Carluccio's head chef Marc Sloper talks simply sensational dishes. Viva Italia!

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Italian born Antonio Carluccio opened ‘Carluccio’s’ Italian food shop in 1991, which expanded to a café in 1999 (first opening in Market Place, London). Today, Carluccio’s operates from 66 UK locations. A joint Italian food shop and café serving breakfast to dinner, a little taste of Italy. 
His latest opening is in the city of Bath on Monday September 10th. We have spoken to the head chef Marc Sloper on all things Italian....

What is your favourite dish to cook on the menu currently?image from bristolbites.co.uk
I love to cook our homemade ravioli.It’s more about the preparation, the fact that we spend time rolling the pasta and then cutting it to perfection to stuff with our delicious filling!

What do you like to cook at home that you don’t make at the cafe?
I come from a big family and always used to cook a huge pasta bake,using various herb combinations,for all the family to tuck into.  It was simple but delicious and more importantly, it was filling for my hungry brothers and sisters!

What sparked your interest in becoming a chef?
My family. From a young age, I always wanted to create nourishing, tasty meals for my family to enjoy together. The smell of cooking would always draw people to the kitchen!

What trends do you see emerging in the food industry right now? 
There seems to be a greater appreciation of simple things thoughtfully executed which works well with our philosophy here at Carluccio’s: simple fresh ingredients simply prepared for the best authentic flavor.

Do you have any disaster stories throughout your career as a chef that you can share with us?
There was one day at a previous role when I was the only chef in the kitchen due to people not turning up. At first I was petrified but I had control of my kitchen as a junior sous and I was walking on air that day!! They eventually turned up for evening service but it was probably one of the most terrifying and liberating experiences I have ever had in the kitchen!!

How does Carluccio’s source the best possible products/ingredients?image from thetraveleditor.com
We have long standing relationships with our producers. We also make regular trips to Italy to visit food shows, restaurants & shops to see what’s going on.

The café has the unique concept of having a shop attached, but with the recent rise in popularity of Italian cuisine, plus Jamie Oliver opening a deli opposite his restaurant in Bath, do you think Carluccio’s has the edge over the competition?
It’s all about the detail. Our producers in cities, towns and villages from Piemonte to Sicilia are sticklers for the little things. They matter. Our Italian bakers could send us their first boxes of panettone, but they don’t. They only bake from September to December, so when their doors open they make sure everything’s just right. The temperature, the humidity, the yeast. So our panettone arrives about a month after they switch on their ovens.

Does Antonio make regular appearances in the kitchen?
Antonio acts as a consultant to the food team and often invites the chefs to his home to cook with him. This is very important to both Antonio and to us.

With the rise in social media, how important a tool do you think it is in the food industry / for building an image?
In many ways, social media isn’t anything new to Carluccio’s. We see it as another form of communication – very similar to the service, daily interaction and open approach that we implement in the shop and restaurant floor.

In your opinion, what is the best food and wine match on the menu?image from telegraph.co.uk
Our wine expert works closely with our chefs to make sure that both the wine and food on our menu compliment each other. However if you’re after a great red pairing, the Chianti Classico Riservea 'Ser Lapo', Mazzei is the ideal wine to accompany the Tagliata di Manzo - two Tuscan classics made for each other! If your preference lies with white wine, the fresh, zesty fruit flavours of La Segreta Bianco, Planeta match the fried seafood in the Fritto Misto perfectly.

Do you use any particular wine in any of your dishes?
We use chianti in our Brasato di Manzo dish as we feel the rich, deep flavor enhances the beef stew as it’s (slow) cooked.

Where do you tend to buy wine for yourself at home?
We’re lucky enough to have a fantastic selection of Italian wines in our food shop so I don’t need to stray far!

Have you come across any unusual food and wine matches?
I tend not to be too snobby about food and wine pairings. For example, so many people think that cheese should always be accompanied by red wine. Not true! White wine can really bring out the creaminess of a cheese.

What audience does the restaurant cater for?
To anyone who steps through the door! We aim to create a home-from-home feel and that applies to everyone that chooses to spend time with us.

If you weren’t in the food industry, where do you think you would be?
Since a young age I have had to provide and help my mum with my 10 siblings so I can’t see myself being anything other than a provider. I have always been in the kitchen; maybe I could become a supplier or producer but I always will be in the food industry!!

Carluccio's Bath is opening at 3-7 Milsom Place, Bath, BA1 1BZ 
Tel: 01225 312 604