Francesco Mazzei is considered one of London’s best Italian chefs while being a regular guest on popular BBC shows Saturday Kitchen and MasterChef UK. Born and raised in Calabria, Francesco is a proud advocate of Southern Italian food specialities and is famously good friends with Oscar nominated Italian American actor and cookbook author Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada & The Hungar Games). You can watch them cooking together recently here.
Francesco’s vast Italian culinary experience includes numerous international restaurant openings and has worked with Pizza Express to create the spiciest pizza on their Menu, The Calabrese. He is now the Chef Patron at the elite restaurant Sartoria in Savile Row, London.
This is the exclusive interview between Francesco and Love Italian Life:
With so many Italian restaurants in the UK, why should passionate Italian Food lovers choose to dine at Sartoria in London?
Because we are making authentic, simple Italian cuisine with a twist prepared with the finest ingredients which are rustic and sophisticated at the same time.
How do you think the typical British diet compares to the Italian/Mediterranean life?
The southern Italian diet is very much olive oil based, a major difference with the British diet. It all comes down to the weather and seasons – it makes sense for Mediterranean food to be healthier and lighter. When it’s 40 degrees outside in summer, it would be impossible to feel energised after a big red meat based lunch!
What’s the inspiration behind your dishes?
My family life in Calabria. Even today, we still make everything ourselves, from homemade pasta and cheese to ‘salami’ along with fresh bread that we bake daily. When you are brought up surrounded by such a strong food culture, it’s impossible not to get inspired.
What do you think it is about Italian food that has such an enduring appeal?
It’s all about balance and finding the right combination.
How important is the connection between the Italian family and food?
One wouldn’t exist without the other.
What advice can you share with consumers wanting to cook traditional Italian food but are worried about how it will turn out?
You should never worry about experimenting with cooking, it’s one of the biggest pleasures in life. My recommendation is to never give up and keep trying until you get the perfect dish for you. But never try new recipes on guests if you haven’t made them before!
What is your earliest memory of cooking in Italy and what did you make?
When I was 8 years old, I made my very first hazelnut ice-cream for my uncle’s ‘gelateria’ (ice-cream parlour). It’s been my favourite ice-cream flavour ever since.
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