Yesterday we heard from Chef Guido Saccone of Cibo Urban Wine Cafe & Pizzeria. Today, the conversation continues.
Chef Guido Saccone may be a born and bred Italian pizzaiolo (pizza maker), but it's pasta that makes his heart melt and his appetite roar.
"Pasta's something I really have passion for," Saccone says. "That's what I eat every day, sometimes twice a day. I tell my wife it's going to kill me."
Yesterday, we got the scoop on Saccone's Italian-American love story that brought him to Cibo Urban Wine Cafe & Pizzeria, but today, Saccone shares his family's secrets to classic Italian cooking including his brother's best advice, Saccone's ideal pizza and pasta, and his mom's classic Italian treat.
Plus, he spills the reasons he hates chicken and the Iron Chef he'd like to cook for.
How did you learn to make pizza? I was working at my brother's restaurant, and it was pretty much a pizzeria and a restaurant at the same time. He was making regular food on one side, and he had a pizzaiolo making pizza on the other side. Now the pizza man, he didn't really want to teach me. So I would just look at him and the way he was doing it. At the end of the night, he would leave and leave out 20 pizza rolls for me to try. It probably took me a few months. You can learn the making of the pizza easy; it's the cooking of the dough part that's a little harder.
What's your ideal pizza? It's sounds like it's cliché, but it's the regular margherita pizza: Tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. I love making pizza, but I'm not a big fan of eating pizza. I eat pizza maybe once every two weeks, and when I do, it's probably the margherita.
What was the best advice you ever got? Just know when it feels right, and don't mess around with a dish too much. That was my brother's advice, and I always try to keep it in mind. I love to experiment, but at the same time, I have to try not to take it too far. I really like to do classical dishes. I try to explore some different bold flavors, especially on Tuesday and Wednesday when we do the pasta, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I really try to stick to my roots.
Any great recipe experiments? What I usually do at the end of the night is make something for everybody, and it's always something different that's not on the menu. We just experiment; whatever's good we put on the menu. It's a little bit hard here at Cibo, because we have three people that don't eat meat, two people that don't eat fish, and another one that doesn't like anything. It's challenging, but it's fun.
What's wound up on the menu? We make a pear salad that we made for one of the nights, and that's been a big success: It's arugula, Asian pears, cheese, almonds, and honey. It's actually pretty good, and I don't even like salads.
Anything you would never cook? We have chick here for lunch, but chicken is one of those things I never cook with. It's one of my least favorite things. We don't even have it for dinner. I refuse to cook chicken. I don't like the smell, I don't like the texture, I don't like the flavor: I don't like anything about it. I love the animal itself, but I hate it as a food. Cinnamon too; I'm not a big fan of it. I'm dying to try one of those sticky buns, but every time there is cinnamon in it. Why can't they make it without the cinnamon?! They smell so good without the cinnamon.
What's your favorite thing for your mom to make? My favorite thing my mom made is an arancini, which is a rice ball deep-fried. It usually has a filling of meat or peas or cheese. My mom is from Sicily, and it's a typical thing from Sicily. It's definitely my favorite thing. I've tried to make them many times and the never come out the same.
The one ingredient combination you couldn't live without? Tomato sauce and basil.
Is there any chef you would like to cook for? Mario Batali. I would love that. He had that show on the Food Network where he would cook for three or four guests. That was fun.
The Phoenix food scene needs more... There are a few Italian restaurants that know how to make pasta, but very few cook pasta to order so it kind of ruins the whole experience. I wish there would be more Italian restaurants that would cook pasta al dente. I'd rather wait at the table 20 more minutes than eat overcooked pasta. I wish there'd be more mom-and-pop restaurants with the little old lady in the back making food right when you ask for it.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one thing forever, what would it be? I'll give you one guess. Pasta? That's right. Any specific kind? Probably my favorite is Spaghetti Ala Oglio, which is just garlic, olive oil, chili paste, and parsley: Easy to make and the best.
This is our second installment of Chef Chat with Saccone. Check out part one for the fairy tale love story that lead him to Phoenix plus the food he'd travel to try, and check back tomorrow for a family recipe.