our Dave An interview of Chef Davide di Fabio sous chef Massimo Bottura by Bibi Segaar

Davide di Fabio seems to bound towards me in delightful joy, we agreed to meet for a simple aperitivo in Civitella del Tronto, quite a legendary village on the border of Marche and Abruzzo with it's hilltop castle a romantic scene of undeniable beauty. He seems to know the place well, this will be the second time he is helping to organise a benefit dinner. It is here in this picturesque setting Davide will cook with the staff of the acclaimed Ristorante Zunica. Davide, the right hand of the world's most famous cook, Massimo Bottura is seated by my side absolutely glowing with enthusiasm about this event.

Davide di Fabio sous-chef for Massimo Bottura at Osteria Francescana in Modena

"This has been such a fulfilling experience", he says and promptly shows me an array of pictures of beautifully set tables between the ancient ruin walls at the top of the Borgo. Davide was born in Milan but the hilltops of Abruzzo he has made his own, his father is from these parts, as a 6 year old he moved to the village Bellante in the province of Teramo which was home turf for his fathers side of the family .

Abruzzo is the region he knows best, it is a region recommendable for excellent cuisine and where from an early age he made visits to the village vegetable markets accompanying his mother whom he would be seen trailing across the squares and visiting the village shops to acquire the ingredients for the next family meal. He reminisces about this childhood in fondness. He still loves to walk across markets in search of the most beautiful local products that Abruzzo produces in abundance. “Here you can buy the freshest fish from the Adriatic, vegetables that are picked daily from the fertile earth, the magnificent cheese which is made in Abruzzo and the honey and the beans.." I had to stop him here. It is clear that choice and variety are indeed endless.

Civitella del Tronto, Abruzzo
From a young age one learns about respect and tradition

“My father taught me how to butcher a lamb, pluck chickens and what the best time should be to harvest tomatoes. I am actually devoted to the tomato, I have clearly developed a bit of an obsession with this fruit. When I come back to Abruzzo, at least every August, I can be found totally immersed in the tradition of 'fare il sugo' (making the tomato sauce). The whole family takes part, my grandmother and aunts, everyone does their bit to make sure we have 'our' pommodori for our meals during the cold winter months. "

@Home in Bellante, Abruzzo
A good chef knows his products

Davide continues: "I am in fact quite a privileged person to have had all these authentic experiences. A good cook can not only cook well but also knows where the products come from and chooses the best quality. Italian chefs are rather lucky in a way because Italy is unique, this country is nearly synonymous for the term culinary tradition, we have extraordinary crops and a micro climate like no other place on earth which allows us to grow a great variety of products.

Inspired by the abundance fresh produce that Italy has on offer

His self-professed tomato obsession and dreams of tomato fortune was off to a rough start. "My parents allowed me and my sister to prepare a 'pasta pomodoro', because how hard could it be?

However my idea of dumping tomatoes into the same cooking water with the pasta raised some eyes brows and proved terribly unsuccessful. This must have been the precise moment I decided to become a cook and learn the trade properly". Davide still laughs when he thinks back at his childhood errors. Back then who would have dreamt he would be standing side by side cooking with the master chef Bottura.

..he is also the master of execution..at Osteria Francescana the best restaurant in the world..
”we've heard you go on about him for 5 years and now you´re scared to go?”

From the very first day at the cooking academy in Marche, he followed Bottura's weekly columns in one of the culinary journals, Davide became fixated on the Bottura philosophy about food, his views about the profession. On a whim, after his graduation in 2004 he sent his resume to Osteria Francescana not expecting anything. Davide was more alarmed than anything else when Massimo reacted immediately and invited him to Modena for a job interview. "Actually, I was terrified, but my father said: It's been five years you've been talking about this man and now you do not want to, grab your chance, boy and go to Modena, now!" Davide started to work for him just 3 weeks later.

Davide di Fabio "I admit to being a human sponge"
12 hour days

Working in Bottura's kitchen is definitely not meant for the faint at heart, Davide describes a regular day at Osteria Francescana.

The day starts around 9.30 in the morning, they will sit together and discuss new dishes and ideas that need to be developed, they take time to train newcomers, do the orders for the suppliers and often there is a visit from journalists around that time. Lunch runs from 11.45 am to about 4.30 pm, often followed by guests visiting the kitchen. Then there is a break of about two hours and the team continues to work again until midnight. Once a month they will have breakfast with the entire staff and during the breaks there is often a game of football.

Morning to midnight. " Once a month we have a team breakfast, during breaks we play some football otherwise we work. "
´Oops´: The start of a legend

"Working together in one kitchen with 20 different characters and nationalities, it is almost a given that misunderstandings and problems arise. However we have adopted a very direct way of speaking to each other. I do have the greatest respect for my Japanese colleague Taka. It was him that dropped the infamous dessert and he was absolutely horrified about it, however Massimo just swooped in and exclaimed "bellissimo", it is beautiful!"

´The rest is history´. This is the way it happened,'Oops! Mi è caduta la crostatina al limone' (oops! I dropped the lemon pie) is undoubtedly the most famous dish on the menu of Osteria Francescana in Modena and probably one of the most famous in the world.

The dish called "Oef"
" The region Abruzzo deserves much more, the richness of the territory, the humble kitchen and wines are among Italy's best " Davide di Fabio in Giulianova, Abruzzo
I'm like a sponge

Davide di Fabio has now worked with Massimo Bottura for over 13 years and accompanies him on nearly all his trips. "I'm a sponge of sorts," he says, "I have a need to absorb as much as possible of the world around me, discover new destinations, countries, kitchens, flavors, I have an insatiable curiosity. My biggest assets in cooking are the passion and the respect I have for an honestly made product. However, modesty is also an important virtue for a cook to have". And speaking of virtue, we talk about the 'Virtù' (virtue) of Teramo which he finds a unique dish and which I happen to know very well.

"My biggest assets in cooking are the passion and the respect I have for an honestly made product, however also modesty which is an important virtue for a cook to have". Davide di Fabio with Mamma & Pappa in Abruzzo
Davide di Fabio about Abruzzo

On that note we start talkig a bit about his region Abruzzo. He admits this is where his heart and roots lie. The area may seem a bit rough and unsophisticated at first, but once you are used to the simple lifestyle, you will not want to leave. Abruzzo is absolutely undervalued, but perhaps most by their own residents who perhaps think they do not have enough to offer. "The area deserves much more attention from the world, just look at the wealth which stems from the earth in Abruzzo, the purity of its gastronomic traditions and even the wines are great, not just good".

great expectations for the region

He agrees with me that fortunately, in recent times, there have been some exceptionally good products originating from the Abruzzo farms and the agricultural industry of the region; excellent wine producers and top restaurants, for example Niko Romito, his restaurant Reale in Castel di Sangro (Abruzzo), ranks 36th place on the list of the best restaurants in the world. "The oil we use in Modena at the Osteria comes from Abruzzo, but we also have cheeses from a shepherd at Scanno and bell peppers from Altino and of course there are wines from the Abruzzo on the wine list. I just can't get enough of this simple country life and these amazing dishes which are deeply rooted in tradition and have a real and direct taste. And of course I can never can get enough of my father's arrosticini, "he adds..

Created By
Redactie Dolcevia


Foto credit: Davide di Fabio, Daniele Zunica, Picenumtour.it, Commune of Bellante, Commune of Modena, Olga Bibi Segaar

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.