How did you get started in the culinary world?
I am from the northeast of Italy, a white wine producing area, Frioli. I started in the kitchen when I was about 13 years old, and lived and cooked in Italy there until I was about 26, and then I went to London for seven years, then back to Italy for another two to run a family restaurant with my parents. But after a few years I realized it wasn’t for me. It was too countryside, too slow. I needed something else, so I decided to come here to New York.
Tell me about Lusardi’s.
I started at this restaurant started in 2001, they had an existing menu, but I put in some additional items and we do seasonal specials as well. This time of year we do a lot of white mushrooms, root vegetables, butternut squash, chestnuts, artichokes and so on. The owners, Mario and Luigi Lusardi, are from Emilia-Romagna, which I consider to be the food capital of Italy, which is why I’ve been with them for such a long time, because we are on the same page in many ways.
Your favorite thing to make at home?
Well, at home, the easiest thing to make for an Italian is a plate of pasta. Spaghetti with tomato sauce is the number one thing that anyone can eat: a kid, a grandfather, a mother, anyone. It’s the thing Italians enjoy the most when they cook at home. But of course, there is a variety of things I like to make, such as fricco, which is a traditional Friulian dish made with potatoes, Vidalia onions and Montaggio cheese. It becomes crispy on the outside and soft inside and is served with fresh polenta. This is something people from my region make at home when they have friends or somebody over.
What is your number one cooking tip?
My main suggestion is very simple, when cooking Italian use three ingredients — maximum four, and don’t go over. Keep it simple, and straight to the point. This way, you don’t confuse the flavors and you don’t confuse the customers.