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Friday, 25 April 2014

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ANTONIO Carluccio is not such a greedy Italian these days. The avuncular chef has shed more than three stone in recent years, and puts it down to only eating half of what’s on his plate.

“It’s not about the diet, it’s attitude,” he says, carefully slicing through a rasher of bacon but only occasionally taking a mouthful.

“When you reduce the volume of your stomach and eat less, your stomach doesn’t need more, and you’re happy.”

He points to two remaining hash browns on his plate, and smiles: “I will eat one more of these. But that’s just greediness.”

A fan of any cuisine that’s cooked simply, authentically and with good ingredients, Carluccio is, of course, a long-time advocate of the food from his native Italy.

After more than 35 years in Britain, the stationmaster’s son still speaks with a strong Italian accent, and his conversation is sprinkled with anecdotes about the old country.

His phone, for example, has a ringtone of bells from the cows coming down the mountain for the twice-yearly “transumanza”, reminding him of growing up in Piedmont in northern Italy.

“I like to live here in London and go to Italy several times a year, so I don’t feel withdrawal symptoms,” he says.

So it was with great pleasure that he returned there with old friend and fellow chef Gennaro Contaldo, to explore the regional varieties in the cuisine for the second series of their Two Greedy Italians show and accompanying book.

“It’s unbelievably varied,” he says. “A Sicilian doesn’t know the food of the north. Every region likes to cook their own recipes made with locally grown ingredients according to a long history of food. And all the regions have influences coming from the states around it. For example, in the north you have Germanic influences. And in Sicily the influences are the Arab countries.

“Every region has something special.”

He is pleased British people are finally starting to rectify the mistakes of “Britalian” cuisine – spaghetti bolognese, a dish that never existed in Italy, is one of his bugbears – and appreciate real Italian cooking.

“Now the British like Italian food. They like it because of its simplicity – very simple flavouring without complicating the recipe. With just two or three items you have a wonderful taste.”

For now, he’s happiest throwing himself into work and despite being 75, Carluccio has no plans to retire any time soon.

“The type of job and work I do is not for retiring. Because you will always eat even when you are very, very old.”

l Try these recipes from Carluccio and Contaldo’s latest book, Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy...

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