As The House of Peroni comes to a close, master of taste of the residency and chef patron of Sartoria in Mayfair, Francesco Mazzei shares the secrets behind good Italian cuisine.
Describe Italy in three words…
Food. Art. History.
What did you use for inspiration when creating the menu at The House of Peroni?
The beautiful ingredients which are unique to Italy have long inspired me to create a menu expressing my love of Italian feasts. The House of Peroni menu celebrated the ritual of family gatherings and local celebrations that are so integral to Italy’s heritage and I’ve shared the ‘Mezzogiorno’ (Southern Italian) style of enjoying life during this residency.
Tell us more about your ‘Mezzogiorno’ cooking style?
The introduction of ingredients or combination of ingredients which are typical in certain Southern Italian regions. Using liquorice to season cod, for example, or ‘nduja which is very much integral to Calabrian culinary traditions but rarely used elsewhere.
What ingredients are key to an Italian experience?
Flour to make amazing pasta, tomato, basil, Grana Padano cheese, extra virgin olive oil… and that’s just the beginning of my shopping list!
Can you share any hidden gems of Italian cuisine?
Bergamot – which is often used in perfumery – is used to make a liqueur in Calabria. And I also make a great dessert with it!
What made this residency so special?
I created a menu packed full of delicious Italian dishes, including wood-fired pizza, freshly made pasta, a selection of antipasti, brunch choices such as Mac e Carbonara (mac and cheese carbonara) and Un Colpo All’Italiana, an Italian take on the ‘full English’. For the residency’s private dining experience instead, I crafted the real Italian feast, Il Banchetto, inspired by Italy’s famous family gatherings.
And why did you go for the Italian ‘full English’?
We are in Britain after all and everyone loves a full English at the weekend to soak up the excesses of a fun night. But this is a lighter, gluten-free version which includes avocado.
If readers are visiting Italy this summer what three dishes should they try and what three ingredients should they bring home in their suitcase?
It really depends where they are going to as every region has such different culinary traditions. Say they are heading South – I would recommend Crocchette di Pasta, a Fritto Misto with the freshest, finest seafood (mixed fried seafood available on the Sartoria menu) and, of course, Tiramisu. You should bring back great quality wine at affordable prices, Italian cheese – Grana Padano is great, and lots of extra virgin olive oil.
“To this day, we still bake our bread daily. Food has always been central to our life.”
How has your southern Italian upbringing changed your outlook on food?
I was born in a family where we’d make everything ourselves, from homemade pasta and cheese to salami. To this day, we still bake our bread daily. Food has always been central to our life.
And what plans do you have for the summer in the culinary world?
You can find me at Sartoria which has a fantastic new terrace – perfect for enjoying summer in Mayfair.
Look out for our Italian travel guide this summer, as we head off to Tuscany…