Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Chefs in Italian restaurants increasingly from India and the continent of Africa

rigatoni alla carbonara
Originally uploaded by motocchio
ROME — Last month, Gambero Rosso, the prestigious reviewer of restaurants and wine, sought out Rome’s best carbonara, says the NY Times. Carbonara is a dish of pasta, eggs, pecorino cheese and guanciale (cured pig cheek; for the aficionados, pancetta is not done) that defines tradition here.

Chef Nabil Haj-Hassan shows his award-winning carbonara pasta in the kitchen of the Roscioli Restaurant in Rome.

In second place was L’Arcangelo, a restaurant with a head chef from India. The winner: Antico Forno Roscioli, a bakery and innovative restaurant whose chef, Nabil Hadj Hassen, arrived from Tunisia at 17 and washed dishes for a year and a half before he cooked his first pot of pasta.

“To cook is a passion,” said Mr. Hassen, now 43, who went on to train with some of Italy’s top chefs. “Food is a beautiful thing.”

Twelve years ago, Abu Markhyyeh, a young Jordanian, finished an apprenticeship with a Neapolitan pizza maker, borrowed money from his Italian mother-in-law, then opened his own pizzeria in Milan, Da Willy, after his nickname here.

He did well, in part because he made the pizzas bigger but kept the prices low. Now Mr. Markhyyeh, 41, presides over an untraditional pizza empire. He has 11 restaurants in Milan, 4 in Jordan, 2 in Cyprus and franchises in Dubai, Beirut, Sharm el Sheik in Egypt and now in Shanghai.

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