Foley: Luciano Monosiglio, ‘King of Carbonara’: ‘Pasta is the mother of all Italians’ | culture

Foley: Luciano Monosiglio, ‘King of Carbonara’: ‘Pasta is the mother of all Italians’ |  culture

Luciano Monocilio poses for a photo at his new restaurant Follie at the Gran Meliá Villa Agrippina hotel in Rome, Italy.Alberto Blasetti

Luciano Monosiglio – nicknamed the “King of Carbonara” – made this ancient dish one of the symbols of his cuisine. Although he is one of the most famous chefs in the world of contemporary Romanian gastronomy, his penchant for tradition is unparalleled.

In the past, residents of the mountain towns of Abruzzo – a sparsely populated region in southern Italy – would fill their pots with pasta, pecorino cheese, eggs, ham and black pepper. For these humble people—many of whom made their living by manufacturing charcoal—these ingredients were easy to purchase and preserve, to better withstand long work days and cold winters.

Monosilio knows how to reinterpret the classics. He has managed to cross Italy’s regional borders and move carbonara – on which a Michelin star shines – from popular gastronomy to haute cuisine circles.

“I cook in Rome, and I can’t help but make such a traditional dish. But my carbonara isn’t a traditional carbonara…it’s mine, period,” he laughs.

The King defends his creation of a traditional, popular and deeply rooted dish. It is not easy to change such a symbolic meal.

“Things have evolved a lot over time, and the producers are getting better and better. A great chef once said that a 10-course menu without pasta is just a 10-course menu.

Monocilio rejects criticism from purists – something every chef who samples a dish so distinctive of Italian culture must face.

“It’s like you see a great painting and someone says, ‘I can do that better.’ “Yes, but you didn’t,” he joked.

The chef admits he’s a “pasta nut.”

“Pasta is the mother of all Italians. We are born eating pasta. An Italian eats pasta at least once or twice a week. We are born with this culture.” He excitedly tells EL PAÍS that he soon plans to open a 5,000-square-foot pasta factory.

“I devote a lot of my time to pasta because it is the foundation. For us, it is part of everyday life.”

Monocilio defines his cuisine as one of instinct – it moves on impulse. He is a disciple of the great Fulvio Pierangelini – who has won two Michelin stars – and Mauro Uliasi, a chef known for his fish-based recipes, who has won three stars. He also spent a season working at the famous Enrico Crippa restaurant (three Michelin stars) and in Cape Town, South Africa, where he now has his own pasta bar.

When he looks back at all his apprenticeships, Monocilio remembers the innocence and foolishness that characterizes beginners.

“In 2009 – when I entered Uliasi’s restaurant – there was none of the technology that exists today. Phones didn’t have the internet. When I started working, I didn’t know who Mauro Uliasi was or what he looked like. There was another chef called Mauro too… “For three days, I thought it was Iuliasi!” It was actually Mauro Paolini, another famous chef who built his career with the seafood master.

Luciano Monocilio spaghetti carbonara.

Luciano Monocilio’s career peaked when he won a Michelin star alongside Chef Alessandro Pipero in 2012, when he was just 27 years old. In the same year, Monocilio was awarded the title of Emerging Chef by Red shrimpan influential Italian publication focusing on gastronomy and wine.

“The Michelin star was an advantage… It gave me the opportunity to do other things, to be able to stop what I was doing. When they gave it to me, I said I would stop working for others, but that came too soon, and I had to keep working. But it helped me A lot in my career.”

In 2018, he decided to take a break from fine dining and start his own restaurant located in the heart of Rome, the eternal city. He focused on his favorite ingredient — pasta — and made it from scratch in the basement.

Five years later, following international success, he embarked on another adventure, returning to his signature cuisine as head chef of Follie, the new restaurant at the Gran Meliá Villa Agrippina hotel. Located at the top of Gianicolo, it is located in the villa that belonged to the mother of Emperor Nero.

He explains that for the menu, he chose some historical dishes from his career, to remember his beginnings. There is smoked lamb with berries and oyster sauce. beef with lettuce and black truffle; Pizza Margherita, which is actually ravioli filled with tomato sauce…although it has the classic pizza flavour. More daring traditional dishes include raw goose with apples, or raspberry vinegar and lamb offal, prepared by Monocilio in a laborious process: the lamb is kept in brine for five days, followed by a 12-hour drying process.

“The first list was born with the idea of ​​returning to the old path that had been abandoned,” he admits. “The mission is to express local culture through food.”

He points out that he was able to free himself from the pressures of his early years in the kitchen.

“I want to do things well with more calm, with a serenity that allows me to create and grow…”

Through this new venture, he feels free to experiment with vegetables, fish and fermentation processes, along with a wide range of local and seasonal produce.

A selection of dishes from the menu at Follie, Monosilio restaurant at the Gran Meliá Villa Agrippina hotel, in Rome, Italy.Alberto Blasetti

Since childhood, Monocilio always knew that when he grew up, he wanted to be a chef: “I will do my best,” he told himself.

Throughout his career, he was not inspired by anyone, but rather did it on his own.

“I had reference points with the great chefs I worked with. They taught me something and gave me direction… but I don’t copy anyone. I don’t want to be like them. I’m always Luciano and I’ll always do what I love.

He pauses for a moment. “What is good for me, may not be good for others. You can never become someone else, you must always be yourself.

When it’s time to start the day, Luciano Monocilio chooses tradition rather than innovation. He likes to start his day with a porchetta sandwich, a typical Italian dish consisting of boneless pork, roasted in the oven and seasoned with various herbs. When he mentions this, he waves his hand in that classic gesture that Italians make to indicate that the meal is delicious.

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