Food News

Urban Crust's Salvatore Gisellu: Simplicity is Best

Yesterday, we gave you the goods on Salvatore Gisellu, executive chef at Urban Crust. Today, we asked Gisellu to finish a few sentences for us. Tomorrow, he shares one of his recipes. (Gisellu's words are after the ellipses.)

I was raised in...Sardinia.

My friends say I'm...too Italian. [He laughs.] I am who I am. I'm picky about a lot of stuff. My wife says I'm stubborn because I'm an islander.   My momma told me...Where do you want to start? [He laughs again.] Be happy and be honest.   If I had 24 hours to live I'd...I'm very happy right now. So I would probably have a couple of nice meals. Some nice pizza. Some nice pasta with olio. And enjoy my family.   My guilty pleasure is...The real one? White chocolate. I go nuts for that. It's not very good for you, but who cares? I can eat pounds at a time, unfortunately. When I was growing up, one of my neighbors was from Belgium and she used to bring us white chocolate stuffed with hazelnut. It would never last more than an hour in the house.   If I could go anywhere, I'd go...probably the beach. By the water. Anywhere in the world.

Never again will I...That's a tough one. I don't have a lot of regrets. It goes day by day. If you drink tequila the day before it's "never again drink tequila."   Cat or dog...None. I'm allergic to cats. I could have a pig in my backyard and cook it for Christmas.   The CD I couldn't do without...Andrea Bocelli.   I relax by...looking at the outdoors, having a glass of wine somewhere in the middle of nowhere.   If it weren't for cooking, I would be...a sommelier or at a vineyard. I'd be in the wine business. I just started doing a little on the side. I have about 500 plants. I put in lots of time and passion but no results so far. Once a month we do wine dinners here. We pick a theme or a grape and do five wines and five dishes for $35. I like the culture of wine, especially going from the high stress of the restaurant. It's a good break for me. Like night and day.   I get my cooking inspiration from...back home. From my mom.

The kitchen gift I'd like to receive...I can cook with a fire and a stick. The way we grew up it's nice to have a lot of fancy stuff, but give me a knife and I can make it happen.

Every kitchen needs...[For the cook to be] open minded. To have good knives. To buy the best ingredients you can. Whatever's in season. And you need simplicity. There's too much infusion confusion. All of our food [at Urban Crust] is very simple. We use a lot of fresh herbs, seasonal ingredients. So a lot of flavors there. It's nice to be creative a little bit. But I believe in simplicity and the best ingredients. That's the restaurant's whole philosophy.

My favorite movie is...I have two. The Godfather. The first one. And Pulp Fiction. Last week I saw it again for the 35th time. I was just flipping through at night and there it was.

The best gift I ever received was...probably my kids.

Dallas diners expect...a lot. We have a lot of restaurants. So, that's one of the reasons. I don't want to say they're demanding... [Urban Crust owner Nathan Shea adds, "They want quality for the right price. They want a great meal without breaking the bank."]

I think Food Network...has hurt the industry in some ways because everyone thinks they're a chef. [It used to be] you went to school to become a cook, not a chef. You work and get experience to become a chef.

The changes I'd like to see in the Dallas dining scene make it more affordable to buy local ingredients and to have more access to traditional flavors. Seventy-five percent of Italian restaurants in Dallas are not even Italian. It is what it is. When we came up with this concept [for Urban Crust] we had to balance the traditional and making money. Italian restaurants here are a big bucket of spaghetti with red sauce on top. We need less restaurants and more quality. Italian food should be quality not quantity.

In the future I...I'm really happy with this venture. So we're going to keep growing. We have a mobile oven being delivered today. It'll probably be available by March. The architect of this building helped to design it, and it'll be for catering and private parties and festivals like the Balloon Festival and the Wildflower Festival.

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