Born into a southern Italian family who prized the craft of artisan food, Francesco Mazzei grew up in a family who made their own olive oil, bread and salami… along with raising the pigs that provided it. His mother, ‘a great cook’, had a strong influence on the chef and from the age of eight he worked in his uncle’s gelateria.
Catering college followed, then his own fish restaurant. In 1992 he moved to Rome where he joined The Grand Hotel then, after learning English, he moved to London and landed a job at The Dorchester. Returning to Rome he worked at the Michelin-starred Eden Terrazza before travelling the world opening and running restaurants including the Royal Sporting Club in Bangkok, Santini restaurants in Edinburgh and Milan and working closely with long-time mentor Alan Yau at Anda in Marylebone and other ventures.
In 2008 Francesco opened L’Anima, showcasing dishes from Calabria, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia which received rave reviews. Francesco is now chef-patron of Sartoria in London’s Mayfair and has published a cookbook – Mezzogiorno which celebrates the food of southern Italy. We filmed with him on location in his home village of Cerchiara and nearby in Altomonte at the home of his great friend, Enzo Barbieri.
Francesco Mazzei’s Wine Choice
In the love ’em or hate ’em world of pudding wines I love this as much as Matthew Rhys… struggles. Unashamedly rich, mahogany palate-lacquer of raisins, fruit cake and sweet nuts. I’d happily have this instead of a pudding, or perhaps with a few pastries, nuts and a very short espresso.
Francesco’s Moscato is unavailable in the UK, but there are some fantastic alternatives that we’ve found if you’re looking to pair this dish:
Francesco’s Recipe: Calf Liver Rolls with N’Duja, Olive Oil Mash Potato
It may seem odd to pair a sweet wine with such a savoury dish but the sharp finish on this wine works really well with the flavours.
- 500g potatoes
- 200g parsley
- Skin of 2 unwaxed lemons, Amalfi if possible
- 100g n’duja
- 8 slices calf liver
- 400g pig’s caul (ask your butcher for this)
- 100ml sweet passito wine or marsala
- 150ml chicken stock
- 30g butter
- 10g extra virgin olive oil
- 1. Peel the potatoes, put them in saucepan, cover with water, add some salt and bring to the boil then lower the heat. Cook until tender.
- 2. Next, remove any thick stalks from the parsley, chop it finely and put in a bowl. Grate in the lemon skin and add n’duja. Mix using a fork or back of a small spoon until combined.
- 3. Put the pig’s caul in a bowl and leave it under running cold water until it’s white and clean from blood.
- 4. Sprinkle the slices of liver with salt. Spread some of the parsley mixture on each slice and roll up. Wrap them up with the pig’s caul one by one and secure with a toothpick (or better with a branch of dry oregano).
- 5. Drain the potatoes, put in bowl and mash. Start to add some olive oil. Continue adding oil if needed and adjust with salt. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- 6. Heat a pan and add a little of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the liver rolls and let them cook on a medium heat until the pig caul is crispy and has a golden brown colour.
- 7. Drain most of the fat out, add the wine and let it simmer until almost evaporated. Remove the rolls from the pan, add the stock and let cook for couple of minutes. Add the butter to obtain a creamy sauce.
- 8. In a serving dish place the potato mash, set on top of it the rolls sliced and finish with the sauce.
Francesco Mazzei’s Mezzogiorno book
Francesco’s first book samples over 80 recipes from southern Italian cuisine, a perfect introduction to cooking from this corner of Europe.
Francesco’s book Mezzogiorno is published by Preface Publishing in November 2015.