Andrea Volpi of Local Bistro
|Courtesy of Local Bistro|
Milan-born chef Andrea Volpi fancies himself a gypsy. After learning to cook in his mother's kitchen, Volpi enrolled in a top Italian culinary school; then traveled through Italy and Spain for several years before crossing the ocean and settling in Chicago in 1989.
He later moved to Arizona, where he worked at upscale restaurants such as La Locanda and Taggia before going
gypsy again, cooking his way through California and across the country.
Volpi recently returned to Arizona to open Local Bistro, an Italian-influenced restaurant owned by Texas transplant German Osio.
"I came back here because I like it," says Volpi. "People here know me very well and know how I cook."
What would you do if you couldn't be a chef? I love to cook, it's my life. I don't know anything else. If for some reason people take this all away, I don't know what I'm going to do. Painting houses? I don't think so. I'm not very good, I leave streaks...
The real reason for culinary school: I used culinary school as an escape, to get away from my little city. In Italy, it's nice to go there for a week and then leave.
Abandoning ship: I decided to go to a port, to a big ship, and cook. Then when I went in one of those...I don't think so! 350 people eat at the same time.
Culinary influence: Many things I learned from my mother. My mother, she had a job, so she would leave me stuff to pre-cook. Always steps: Put the water on, turn it down to #5.... I found out that I was enjoying doing it.
What do you cook at home? I don't cook! I eat here. I'm a very simple guy. I make salads, fish, some chicken. 24 years I don't eat meat. No veal, red meat. I try it, I taste it, but I don't make it part of my diet. Why not? Health reasons? I don't like it. When I was a little kid, my father tried to shove it my mouth because it is good for you. I did not like it, but I could not say no. When it finally came time where I could say no without getting spanked, I didn't eat it anymore.
What about holiday meals? It's a family affair. We do little things, some anchovies, little stuff. In the Southern part of Italy, they have more of a big meal -- shrimp, lobster. Where I'm from it's very simple. [Someone] asked me to do some dishes and I called my mother and my mother said, 'I don't know, make something with pumpkin. Make some gnocchi with pumpkin.' I got it here, I made it today.
Check back tomorrow to learn about Chef Volpi's least favorite job and most recent kitchen disaster, and get his super-secret Bolognese recipe on Thursday.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.