Giorgio Pappalardo, co-founder of Angie’s F&B Group, has been devoting to offering a genuine and simple approach to Italian cuisine in Taiwan. “When I first moved to Taiwan, the perception of Italian food here was only about pizza and spaghetti.” He aims to move forward to introduce the Italian lifestyle, which includes not only the food itself, but also how Italians eat and drink.
Pushed by his own passion for cooking, Pappalardo seized opportunities to work in luxury hotels and Michelin star restaurants, such as Luc Figueras in Spain and Alain Ducasse in France before he came to Asia. “I am competitive with myself. I’m ambitious and I like to learn.” The self-motivated chef then became the youngest corporate executive chef for Hyatt Hotels at the age of 27. “I was lucky to have good bosses who believed in me and gave me the chance to challenge myself.”
Settling in Taipei with his family and starting his own restaurant, Osteria by Angie, in 2010, now Pappalardo has successfully expanded his culinary business into the F&B Group with his partners. “In Asia you can do things quite fast. In Europe, bureaucracy makes things move slowly. If you want to open a restaurant here, it takes three months, but it may take one year in Italy,” he said. “What I like about Asia is the flexibility to do what I like to do. I can push myself as much as I want and find my limits!”
1. Your Restaurant/Business:
We feature regional Italian cuisine. We adjust the menu based on the region where the chef comes from. If the chef comes from Southern Italy, we provide flavors of the Southern style. We always try to give our chefs the opportunity to do what they can do their best.
All the pasta and even ice cream in our restaurants are homemade. We use local products as much as possible, but if we can’t find the ingredients that meet our needs, we import them to ensure the quality and taste.
Overall we insist on the authentic Italian taste instead of working on localization, or so-called fusion. Of course we still balance a little bit to show respect to the local culture and avoid being too aggressive. For example, we know that rabbits are pets in Taiwan, so we don’t serve “stewed rabbit with polenta” here, though it’s a traditional Italian cuisine!
2. About Your Kitchen:
I love to work in open kitchens.
An open kitchen is like a film studio, where customers can see chefs performing like actors/actresses and enjoy the show. I think that makes customers feel comfortable. There is nothing to hide. I like to interact with my customers and share the energy and vibes in the kitchen with them.
In terms of building my back of house team in Taiwan, of course passion is important. We try to identify chefs who enjoy their work. We have our chefs move around in different stations, helping them to acquire multiple skills and making them complete chefs in a relatively short time. They can do appetizers, main courses, and desserts, not only a specific kind of cuisine.
I do have chefs come back again after five years. I think it’s a good sign. It means I have at least done something right to them (smile).
3. Your Favorite Chef Works Item:
Portland Bib Apron
4. First Job:
When I was studying in a culinary school at 14, I was introduced to work in a family hotel in Bologna, Italy, during the summer vacation. That was my first job, and I worked 14 hours a day for two months without any holidays (while all my friends were enjoying their vacation!!)
5. Your Favorite Cookbook:
My own book!
《簡單，就是最好的味道 (Simplicity Brings out the Best Flavor)》
I spent 6 months concentrating on this book. I enjoyed the experience, and I think I should write another one!
I make simple cuisines.
I think when people go to a restaurant at the end of a day, they want to know what they are eating. If I serve you pasta, I want to ensure that it tastes good, looks good, and still, you know that it’s a plate of pasta with tomato sauce. (smile) If it’s a restaurant that you want to go once a year, it’s a different story. But I hope my restaurant is a place where customers want to come back often, a place where they feel like home.
Simplicity is not easy to achieve though. Everyone seems to be able to do it, but it’s hard to make yourself different.
6. Your Awards:
Osteria by Angie was ranked No. 61 in “101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2014” by The Daily Meal.
(Personally I am not especially interested in joining culinary competitions.)
7. Your Cooking Inspiration:
He is the mentor for so many good chefs around the world. He always gives his chefs opportunities to learn and develop their own cuisines.
Now I look for new inspiration by travelling as well. But more often, I look back to my roots, to where I come from, and where I have been working. I am not into making so-called contemporary cuisines. I aim to strike the balance between creativity and tradition. Following current trends is just not my style.
Also, when I build a new concept for a new restaurant, it’s not just about food. The food, the interior design, the atmosphere I want to create—they are all inter-related. This helps me to find new inspiration for my cuisines too.
8. Your Speciality Dish:
Seafood and pasta.
I love seafood myself. In my hometown, seafood was rare and expensive. Since I started to work in restaurants, naturally I have been dealing with seafood very often. But until now, seafood still evokes the pleasure of eating something extraordinary when I was a child. We always have special feelings towards something that was missing in our childhood, don’t we? (smile)
As for pasta, we provide both dry pasta and fresh pasta in Osteria. We just imported a new machine from Italy to provide more options of our homemade dry pasta.
9. Favorite Dish To Eat:
Spaghetti with fresh tomato
This is what I eat. It’s my daily life!
10. Weirdest Thing You Ever Ate:
Crocodile, in Cuba.
I went there for holiday. The crocodile meat was a bit jelly and didn’t taste too good….
11. Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
12. Favorite Drink:
13. Favorite Wine:
Brunello di Montalcino 2007 – Stella di Campalto.
14. Who Would You Most Like to Cook For:
I can only see them in the morning, so I always make breakfast for them before they go to school. Sometimes I take them to the kitchen and try to cook with them together. They like to see the blender spinning when we blend fruits. We also make cakes or cookies. I like the interaction.
15. Who Would You Least Like to Cook For:
Alain Ducasse. (smile)
16. Favorite Things to Do When Not Cooking:
Sports! I go to the gym, running, swimming, etc.
I used to be a parachutist when I was in the army (military service was mandatory back then).
17. Your Latest Project:
Recently I’ve been busy preparing for opening new restaurants. The Yellow Lemon Dessert Bar at Xinyi A4* has been launched in the end of Aug, and the new Osteria by Angie restaurant at the new Breeze Center (also in Xinyi District) will open on Nov 5th with a new concept!
Overall, I think the culinary market of Taiwan is expanding. When we first opened Osteria in Taiwan in 2010, there were few Italian restaurants. Now there are more good Italian restaurants, and I think competition is a good thing. Together we provide our customers with more access to tasting real Italian flavors, and they start to know what Italian food is and learn to appreciate what/how we eat and drink.
*Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store, Xinyi A4 Store
18.Favorite City and Why:
Verona in Italy. It’s a historical city with good food and friendly people.
Overall I love Taiwan too. Taipei is quieter, and the pace is not that fast compared with other major Asian cities. However, instead of urban areas, I actually prefer natural scenes more. Mountains, forests, and lakes here are beautiful. The Sun Moon Lake reminds me of my hometown, where it’s full of nature.
19. Your Greatest Indulgence:
Dessert! I love he millefeville from Rebuchon Restaurant in Macau.
20. Your All Time Best Culinary Tip:
Taste the food and be patient.
Sometimes I see chefs not tasting their cuisines before offering them to the customers. I think it’s a problem. If you don’t taste your food on your own, it’s very likely that you fail to create the cuisine you expect to serve to your customers. And you won’t even know it if the customers don’t complain.
In Taiwan, I see a lot of young chefs who are ambitious, but they don’t wait for their time to come. They move forward too fast. It’s like you remove the training wheels before you fully learn how to ride a bicycle. You may end up falling because you couldn’t take full control over what you are doing.
I suggest young chefs be patient about not only their career path but also cooking. Don’t spend time on thinking about how to take shortcuts. If the recipe says three hours, don’t change it into one hour only because you want to save time. Spend the time you have to spend on your cuisine, and I think it will work better.