Italian cuisine needs no introduction, being one of the most celebrated, beloved, and, to some extent, mistreated in the world.
From inventive variations –say carbonara with peas if you want to enrage Italians; to dishes presented as Italian although no Italians have ever heard of them –think garlic bread, chicken parmigiana, or chicken on any kind of pasta.
In the last decade, though, something new has happened: the focus has shifted from the food itself to the makers, the chefs. Even if there is an Italian word to define them, i cuochi, Italians use the fancier French equivalent to call these kitchen super stars.
Once were Michelin Stars only to consecrate chefs (from France, again: Italians share this worship for food with their cugini d’oltralpe, as French neighbors are called). Now there is a whole new success measure: being famous on TV.
Carlo Cracco: territory and tradition
Among the pop-star-cooks, Carlo Cracco ranks very high. Chef and judge of MasterChef Italia, owner of Ristorante Cracco, Michelin Stars awarded, Cracco is also known as the Italian Gordon Ramsey for his temper.
In his latest TV show, the food travelogue Dinner Club, he and six Italian celebrities explore some not-too-beaten areas of Italy.
Riding odd means of transportation –an old-fashioned camper in Puglia, a vintage car in Sardinia, a bike for climbing the hills of Cilento – they search for food and stories. And they discover piatti poveri, literally “poor dishes”: recipes that go back in time and show love and respect for territories and traditions.
Back to the house they share, Cracco and his co-hosts recreate these recipes to highlight one of the implicit, most important ingredients of every dish: conviviality.
Beyond tradition: Massimo Bottura & Antonino Canavacciuolo
Among the many celebrated Italian chefs, Massimo Bottura and Antonio Canavacciuolo somehow represent the north and the south of Italy.
Bottura was born and raised in Modena, “land of fast cars and slow food,” as he states on his website. His multi-award-winning restaurant, Osteria Francescana, is located in the very city center of Modena.
While Bottura has a deep reverence for tradition, he is also known for pushing boundaries; he uses local ingredients “seen from 10 kilometers away”, as he loves to say.
His tagliatelle al ragù, for instance, has no tomato sauce to keep the focus on meat. And whoever has even met someone from Modena knows that you really need to be Bottura to present a sacrilege like this.
Antonino Canavacciuolo also honors, yet plays, with his roots. Born in the Napoli area, he now lives and works in Piemonte; thanks to his deep roots, however, he claims to feel even from there his beloved Campania, the Sorrento lemons, and his grandmother’s ragù.
Contamination is his signature feature, and his tonno vitellato is there to prove it. The dish name is a word pun – the original dish being vitello tonnato; the recipe itself takes the traditional ingredients and mixes them the other way around, showing how to honor tradition while not being too serious about it.
Needless to say, Canavacciuolo has been hosting TV programs since 2013, enlarging the already crowded ranks of Italian TV-celebrities-chefs.
By Claudia Quesito
Read also: The most notorious non-Italian-dishes
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