Food & Wine called him one of the "hottest chefs alive," part of a generation of restauranteurs as “glamorous as rock stars” (with the foodie groupies to prove it). Talking to IgoUgo, Italy’s Gianfranco Vissani lives up to his reputation inside and out of his Civitella del Lago kitchen: playful, romantic, and always expressive.
IgoUgo: What and where is the dinner you'd cross an ocean to have again?
Gianfranco Vissani: Alone or with someone special? That would make a difference...
IgoUgo: Well, what's your favorite food city? Where is your favorite food?
Gianfranco Vissani: My favorite food city is Rome, the old Rome when people sang the sonetti of Trilussa, the Rome of the old movie scene.
The region of my favorite food is Umbria though, where I’m from. When I first opened my restaurant in my garden, I was watching figs ripen, and I decided to create a crazy primo piatto: scampi with figs. It was a great success with the public; there was always a line outside the restaurant, and I was under pressure to meet the demands. They were ordinary people; there were no VIPs or other foodies or chefs, and it was the likes of ordinary people that convinced me to go ahead! It was my people, my roots, where I’m from.
IgoUgo: Is the surrounding environment always important when you eat?
Gianfranco Vissani: It is fundamental, but by environment I mean location, service, and the kitchen.
IgoUgo: What made you become a chef? What inspired you?
Gianfranco Vissani: I believe I was born a chef. It is the one and only job I’ve had since I started working. I went to the hospitality institute in Spoleto and studied cooking. I was not very good at writing, but when it came to cooking, all the teachers wanted to see what was in my mind. I’ve cooked all my life; it’s in my blood.
IgoUgo: How do you create your dishes?
Gianfranco Vissani: Basically, I believe the most important thing is having a great knowledge of the raw materials, and the rest comes pretty naturally.
IgoUgo: Do you usually travel to discover new dishes?
Gianfranco Vissani: I travel a lot for work; mainly I try to eat everything everywhere, and my motto is, "Pay attention, even while preparing a sandwich with mortadella: you are cooking!"
IgoUgo: What among your recipes represents you most?
Gianfranco Vissani: All dishes represent me because they are my own creations. Every recipe is unique; I don’t have an archive, nor I do try my cooking before serving it. Every dish must be a unique sensation; it is an expression of free life!