Food News

Ristorante Nicola's Luigi Iannuario on Paula Deen and How to Spoil a Good Book

Born in Milan, chef Luigi Iannuario believes that the best way to know your way around a kitchen is to experience all kinds of kitchens. That's why he's made it a point to do it all -- resorts, hotels, a Michelin-rated restaurant, an international group and work as a private chef. Kitchens and staffs big and small. The guy knows what he's doing.

Traditional Italian is his first love and he likes to cook it all -- from antipastos to desserts and rustic gatherings to elegant wine dinners. And whatever he's cooking, he likes to use the freshest of produce and he likes to pick it all out himself.

After falling in love with and marrying an American woman in Italy, Iannuario made his way to the States and ultimately to Ristorante Nicola, where he serves as executive chef.

Who are you? I am from Rome, Italy. I cooked in many restaurants in Italy and France before immigrating to this country with my American wife.

How did you become attracted to the cuisine you currently cook? That's an easy one. I grew up in my mother's household, and one of my first words was garlic.

How did you get this gig? I had been working for Bice as a training chef and moving around the country opening restaurants. We (my wife and I) wanted to come back to Dallas and stay put, so I contacted the owner, and he liked my food.

What's the deal with food? I think Americans are starting to feel about food the way my people have for centuries. Italians spend hours each day cooking and eating, with not much time left for working. I don't know if Americans will ever start to take it that easy, but it is relaxing and good for you to savor food and appreciate the gifts that come from the earth.

Who has eaten at your place? Just about everybody you would recognize has dined in the restaurant -- a former president and first lady, a legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback who has a real estate company now -- but I can't tell you their names.

Who works are your place? There are some Italians that work here, mostly in the kitchen with me. But we also have a couple of Italian managers. I wish they weren't so lazy. But what are you going to do? I don't know any of the hostesses' names because my wife prefers that I don't. But they are all blonde and have long legs.

What is up with the national food scene and how does your restaurant fit into it? I think the farm to table movement is a great trend, and my kind of cooking has always been like that. You can taste it when something is really fresh and natural and not full of hormones and bug spray and chemicals.

If you could stab one television food person, who would it be? I don't know if I would stab her, but I don't get Paula Deen. I think her accent is harder to understand than mine, and I don't think you have to put butter or wine in tomatoes to make them taste better.

If you could be best friends with one Food Network person who would it be? Best friend to cook with, probably Jamie Oliver. Best friend with benefits, I would give it up for Padma.

Why are so many people in the United States so fat? Seriously, we should all know about moderation by now. I think drive-through windows at fast food places should be illegal. I don't understand the concept of driving and eating at the same time. That to me is like making love while reading a book.

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Jenny Block

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