Giuseppe Mascoli: 'Don't just copy recipes, steal them so they become yours'

 

My earliest food memory...Nipples, obviously, which is my last memory as well! Seriously, though, mozzarella: as a toddler, I got told off for putting it in crazy places, like down other kids' nappies.

My favourite cookbook... Apicius, [the sole surviving] cookbook from Ancient Rome, not because the recipes are great but because I can read it out in Latin and show off. As for more modern works, I like Rose Prince's books because she puts a lot of care into sourcing ingredients and you can learn a lot from her about where to get the best fish, meat and veg. I believe sourcing is as important as any recipe.

The kitchen appliance I can't live without... My twelve-ring gas cooker, which I have had for a long time, because you can do so many things on it at once. Do any pieces of kitchenware have great sentimental value for me? Yes, my grandmother, she's a great help.

My culinary tip... Don't just copy recipes, but steal them, so they become yours: I am absolutely a master thief. In terms of pizza-making, make sure you leave the yeast to ferment for a decent amount of time – otherwise the base will be hard to digest. I leave it overnight, though anything above six hours is OK.

My favourite food shop... I like M Moen & Sons, which is a butcher in Clapham; Wild Caper, which is next to my restaurant in Brixton Market and has very good bread; and La Fromagerie and Neal's Yard Dairy for cheese. In Italy, I love Tamburini, which is a deli in Bologna: it's run by people with passion and it's really friendly and they have some amazing salamis for real salami buffs like me.

My top table... Yauatcha [in London's Soho]. I go there about once a week. I like the glamour of it: it looks like a nightclub and it's very dark, which means I look about 38 there – and the food is great, obviously. I also love Lebanese food, and I often go to a place called Al Waha on Westbourne Grove: it's been going for a long time, and they know exactly what they're doing. But I don't have to go to expensive places: I will if I want to impress and the girl's really fit, but generally I'm as happy getting a good kebab from the high street.

My dream dining companion... Karl Marx, I think. Because I'm just a restaurant owner, people think I'm not very cultivated, but with Marx at my table everyone would think I was very progressive and intellectual. But I'd ask him to shave his beard beforehand; food might get stuck in it. I'd take him to Quo Vadis in Soho, because he used to live in the same building; it would be like the second coming of Christ.

My favourite comfort food...You mean when I'm hungover? Alka-Seltzer and oysters – they go very well together.

The strangest thing I've eaten... Lamb's eyes. I was in Greece when I was about 15 or 16 and a gypsy offered my father one on a golden toothpick. He wanted to be polite, but he was very squeamish and I could see from his face that he might have died so I offered to try it instead. It tasted strange but really good, a bit like bone marrow, and in Italy, I even cook them sometimes myself.

My pet hates... Pizza ovens which are made to look like wood-burning ovens but are actually run on gas; they are very widespread in restaurants now. Also, I don't like it when people mess around with a simple dish, like putting cream in carbonara sauce. There aren't really any ingredients I don't like: as the Chinese say, "If it flies and it's not an aeroplane, I'll eat it. If it's got four legs and isn't a chair, I'll eat it. And if it swims and isn't a submarine, I'll eat it."

Giuseppe Mascoli is the owner of Blacks in Soho and the pizzeria Franco Manca, which has branches in Brixton, Chiswick and Westfield Stratford. He has recently launched pizza-making masterclasses. See francomanca.co.uk for more info

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