What sort of food did you grow up with? 'I was born and raised in La Spezia, a small city in Liguria, northern Italy. My mum is from Lombardy and my dad from Venice, so my childhood food was a bit messy. My favourite memories are of seafood and, of course, pesto.'
Your newborn son, Teo, is half-Italian and half-Japanese. Will he eat both cuisines? 'Of course! As well as Thai, Spanish, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Chinese, German, Greek, Mexican ... and, if he doesn't behave, even French. Just joking. He will be free to choose whatever he likes but I'll force him to distinguish between bad and good food. Both grandmothers are great cooks and will spoil him.'
What ingredients and gadgets could you not do without? 'Fresh herbs can awaken even the most boring soup. As for utensils, the Thermomix is an amazing food processor and I love the silicone accessories that help us do things that were impossible 10 years ago. I have vintage utensils from flea markets and bazaars all over the world, but they satisfy my commodity-fetishist side - I don't use them at work.'
Where do you fall on the spectrum between traditional and modern cooking? 'At Osteria, we cook comfortable regional dishes and I try to keep close to tradition. I don't want to surprise people. I have been very creat- ive [and] modern and I'm open to new cooking methods.'
You've worked in Tokyo and now live in Hong Kong. How do the two cities' palates differ? 'In Tokyo, people appreciate a good vegetable or a special cheese. In Hong Kong, Italian cheese [means] parmesan or mozzarella. Here, my customers are more attracted by meat and seafood.'
Do you consider yourself an artist? 'No, I consider myself an artisan. What a beautiful word. Most of the time, chefs just feed people. It is true that food elicits emotions but that doesn't automatically make us artists. I think the definition of 'artist' is deserved by very few - those with considerable impact on the world. Let's keep our feet on the ground, here.'