An interview with Antonio Carluccio
It’s been a busy week for Antonio Carluccio. Last week saw the release of Two Greedy Italians on DVD, a recording of a television series documenting the Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo’s adventures in food together.
Antonio and Gennaro are two very prominent figures in Italian cookery in the UK, having both lived here for years. Antonio has been a chef and cookery writer for a very long time, working in London for over 35 years. He took over his aponymous Italian restaurant on Neal Street in London in the late 80’s, which sadly closed in 2006 apparently due to being unable to extend the lease on the property. Meanwhile, the Carluccio’s restaurant chain, which he had established with his wife grew and grew and the couple sold out in the 1990s. Carluccio has written 18 cookery books in his own name and this series is accompanied by, now, two cookery books. Gennaro Contaldo is an Italian chef based in London, who is widely credited as being a mentor to Jamie Oliver. He has worked in a number of well-known restaurants in London and has written four cookery books under his own name.
This television series sees the two chefs travel to Italy together to remember the Italy they knew when living there, the food they ate and to look at how food is changing in Italy. Talking about the experience, Carluccio told me that he particularly enjoyed meeting people: “I like people, they give you ideas. There are still corners (of Italy) you don’t know, especially in the mountains, in Calabria, in Rome”. Watching the DVD, you do get a sense of fun between Carluccio and Contaldo although you do get the impression that two larger than life characters being brought together may be slightly fractious at times. I asked Carluccio if Contaldo was a handful, who replied simply with “Oh more than that! Everyone says its like a marriage, thank god it isn’t.”
The book to accompany the series, Two Greedy Italians has been out for some time, although the DVD comes with some handy recipe cards so you can start to cook their recipes for yourself if you don’t have the book. Recipes which caught our eye are Patate Arraganate which is a simple dish of roasted potatoes, tomato, oregano and basil which I made and was just delicious, and the Zucchini Alla Parmigiana which is cheese and courgette bake which also sounds particularly enticing.
Yesterday saw the publication of the follow-up book, Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy, a beautiful book, with its gorgeous photography it is as much a holiday guide as a cookery book. There are charming little stories from both of the authors throughout the book where they talk of family and growing up in Italy. The book is split into three sections, Comfort Food from the Mountains, Fresh flavours from the Coast and the Larder of the River and Plains. Each section talks of the food prevalent in these areas along with corresponding recipes. There are also pages with interesting information on the different aspects of Italy and the Italians. These are two proud Italian men writing of the country they love. As in the first book most of the recipes have very few ingredients and method instructions keeping it easy to follow. There are some interesting ingredients that may be hard to source such as chestnut flour, fresh baby octopus, puntrelle shoots. Some recipes do suggest alternative ingredients. Eye catching recipes are the Marmellata di Castagne which is chestnut jam, Torta di Risoal Profumo d’Arancio which is orange rice cake, Linguine con Trota Affumicata which is linguine with smoked trout and dill.
I asked Carluccio about the new book, and he told me : “the beauty of it is the cuisine going on. Italian food remains the same in quality. We don’t need to put a lot of work into presentation, the food speaks for itself.”
Carluccio is an advocate of simple cooking using just three or four excellent quality ingredients. Asking him about what he cooks at home, he said: “all that I see in the fridge, leftovers are particularly interesting as out of that is another recipe.
The other day I made a new recipe using fennel, let it soften in the pan with water until it almost becomes a sauce, combine with prawns it is delicious as a sauce for pasta.”
Talking to Carluccio about writing the second book, he said it was particularly interesting “because it looks at different parts of Italian life L’arte di Arrangiarsi on which there is a page in the book it meaning “literally to arrange oneself” and La Bella Figura ,the art of making a good impression, again there is a section written on this in the book. It was surprising to see that particularly in Calabria children in Italy are becoming obese, as they sit in front of the TV too much. It is a shame to see such chubby children.”
The DVD and accompanying books provide a fascinating insight into the food in Italy today. And there appears to be no let up in Carluccio’s hectic schedule, with his autobiography coming out later this year and more books in the pipeline.
Thanks to Pete Flatt at PPR and Quadrille for the review copies
Thank you to my colleague Jayne for helping me with this interview @jaynerly & http://madebyjayne.com/
You can find me here @gofreecakes http://charlotteskitchendiary.wordpress.com/