Tuesday 18 June 2019 6:46 pm

The Weekly Grill: Federico Casali talks dogs and the worst thing he’s ever put in his mouth

Who are you? I’m a 33-year-old easy-going Italian, born with a passion for food and cooking. I could never imagine being anything other than a chef. My style of cooking is fairly experimental but I still make sure that tradition and culture are respected through my dishes. I like to bring back forgotten ingredients and dishes so that we don’t erase Italy’s diverse gastronomical culture.

Tell us about your restaurant Enoteca Rabezzana highlights Italy’s varied regional cuisines across a menu of small plates, pastas, meats and desserts. Don’t come here for simple pasta dishes, there are too many other Italian places doing that. I love to play around with ingredients, using seasonal vegetables, different cuts of meat or fish and modern techniques to elevate traditional Italian recipes from my childhood into something unique.

You come back home drunk and hungry – what do you cook? When you open my fridge door you can hear it echo because it’s almost always empty. However, one thing I do always have in my cupboard is eggs, so I’d probably cook up some scrambled eggs on toast.

What food makes you happy and why? Whole baked fish with sea salt. It couldn’t be simpler, but it reminds me so much of home. My mum would cook this for the family for Saturday lunch.


What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve seen a chef do? Years ago, I asked a commis chef to sieve my vegetable stock. Instead of sieving out the vegetables, he kept the vegetables and threw away the stock. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything, I just had to laugh. Now he’s a sound technician – better for him, better for all the other chefs in the world.

What is the strangest encounter you have had in your restaurant? A customer once came in with a black and white French bulldog. I love dogs and I’m all for dog-friendly restaurants, but the dog was sat on a chair next to the owner as if it was a human being, licking the owner’s plate while she was eating. That’s too much…

What’s your earliest food memory? My grandmother’s homemade pappardelle with ragu. It was the most gorgeous plate of pasta. I still dream of it to this day.

Tell us about the best meal you ever had? It was at a restaurant in Rome called Metamorfosi from the Michelin-starred Colombian chef Roy Caceres. It was 16 courses, each one better than the last – unbelievable!

What’s your favourite dish? It has to be osscobuco with saffron risotto. Just thinking about it is making me hungry.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever put in your mouth? Smoked herring. I don’t understand how people can stomach it – never again!

What do most people get wrong when cooking? Overcooking food. Cooking pasta with a lack of bite is a crime.


What should everyone have in their cupboard? A big mixing bowl. It’s such a necessary piece of equipment for making so many things, especially a good bread or pizza dough.

What’s the best thing about the London food scene? The great young chefs. It’s a great incentive for chefs to up their game.

You’re the mayor of London for a day, what food law would you introduce? More strict examination of hygiene and contamination in restaurant kitchens.

• Enoteca Rabezzana is on 62-63 Long Ln, Barbican, EC1A 9EJ. To book go to rabezzana.co.uk or call 020 7600 0266

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