifestyle culinary lines on the Home Shopping Network. “I wanted him to be a star in a new environment as long as the city was known for food. So, Miami sounded great.” Plus, Donatella dishes, she plans to open more Prova Pizzabar locations in South Florida.
The family, which includes their three children, Alessandro, 9, and twins Emma and Noah, 2, love their healthy Miami life and enjoy a tasty diet of leafy greens, fresh fish, olive oil, nuts, occasional high-protein pasta, and pure chocolate. “We eat no processed foods, keep things fresh, and avoid most anything white,” Donatella says. “I cook all of the time, and occasionally Allan and I cheat on the good stuff, including red wine.”
Allan, who admits that he used to “eat for sustenance only” calls their diet “delicious” and heart-healthy, to boot.
“Even though I am an independent woman, I love cooking for him and the family,” Donatella says. “I like us all to eat together. We are both from first-generation immigrant families and appreciate family.”
Donatella and Allan also appreciate entertaining guests regularly in their Pinecrest home. Before parties, she prepares the menu and cooks, while he mixes signature cocktails and cues up the music. “I like to perfect my background music choices at the last minute,” he says. “I mix it up and add Latin flair to get people dancing.”
For their recent heart-healthy soiree, the couple invited friends over for a movable feast created by Donatella with help from Palm Beach Catering & Luxury Events. “I love to move the party around the house,” she says.
As guests arrived, they gathered around the marble-topped bar (with a huge private wine cellar behind) filled with glowing candles for Allan’s three signature cocktails: Vesper martini from the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale (vodka, gin, and wine with an orange peel), smoked old fashioned (bourbon with Italian Amarena cherries and a dash of bitters), and a Prosecco cocktail.
“Allan and I were kindred spirits during our days at Columbia University Medical Center,” says Varinder Pal Singh, chairman of cardiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who flew down for the festivities. “We’re hard working, genuine people who also know how important it is to have fun.”
While listening to live music by instrumentalist Pamir Guanchez, guests enjoyed passed appetizers like tuna tartare with sesame oil, soy sauce, Calabrian chili, toasted sesame, and microgreens; Faroe Islands salmon mini tacos with lemon and lime zest, ginger, olive oil, and microgreens; spicy meatball lollipops (Donatella’s award-winning recipe); coconut ceviche with coconut milk, lime zest, red onion, jalapeño, and toasted coconut shavings, served with margaritas in mini Patrón bottles; and assorted Galbani cheeses displayed on a charcuterie board.
“They are great hosts, and aside from being smart, Dr. Stewart is a patient and kind person,” says Debbie Segreti, his 15-year administrative assistant, who moved to Miami to continue her career in his practice. “When I met Donatella in New York, I told Allan that this is the girl he was going to marry.”
For dinner, the guests made their way to the back patio and pool area where two dining tables were designed for safe distancing. Designed in an Italian, rustic-glam style with center floral arrangements of blush and white calla lilies and freesias, blush lisianthus, ranunculus, protea blushing bride, olive branches, and eucalyptus, Donatella interspersed candles throughout the tablescapes for a low-key ambience.
“I don’t like centerpieces, but I do like to mix and match naturals, wood, and metals like gold, silver, and pewter,” says Donatella. “Then I add modern touches like my black and gold cutlery with my own gold and white china design for Frontgate, and my Fornasetti face plates from the old days in New York.”
The heart-healthy meal included burrata salad with crispy prosciutto, toasted pine nuts, peaches, arugula, frisee, balsamic glaze, and basil pesto; homemade pasta with Bel Paese sauce, roasted mushrooms, garlic and prosciutto bread crumbs; and choice of pompano with hazelnut butter, fresh sauteed spinach, carrots, crispy potato, and saffron sauce, or beef Wellington—Allan’s favorite—with veal demi, carrots, and crispy potato. Wines included a choice of French Chassagne Montrachet for the fish course, and Napa Valley Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon or Chateauneuf du Pape for the meat.
After dessert—sparkling watermelon with Mascarpone cream, mint, and pastry rocks—arrived at the tables, guests resumed schmoozing in the great room, dancing, and enjoying each other’s company.
Before they knew it, the party moved upstairs to the second-floor terrace overlooking the pool. They were surprised with another round of sweet treats: cups of espresso, heart-shaped mini doughnuts filled with Nutella, heart-healthy dark chocolate, and gluten-free ricotta cheesecake.
With Allan’s music selections blaring, the party continued until the wee hours. “Allan is very science-driven with a methodical approach to life,” says guest Wayne Brackin, president and CEO of Kidz Medical Services. “Donatella is a gracious host who laughs easily and has wonderful artistic flair. Together, they throw one great party!”