Chef David Rocco made a stop in Canada last week to promote Barilla‘s Share the Table initiative. This programme encourages families to enjoy their meals together. We asked him a few questions, and here’s what he had to say:
What’s your favourite pasta to work with?
To me, it depends on the sauce – certain sauces just work better with certain cuts of pasta. For example, if I’m having a simple tomato sauce, penne is my favourite. But if I’m having seafood, a longer cut is a must, like spaghetti.
What’s your favourite restaurant in the world?
I’ve had so many great meals in so many amazing restaurants, it’s hard to pick just one. For me, it’s about more than just the food, it’s about the experience and the people I’m with. But if I had to pick one, it would be the terrace restaurant at Hotel Villa Maria in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast. We’ve vacationed there so many times that the staff and owners have become like family to us. The last time we visited on a family vacation, my daughter Giorgia fell in love with their spaghetti alle vongole (a.k.a. spaghetti with clams), which is my favourite dish too. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
What does the Share the Table initiative mean for you?
Some of my fondest memories growing up are of being at the table, sharing meals with my family, extended family and friends. Today, with our busy schedules, cell phones and distractions, we’ve lost some of that, which is why I think it’s great that Barilla is launching Share the Table in Canada. As a father of three kids under 7, and travelling as much as I do, mealtime becomes extra important and special to connect with my family. No matter how busy I am, the dinner table is where we can share our day over a meal. It can be challenging sometimes with young kids to find the time, but the discipline is well worth it and those meals become an enriching experience for everyone.
I find that if I can get my kids to help in some of the mealtime preparation, which could be as simple as stirring the pasta in the water or mixing the sauce in the pan, they feel they’re contributing. Then at dinnertime they’re more inclined to sit and enjoy the meal because they feel they were a part of making it.
What, in your opinion, makes the Italian cuisine so special?
Italian cuisine, or the Mediterranean diet, is arguably the simplest and healthiest in the world, and it’s also economical. I like how the seasonality of the ingredients and the focus on fresh ingredients are big aspects of it. And the simplicity of the preparation makes it so easily accessible to everyone. It also has such a wide range from pasta and salad to grilled meats and grilled fish – there’s something for everyone.
Why do you feel so strongly about not cutting spaghetti?
Oh my god, I think that’s an arrestable offence! But seriously, if you want to eat a short pasta, try penne, farfalle or rotini. There is a pleasure in the length of the spaghetti, the twirling of it, and the tactile experience. The length even changes the taste – you just have to eat the full noodle. My daughters are 7 and I won’t even let them cut their spaghetti!