I’m delighted that one of my favourite chefs and human beings – Guy Grossi of the prestigious Grossi Florentino restaurant – joins our team to celebrate the many traditions of the food he was brought up with. Guy’s family is from Puglia and he was raised with some of the most delicious regional food at home and learnt the restaurant business from his father Pietro. Guy has carried on the family tradition and opened a new restaurant Mirka at Tolarno which his son Carlo runs. His daughter Lauredana and wife Melissa work alongside him.
As I write, with the sun streaming into our little office, I look across the list of stories we have filmed on the wall in front of me – 13 episodes each with half a dozen or so stories that represent experiences and recipes from the best of Italy in Australia, some filmed with people who remember growing up in the little villages of Calabria or Sicily, or fine restaurants in Venice or Rome…other stories feature the Aussie-accented second or third generation who still hold those food traditions close to their hearts.
The best thing about exploring good food over a long time is meeting inspiring people who have brought their skills from across the world or learnt from their fathers and grandfathers…and over the years seeing their families grow, their knowledge become recognized and their businesses flourish. Across this series you’ll meet loads of my extended Italian family….and their generosity is such that you do feel part of the family.
Like Western Australian sardine fisherman Jim Mendolia whom I met almost 15 years ago. Its so good for the soul spending time with people who just love what they do – and you can see by Jim’s face that he is in his element, using the skills taught to him by his father and adding a bit of technology that he’s mastered to catch the fish. Many Aussies only know sardines from a tin…but if you get a chance, try them fresh…they’re delicious!
I guess that’s what its all about – learning. There are small tips and bigger picture things like the cardinal rules of the Italian kitchen:
Food is part of the welcome in an Italian household too so never commit the cardinal sin by saying you’re not hungry, or even worse, refusing food! You will be looked at like you’re from another planet ..and worse, you’ll miss out on some truly wonderful tastes.
Guy Grossi remembers being chased by enthusiastic aunties at family functions and being encouraged to eat. Whenever we arrive at a family home ready to film, the stops are pulled out, along with the homemade salami, wine, beautiful antipasti…and all this is when we’re two steps inside the front door. The feast is always amazing and the generosity mind-blowing.
Can you imagine how hard it is to fit into clothes after a week or two of this incredible feasting? The only way to go is to immerse yourself in the moment…and then do some exercise.
Behind the scenes in an Italian kitchen there is an interesting equation when it comes to the amount of food produced. The rules go like this:
You must have twice as much food as you’d ever need; always be ready for another family of 8 popping in. But….
At the end of the day, never waste food. The care with which it was grown and cooked continues and there is always another use for leftovers. Bread for example goes to making bruschetta, salad – look for Guy’s great panzanella recipe; into breadcrumbs, into rusks. Or the way Stefano Manfredi uses the rinds of parmesan to add little bursts of flavour in his minestrone. It’s admirable and inspiring. There is much that I now do differently having spent time with many Italian families.
Again, as I say every day: “Thank God they came!”
I hope you love and treasure all the people and the recipes and recreate them in your own homes and share them with people you love.
Salute! And enjoy the wonders to come!
Watch Italian Food Safari on Thursdays 7.30pm on SBS ONE.