In person, the Two Greedy Italians are just what you’d expect. Seasoned chefs Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio wander off topic, bicker and confuse Luke Dale-Roberts with a furry mammal – “Luke Dale who? Rabbit? Oh, we love rabbit!” – all for the sake of a belly laugh.
Restaurant owner, consultant and cookbook author Gennaro is famously known for being Jamie Oliver’s mentor while they both worked at Antonio’s Neal Street Restaurant in London. Antonio is also the founder of the successful Carluccio’s chain of food stores and has authored over 20 recipe books himself.
In Cape Town for the Good Food and Wine Show, the two agreed to sit down with Linda Scarborough and Katharine Jacobs (the greedy redheads) for a chat over cheese and figs.
Eat Out: Being very greedy ourselves, we approve of your nickname. What are you most greedy for?
Gennaro: “We are greedy for life, for people, for passions, for food – for the most beautiful things. (Pointing to Antonio) He’s more greedy than me, though, for sure.”
Eat Out: Millions of people around the world love Two Greedy Italians. Why do you think Italian food is so universally appealing?
Antonio: “I believe it’s the utter simplicity; how satisfying it is with just a few ingredients. It pleases anybody; it’s global.”
Gennaro: “The season is very important in Italian cuisine. Artichokes, apples, beans… for months you celebrate what’s in season. You cook it so many different ways; you enjoy it so much and, when the time is over, you’re ready for a new taste. That’s what Italian food is about – taste. It’s the best way to eat.”
Eat Out: You’ve spoken about taste, what about Italian technique?
Antonio (smiling gently): “The technique is very simple: it’s the technique of mama.”
Eat Out: Now that you’ve lived away from Italy for many decades, what do you miss about the country of your birth?
Gennaro: “When I first came to England, I missed everything. I would dream I was on a boat in my small fishing village. So many ingredients, mama, papa… Then I discovered that you can get anything in London. There is one thing I miss, though – the moment. You are going out with friends, or eating at the house of a friend. Wine tastes so good in Italy. (You can have the identical bottle in England, but it’s not the same.) The moment with your friends most dear, your family most dear. This is what I miss! And Antonio will tell you about making lovely ravioli, friends and family seated around the tables, anchovies in salsa verde, fresh butter on top. You cannot recreate that anywhere else…”
Eat Out: What was it like filming Two Greedy Italians?
Gennaro: “When they asked us to go back to Italy after so many years, we became like little children again. The cameraman, the producer, the director couldn’t keep up with us. We just do things we love to do.”
Eat Out: Viewers can see that you’re having fun.
Gennaro: “That’s real! We do all those things. I can imagine the soundman, camera man – god knows how many other people – saying, ‘They stopped the car again! Why? Why?!’ We enjoyed every single bits and pieces (sic). When we collect wild mushrooms in the fields and see a lamb, we don’t say, ‘What a beautiful lamb’. We say, ‘What a beautiful roast, with potatoes and rosemary.’”
Antonio (laughing): “Everything our eyes see, it comes back to the mouth.”
Gennaro (pinching Antonio around the belly): “He would make a lovely prosciutto, a nice pancetta.”
Antonio (waves hand dismissively): “With Gennaro, I can’t make anything!”
Eat Out: Do you have plans for another Two Greedy Italians show? Anything else on the cards?
Gennaro: “If it depended on us, we’d start [the third season] tomorrow.”
Antonio: “Aside from the show, we have our youtube channels (https://www.youtube.com/user/gennarocontaldo and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbOo13WzeMQXow-jex_kz3g). Gennaro is a business partner in Jamie’s Italian (Jamie Oliver’s UK restaurant chain); I have Carluccio’s. I just finished a pasta book called Very Good, which is coming out in September.”
Gennaro: “And I have a book coming out called Slow, which is about going back to the roots – these ‘mama’ dishes that take two hours to prepare.”
Eat Out: One final question – what’s your favourite ingredient?