Memory of searching for ingredients and cooking with family. That lead to the cooking philosophy of “Cooking should be something happy.”.
You are from northern Italy, please tell me how you started cooking?
My hometown is Bergamo in the north of Italy, located in the mountains. It is near Milan, where many people come to vacation. My grandmother used to cook for an upper class family and I learned many recipes from her. She was from Mantova in Lombardia province, and she taught me many northern Italian recipes. Among them her pasta, roast, cotechino (salami, a specialty of Emilia-Romagna province) were great.
Do you have any memories related to cooking as a child?
I was the second oldest of seven siblings and used to go to the mountains with my sister and brothers to collect wild asparagus, spinach, porcino, and berries and cooked together with my grandmother. That kind of happy memory is the basis of my cooking. Among them my favorite was cooking gnocchi. The process of mashing potatoes and kneading was very fun. Especially, on Sunday mornings, I loved preparing the dining table full of food for everyone in my big family. There are many memories of cooking that remain in my mind, but I still clearly remember the exciting feeling of gnocchi being cooked.
That became the base of your cooking philosophy?
Yes. Cooking should be something happy. When I cook something great, I become happy and it can also make other people happy. And I think this happy feeling can be contagious.
So my criteria of “delicious” is using natural materials, bringing out its flavor, be well balanced, sensibility, utilize my sense, and moreover I value that it is something that makes people happy when eating.
I love eating. When you eat a wonderfully cooked meal, you feel unexplainable happiness, don’t you? I want to cook dishes that give that kind of feeling to people.
I think there are pure and various tastes extracted from the ingredients. What I felt after eating your food was a simple and vivid impression of it, that the characteristics of the ingredients are accentuated sharply and maximized, yet they are well balanced.
Italian food is simple. I think the most important thing is to know the materials and how to create the most delicious taste from them. For example, I never mix proteins. Protein is the main cast and I want to make food that utilizes this main component. There are menus along classic lines and ones that I create with new taste combinations but anyways, I make it simple and easy to understand.
I think there is no gray zone, My thought is either black or white, which is whether the food is delicious by maximizing the taste of the materials correctly.
Starting his career at age 17. Going to a two star restaurant called, “Antica Osteria del Ponte”. Learning regional cuisine of Italy.
When did you start working at a restaurant as a professional?
After graduating from a hotel school, I went to “Antica Osteria del Ponte”, which had two stars back then, when I was 17 years old. There I learned all the basics of cooking. Chef Ezio Santin has a great sense and has special love for a balanced taste. I learned not only the basics of cooking, but much more.
I think it was your first time to work at a starred restaurant, but were there any difficulties?
Of course, long working hours but I only have fun memories. The experience of making great things while feeling teamwork is an irreplaceable happiness. Of course it was tiring and we worked while other people were having fun. For others, it might not sound like fun, but for me, that feeling of making something special that only I can make was wonderful.
One of the appeals of Italian cuisine is the various regional local cuisine. How did you learn about local cuisine?
I am from northern Italy but I love food from southern Italy. I always seek fresh ingredients, but olive oil, tomatoes, young goats, and chicken are wonderful in southern Italy. When I was at Antica Osteria del Ponte, I lived near Amalfi due to military service so I knew local cuisine in the south well. Whenever I go back to Italy, I go seek ingredients from southern Italy and learn local cuisine. So I think my food is influenced by regional Italian cuisine.