Having spent half his life immersed in the rich culinary culture of Europe, Chef Carlo talks to us about food, heritage and the emotions involved with both.
Can you truly say you’ve sunk your teeth into actual Italian food in Egypt? Be honest with us now; your mom’s spaghetti doesn’t count. Though it isn’t exactly string theory by any means, cooking is still very much a science; one that is governed by geography as much as it is based on physics. Every chef out there is a researcher in the infinitely rewarding (and delicious) science that is cooking, and in our latest foray into the world of culinary content, we had the honour of sitting down with Chef Carlo Di Nunzio; The Concorde Hotel chain’s newest Executive Chef, and the gastronomic mastermind behind Concorde El Salam’s own little slice of Italy, Italiano.
Born in the baroque architecture and refined culinary culture of Turin in Northern Italy, Chef Carlo has been immersing himself in the rich food history of the European world over the course of the past 24 years, working in (and learning from) seven countries so far, including the likes of Romania, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Having delved into what makes European cuisine what it is for the better half of his life, Chef Carlo started noticing a rather interesting trend.
“I’m always exploring countries from the view of food, and I’ve actually worked with Arabic food in the past in places like Romania. At this moment, Arabic food is an increasingly trendy topic in the food world back in Europe, so I’m here to gain more knowledge and first-hand experience in all aspects of Arabic food.”
Egypt just so happens to be Chef Carlo’s first foray out of Europe, and in exchange for the rich food heritage that Egypt and the Middle East have to offer, he’s bringing a wealth of authentic Italian culture through his work with the Concorde.
“You can see the story behind food when you travel around enough,” Chef Carlo told us in an interview on the pleasantly sunlit terrace of Italiano, “I saw a lot of similarities; for example, we have a type of couscous in Italy called Frigola Sarda which is inspired by Arabic cuisine when Sicily was under Arab rule. Another dish would have to be Sarmale; it’s basically grape leaves stuffed with rice and pork, similar to Greek and Middle Eastern dolma inspired by Turkish culture. Even Fool that you have here in Egypt; in Italy, they’re Fava beans, and a significant part of our winter cuisine, especially where I’m from.”
Chef Carlo’s approach to food isn’t merely about just making it and hoping for the best; it’s a culmination of his near bottomless passion for all meaningful aspects of the culinary experience. We even talked about the kind of impact that food can have on the human brain.
“When you wake up in the morning and smell something coming from the kitchen; when you walk by your favourite bakery; when you see or smell something nice, you instantly commit it to memory. When I make my food for people, I’m not just giving them a nice dinner; I’m giving them memories, things they can come back to and smile, because they enjoy what you do.”
Chef Carlo tries to instill ideals like these into his staff, as well as a strong passion and appreciation for their jobs.
“Your passion shows in your cooking," he explains. "If it’s too rushed, if you’re having a bad day, if you don’t care about what you’re doing, the food won’t be as good. Even if it has all the right ingredients and prepared the right way, it’ll still taste different if that’s the case. I don’t want staff that just show up to work and leave on the clock; my staff have to be passionate about what they do.”
Chef Carlo’s culinary repertoire has now found a home in Italiano; Concorde El Salam’s storied premier ristorante, offering up Chef Carlo’s compendium of culinary culture and delectable delicacies from 12 PM to 12 AM. Cairenes from all corners of our busy little city can hang up their coats and enjoy a selection of memorable and authentic Italian dishes from their new menu; traditional spaghetti rucola, actual fettuccini alfredo (without the mountain of cream), a new spin on carpaccio made with fresh (not frozen) tenderloin with Grana Padano cheese, and for dessert, Chef Carlo’s own orange and basil panna cotta. Did we mention they also make authentic Italian pizza? With a dedicated pizzeria available for all to see, an authentic stone oven and all-Italian ingredients going into your pie, Italiano’s pizza is a nice little circular slice (or four) of heaven.
“For me, if I had a chance at picking another life, I’d be a Chef again. It’s not about money or anything like that, it’s about seeing people happy when they try the food, or especially when they share it; that’s fantastic because you’ve given them something.”
For more information on Italiano, check out the Concorde El Salam on Facebook or call 02-2180-0500.)