squaremeal.co.uk | 71
Mazzei grew up in Calabria, the toe of Italy,
and wanted to become a footballer as a boy.
But cooking oered pocket money to buy
Nike trainers and Levi jeans and so he started
working in his uncle's ice-cream shop when
he was eight. Ten years later, he opened his
own sh restaurant, before moving to the
Grand Hotel in Rome.
He credits this early start in the kitchen not
only with being invaluable career experience
- "if you start cooking at eight, you know
what you're talking about by the time you
nish catering college when you're 18" - but
also making him value the social side of the
"At home we were always cooking, but
spending time in a restaurant kitchen every
day with a lot of dierent people - something
got into my blood. Sometimes my wife gets
upset and says, 'Why do you always want
people around you?' And I say, 'Because I love
it'. That's my life, that's what I've been doing
since I was a little kid."
He moved to London in 1996 to train at The
Dorchester, but his Italian bosses got his
arrival date wrong so he worked at Cantina
del Ponte for two months. Things didn't start
well: Mazzei was missing his girlfriend (now
his wife) back in Rome and he didn't earn
much as a commis chef at The Dorchester.
Two things made him stay: he moved in
with a Calabrian family, and he boosted his
earnings by working evenings at Il Siciliano
in Dean Street, starting work there following
11-hour shifts at The Dorchester.
"I went out to London in the morning
and I came back to Calabria at night. It was a
great balance and it kept me going. And with
the extra money, I could buy a ticket for my
girlfriend to come and see me."
Mazzei was meant to be at The Dorchester
for one year but stayed for four, and though
he may not have had the best start to life
in London he now loves his adopted home.
"This city is just amazing. Every good chef
now has to have an experience of London -
it's as simple as that. The ingredients in this
country are fantastic, things like damsons,
or cobnuts. I became one of the Slow Food
ambassadors in the UK, because the things I
discovered here were just beautiful.
"And when you go out, there are
gastropubs where for £30 you can have
a proper meal without any pretensions,
which is fantastic: it's like having a trattoria.
The world of food in London for me at the
moment is the best in the world."
Come November, Mazzei's world will be
very much focused on Mayfair, as well as
Mezzogiorno, which is published the day
I've been very impressed by Pizza Pilgrims
in Soho. For pasta, it would be Little
Sardegna, on Blackstock Road: the crab
linguine is beautiful. For meat, I go to Zucca.
[Chef and owner] Sam Harris is a great guy.
I love what English chefs are doing with
Italian food. There's Tim Siadatan at Trullo,
and Jacob Kenedy at Bocca di Lupo is a
star. It's exciting to see how they use Italian
ingredients with an English touch.
"I BECAME ONE OF THE SLOW FOOD AMBASSADORS
IN THE UK, BECAUSE THE THINGS I DISCOVERED IN
THIS COUNTRY WERE JUST BEAUTIFUL"
restaurants ¦ food
Lobster sybarita (pictured left) and octopus tagliata
(above) are both on the menu at Mazzei's Sartoria
Bocca di Lupo
the restaurant opens (see review, p.32).
"After doing an incredible job in the City,
I'm going to do the same job even better at
Sartoria. The rst year, I'm not going to talk
about publishing more books, I'm not going
to talk about business - I just want to be
concentrating fully on Sartoria. The restaurant
has been a sleeping giant, and this giant now
has to stand up, make money and be one of
the best restaurants in the UK."
Never mind 'nduja: Mazzei is going to be
the King of Mayfair.
Sartoria opens in late November at 20 Savile
Row, W1S 3PR; sartoria-restaurant.co.uk