We have been told that love for food can reach agreement with everyone and it is actually true. EAST MAMA is the proof, like a peace treaty between Italian and french cuisine. The concept Big Mamma, which the trattoria is part of, has been created by 2 French guys passionate about Italian food who “ask themselves every morning how they can create the best, most convivial Italian restaurants in Paris”: only high quality ingredients, directly from Italy, and a cuisine that reflects the real flavors of our Bel Paese. I Love Italian Food interviewed head chef Ciro Cristiano and head chef pizzaiolo Matteo Caprioli.
1) Three words to describe yourself.
Matteo: Ambitious, creative, demanding.
Ciro: Demanding because I always ask to me and my teams to give the best of themselves and should not be underestimated them, determined because when I set the goals I always try to achieve them;
2) What does it mean for your being an Italian chef abroad?
Matteo: For me it means to be guarantor of Italian «savoir faire», then I feel the need to represent and protect our tradition, food culture and particularly to respect the art of Neapolitan pizzaiolo.
Ciro: First of all, being an Italian chef abroad for me is to make known the best of our gastronomic heritage to people who do not know and above all to do it in France allows me to use the best products.
3) What is the Italian recipe that represents you the most and what are the secrets to prepare it?
Matteo: The Marinara of course! With peeled San Marzano DOP tomatoes, a clove of garlic, three anchovies, capers, olive oil with a delicate flavor, basil, oregano at half cooking. My advice is pre-cook the tomatoes to ensure that the pizza takes more “depth”.
Ciro: In our restaurants we are calling “Original tomato”. It is simply a great pasta with tomato sauce made with three different tomatoes; fresh Datterino, tomato San Marzano sauce (a small company of Sarno, one of the best in Italy), and cherry tomatoes confit. I prefer to serve it with mafaldine, a spoon of buffalo ricotta and a lot of basil.
4) What are the three essential made in Italy products in your kitchen?
Matteo: Flour, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella.
Ciro: Obviously Extra virgin olive oil is the base of all my recipe; The durum wheat flour for the preparation of fresh pasta and soft wheat flour from Naples mills for the preparation of verace pizza; the third ingredient is Amalfi lemon, used for the preparation of our “limonemisù”, an excellent tiramisù with lemon served in all our restaurants.
5) Regarding the “Italian Sounding” phenomenon, in your opinion what are the possible solutions to contrast it?
Matteo: Individually, we have to continue to taste our products to the customers, globally, with the media coverage, showing everyone the true made in Italy, and how to recognize it.
Ciro: As it is fighting as Big Mamma and many other good restaurants around the world. We are selecting the best products of the peninsula and respecting them without upsetting their nature. Result? The Parisians are tired of years of fake Italian restaurants since our first opening, they loved it.
6) The “Big Mamma” group is called “Trattoria popolare”, symbol of Italianness. What is the concept for this project?
Ciro: To define the concept of Big Mamma in 3 words:
Products directly from the manufacturer, from the beginning we went in search of small producers and asked what were their best and we took them in our restaurants. Environment, when you walk in our restaurants breathe the air of Italy, we speak only Italian in the kitchen and in the restaurant, (not to mention Neapolitan dialect) and the average age of employees is low, to give you an example I am the executive chef and I am 27 years old and Raffaele Santopaolo, chef Ober Mamma, has only 25 years. The last word is generosity, at Big Mamma you eat so much, well and good price/quality ratio.
7) Both belong to generations of chefs and pizzaioli. What is the main episode that lead you to pursue this career?
Matteo: I do not think it was a particular event that induced me, in general my passion for cooking and then toward this Neapolitan food is grew over the years, the will to create and test led me to love pizza and all its facets.
Ciro: More than an episode I think there were two key factors that led me to take up this career; The first is the decision of my father to open a pastry bar shop where I was able to learn the basics of Neapolitan pastry. The second factor was the upgrading of my neighborhood, on the suburbs of East Naples, with the opening of a pole of schools including the catering college, a key factor in my choice of higher education.
8) What are the most ordered Italian dish and pizza from your customers?
Ciro: Bear in min that menu changes every three weeks. For pizza, surely the “Burrata Gourmand” is a combination of flavors that combines three different regions; The Burrata of Puglia, the Parmigiano Reggiano dell’Emilia Romagna and finally the tomato of Campania. The “Tortelli Mantovani” served in one of our restaurants, are stuffed with pumpkin ravioli of Mantua, amaretti and Parmigiano Reggiano.
*Matteo Caprioli at the moment is head chef pizzaiolo at “Da Roco” Italian restaurant.