How would you describe your culinary philosophy?
I am a compulsive pizza chef with a passion for what I believe to be the most simple yet imaginative food in the world: the pizza. My compulsion lies in the fact that I cannot stop myself from elaborating on it, disassembling it, reassembling it, innovating on it, transforming it, redressing it and coming up with unusual recipes. What I have done over the years, nevertheless, always starts out from the strictest respect for the Neapolitan tradition. That is how my “decomposed” pizzas came about – that’s the way I added a third dimension to what was traditionally a two-dimensional dish: a pizza base with fillings on top.
What is your culinary obsession?
It's connected to my compulsion: I'm obsessed with tomato and mozzarella, the basic ingredients of the most classic pizza, the Margherita. My motto is: "Doing super-simple things is super-difficult". Try to make a "simple" pizza Margherita well. After all it is just a nice, hot, fragrant and sweet-smelling disc, sprinkled with a bit of tomato, a few pieces of mozzarella, plus a splash of oil and basil leaves. To achieve excellence with such basic ingredients is the result of very careful and patient selection, precise and meticulous preparation, plus lots of love and constant attention. In short, it is the result of true passion. And between passion and obsession, there’s a fine line!
Your sources of inspiration?
Everything inspires me. The world of pizza for me is a lens through which I see and judge reality and make my moves accordingly. Because there is nothing that cannot be made into a pizza or, vice versa, then there is no pizza that cannot be transformed into some other kind of dish. In many of my elaborations "appearance can be deceiving": what the dish seems to resemble does not necessarily correspond to the reality we know, but rather, it is a revamp - a reworking which is both fun and tasty (I hope!). I took on and reinterpreted, in a well-know pizzeria, the first courses of traditional Italian cuisine, those known worldwide, such as Lasagne, Tagliatelle, but also Penne, Paccheri, Gnocchi, Ravioli and Pizzoccheri, which in my case of course I called Pizzaccheri! But I have also turned Sushi, Hamburger and Hot Dogs with Fries into pizza. Then, there are my forays into the world of pastries and desserts, from breakfasts to desserts, a field of inexhaustible inspiration.
Your ultimate dream meal?
A dream meal that I had or one that I prepared for others? I would prefer to talk about the second! Indeed there is a "dream meal" that I have recently created. This is my "Apparent Egg", that is a pizza made with mozzarella, condensed tomato and truffle flakes, audaciously matched with a Krug Rosé, which is always ready to surprise thanks to its extreme delicacy enhanced by the complexity of its subtle, elegant bubbles.
. What is your greatest extravagance in life?
I am a simple person who loves the genuine things in life, his family and his work. The real extravagance, in my opinion, is to combine great food with a fine bottle and good music. In that sense maybe I'm transgressive: I'm not afraid to combine a simple and popular pizza (even the special ones that I prepare) with the classy nobility of Krug Champagne. As far as music goes, I'm so passionate about it that I have even became a "producer", having gathered excellent musicians to make three compilation albums for the soundtrack of my restaurant. This is the perfect music to accompany my dishes. Because today’s kitchen should always be a multi-sensory experience: palate, aromas, sights, sounds and feelings - everything needs to be involved in the true gourmet experience.
Your first sip of Krug?
Many years ago and it was a coup de foudre – love at first sight – with a glass of Vintage ’96. But please don’t tell this to my wife. She gets very jealous!