Andrew Carmellini is the executive chef for A Voce restaurant in New York CIty. In 2000, Carmellini was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. He also won the James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef, and was nominated as Best Chef in New York City by the foundation in both 2002 and 2004.
Question: Why is Italian food so popular in New York?
Andrew Carmellini: It never dies. And A Voce, you know, when I was at Café Agot, I was there for a good chunk of time, six years, and, you know, people were always approaching me to do stuff, and I was like, “No, no, no, leave me alone, I’m having a good time here.” And almost exclusively every time it was they wanted to do something Italian. And I said no to a lot of people for many years on the Italian thing just because there are so many Italian restaurants in New York. I think it was like 3,000 or something like that at the last count, I mean, including like pizza places and stuff like that. But they were like, you know, we love your Italian food, we love, you know, the Italian things you’re doing at the Café. So it was really a kind of like, again, rash decision, we looked at this property and it had a beautiful terrace and I was like, we could do something Italian here. I mean, the way I approach Italian cooking is a little bit different than other people I respect approach Italian cooking. It’s my own; it’s very personal to me. It’s not cookie cutter, it’s not super traditional, it’s just my own kind of personal having a good time with it type of thing. And the way I do that really is I just get inspired by the places I’ve been in Italy. I’ve probably been to Italy 25 times and I lived there for a year. So if I’m thinking about, I don’t know, if I’m thinking about seaside Sicily and I want to do a dish, you know, it’s going to have some wild fennel in it, it’s going to have some orange zest in it, it’s going to have some seafood in it, and it’s really, I try to make, you know, it’s either a dish that’s maybe slightly whimsical and within the Italian context, or it’s traditional in the sense that it’s inspired from a place, and I’m thinking about like the topography and I’m thinking about the history, and I’m thinking about maybe the traffic that was like, you know, there, or just everything about a certain place. And I try to make the dish provocative in the way of where it is. Even though I might not call it a, you know, a pesto genavesse, it might have those flavors in it, if that makes sense, I don’t know.