What is your most fond memory from childhood? Did you spend much time in the kitchen?
Cooking with my mother and grandmother, especially on Sundays, dishes like polpette, always present in our lucullian lunch.
In what way did your personal background influence your cooking?
I think that cooking is a very humorous matter. When you do something for the sake of doing it and you manage to think outside the box you get the best results. Most of the time routine kills creativity, and by avoiding it I have always obtained great satisfaction.
What are typical dishes prepared in your region?
One of my favourite dishes is Cozze Gratinate, which I will bring to Croatia too. In my opinion, it is very elegant and not so easy because it must be juicy and the amount of bread has to be enough but not too much in order not to cover the flavour of the mussel. Riso, patate e cozze or raw fish are two dishes that I am truly fond of.
Would you say those surroundings is what creates a good chef?
I always say that too be a great chef you must be surrounded by a great brigade. The chef alone cannot be self-sufficient, people around them must absorb their lessons and philosophy in order to apply it in an effective way.
How would you describe, in a few words, a great chef?
They must be a leader. To be a great chef, a balance must be found between the chef and the customers. Some great chefs cook more for themselves than for the clients and this is a huge danger – cooking is personal but it must be shared to be truly understood.
Describe your professional path as a chef?
I have travelled a lot during my career, I moved to Rome from my home in Puglia and spent several years there. Then England for a period and back to Rome to work at a golf club. After that, I contributed to the opening of some hotels, I did a consultancy project with Andrea Berton and, eventually, I started working at ALMA. My curiosity has always pushed me forward, looking for novelty and knowledge in every place.
What would you say influenced you the most in your career?
The place that made me change the mentality about cooking was the Eden Hotel in Rome. I arrived to a brigade made of 25 cooks and, despite my young age, I managed to become a junior sous chef in less than six months. There, I worked with amazing people like Antonio Guida or Nino Di Costanzo, who are Michelin starred chefs now.
You work as a teacher in ALMA. How would you compare teaching with working in the kitchen restaurant?
I have always worked with young people, teaching them how to work in a professional way, that is why I have always been used to this side of my profession. It is more important to know the inner workings of a dish, I teach a profession, not recipes.
In what way students inspire you to keep learning and creating?
Their youth is inspiring to me. Their energy is contagious.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young chefs?
They have to properly understand what their passion means because they are dipping their toes into a strenuous, peculiar career because our mission is making the customers happy. As a consequence, the sooner they understand the exact specific path they want to go for, the better it is.
Your favourite dish is pasta with butter, garlic, basil, and Parmesan cheese. Is there a tip on how to prepare it perfectly every time?
The trick is to proceed with the final mantecatura and seasoning of the pasta while the pan is away from the stove, due to the fact that too much heat makes the cheese coagulate and the sauce not creamy.