The inaugural Identitá London food festival took place last week, showcasing some of Italy's most fêted chef-restaurateurs. Carlo Cracco of Milan's two-Michelin-starred Ristorante Cracco was there. He spoke to Joanna Wood
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Caterer Identitá Golose Milan has run for five years in Italy; why bring a sister event to London?
Carlo Cracco Because, personally, I think London is one of the most important and exciting gastronomic cities in the world.
Caterer Have you visited London before?
CC Yes, many times. I usually eat out all the time when I visit and love trying Indian food in London. I have to say that my favourite London restaurant is Zaika where the head chef is Sanjay Dwivedi - I feel he very much gives his food its own unique identity.
Caterer Which dishes did you demonstrate?
CC I did three of the latest dishes from my menu. The first was smoked potato ravioli with seaweed and baby walnut calamari broth; the second, a saffron risotto with fresh coriander and nespola stones (aka loquats or Japanese meddlers); the third, steamed orchid salad with sea urchins.
Caterer How would you describe your culinary philosophy and style?
CC The ingredients I work with must be the best possible - in season and at their best. At Ristorante Cracco, we tell our guests where their food comes from, how it is produced and, most important of all, why it tastes as good as it does. My cuisine is also about knowing when to leave well alone and when to introduce a touch of madness. For instance, risotto alla Milanese with bonemarrow is a basic, elegant and beautiful dish. But, then for fun, I add the tastes and textures of veal kidney, sea urchin and morel mushroom.
Caterer Is it true that the Italians taught the French haute cuisine back in the 16th century?
CC Oh I wouldn't say that! Italian cuisine is steeped in tradition and has its own identity. It's without doubt one of the most popular and well-loved cuisines in the world. However, great Italian food relies on many things coming together - quality of ingredients, simplicity, knowledge and each individual chef's own approach.
Caterer Do you think Italian restaurants outside of Italy are a proper reflection of what is going on there?
CC Unfortunately, you don't need to be true to the origins of Italian food to open a restaurant and claim to serve Italian cuisine. This has historically been a problem with the perception of what is authentic Italian food. The idea of Italian cuisine abroad can be very simplistic - pizza, lasagne or spaghetti Bolognese - but I'm glad to see that in the past few years perceptions have shifted.
Caterer You have worked with some of the world's great chefs, who was most influential on your own style?
CC Alain Ducasse, Gualtiero Marchesi and Alain Senderens.
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