The first discovery you make when talking to a genuine Italian (or on your first trip to Italy) is that everything you knew about Italian culture is a lie.
It will also serve you well to not even mention anything about Italian food and coffee. Your best approach is to consider yourself an infant and let your senses guide you – i.e. stick whatever they give you in your mouth.
Giorgio Lacotelli, who is as Italian as hand gestures and was raised in a Michelin star Italian restaurant, not only knows his way around a tomato sauce , and his Napoletana from his Bolognaise, he would be mortified if you asked him for a Fettuccine Alfredo or Caesar Salad.
Is there more to Italian food than pizza and pasta?
“Pizza and pasta are obviously an expression of a part of Italy that emigrated and these have now become in many ways a symbol; they represent Italian culture abroad. At home, Italy is a country made up of different regions and each has their own complex dishes. Dishes that may have a common denominator become unique as each town or city unleashes a different take on what appears to be the same culinary idea. These differences are what I most love and feel passionate about – there’s always something to learn and study about a recipe and what its variations are.”
What makes food Italian?
“Any food is a mixture of culture and ingredients. When both these elements are present then you have food from a specific nation. Everything I cook becomes Italian because I am Italian so my culture has the power of transforming ingredients into Italian food.”
So what makes your culture so powerful that it can even influence sports cars?
“The Japanese and Germans may have achieved technical and engineering excellence, but Italians add to this their heart.”
When throwing a dinner party, what’s the most important thing to consider?
“Feel confident about what you cook and always cook something you know – don’t try and experiment on the night. Remember that you are part of the cooking experience for the guests; they aren’t just at the dinner party for the food, they are there to see you and eat the food you make!”
How’d you get into cooking and what’s your view on it?
“It was a natural inclination for me to cook, I don’t remember it ever being a conscious decision.”
What do you think the appeal of the culinary arts is? Can it save lives?
“Everyone needs to eat. If we manage to turn it into something pleasurable this is something that makes me, and a lot of people, extremely happy and is at the root of what renders culinary arts appealing. I don’t know if I can improve someone’s life, but I can certainly make a few hours of their existence a little more pleasurable.”