Italian chef Francesco Mazzei runs London restaurant L'Anima. He has become the latest guest chef at high street chain Pizza Express and has created a range of dishes that will appear in restaurants next week. Mazzei spoke to Kerstin Kühn
Caterer Why did you partner with Pizza Express?
Francesco Mazzei Pizza Express approached me, probably because of my Italian heritage, and I was really excited to get involved in the project. My daughter loves Pizza Express and whenever we go out for a meal demands that we go there. I have fond memories of the chain from when I first moved to London and couldn't really afford to eat at top restaurants. Pizza Express was always good quality for the price.
Caterer Where did the inspiration come from for your dishes?
FM The dishes include two starters, a pasta dish and three pizzas and are inspired by the Calabria region in southern Italy. Most of the Italian food served in London comes from northern Italy so I wanted to put the South on the map by creating these dishes.
Caterer What are the dishes?
FM Pizza Mia Sofia is named after my daughter, and has a white base with a truffle paste and a mixture of mushrooms. Pizza Calabrese is very spicy and features a hot Italian sausage and fresh green chillies; and pizza Rustichella has a base of marinated roasted tomatoes with crisp pancetta and fresh rocket. The two salads include a modern twist on the Tricolore, the classic mozzarella and tomato salad with avocado; and Insalata Semplice with Santos and vine tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. The pasta dish is tagliolini with a creamy mushroom sauce with truffles, baked in the pizza oven.
Caterer What's your favourite pizza?
FM I love spicy pizza. There's nothing better than a nice slice of pizza with spicy sausage and lots of fresh chilli.
Caterer Chefs in Italy have just launched an international campaign to educate people in how to make authentic spaghetti bolognaise. Where do people go wrong?
FM First of all, spaghetti bolognaise doesn't exist - it should be fettuccine bolognaise and it has to have fresh egg pasta. The ragoût is made of two or three different types of meat: veal, beef and pork, as well as celery, onion, carrots, pancetta, stock, milk and tomato paste. The biggest mistake people make is adding tomato sauce, which just disguises the flavour. Also there's an art to cooking pasta properly. For a kilogram of pasta you need 10 litres of water. If you don't have enough water the pasta loses its starch.
Caterer How are things at L'Anima?
FM Things are going really well and January has been a great month for us and we're full for lunch and dinner nearly every day. We still have plans to expand but it's a difficult time at the moment so we're not in a rush and right now the focus is on concentrating on the good thing we have at L'Anima.