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Norbert interviews Giacomino Drago
Norbert interviews Giacomino Drago, partner in Il Pastaio, Piccolo Paradiso and Il Buco restaurants in Los Angeles. The youngest member of the renowned Drago restaurant family, Giacomino is now launching his own line of authentic Sicilian products including pasta sauce and olive oil. Norbert is currently working with Giacomino to put together his Fall cheese course.
N: What inspired you to create your own pasta sauce?
G: At my restaurants, I received such a demand for my sauce that I decided to bottle it. I also created a box with exactly the right amount of pasta to sell with the sauce.
N: I carry your sauce at The Cheese Store and it's very popular with my customers. You also have a very fine olive oil.
G: My goal is to introduce authentic Sicilian products to the American consumer. The secret of good Sicilian cooking is to keep everything very simple, using only the freshest ingredients. The flavors should be balanced and the seasoning should enhance, not mask the natural essence of the ingredients.
N: As a member of the Drago family, you must have literally grown up with food.
G: In Sicily where I was raised, my family owned a restaurant in the mountains. After school I worked in the restaurant and learned a lot about the business.
N: Do you have any formal culinary training?
G: After 8th grade, I decided to go to cooking school. In Italy, you have the option of going to a trade school instead of a traditional high school. During that time, I continued to work in the family restaurant for another year. Then I decided I wanted to go to America.
N: What made you decide to come here?
G: My brother Celestino had already established his restaurant, Celestino, in Beverly Hills. I was only 15 when I arrived, but I had already finished my schooling in Italy and was ready to work. After two years, Celestino opened up Drago and I became the pasta chef.
N: How long did you stay at Drago?
G: I worked with my brother 2 years and then I got drafted in the Italian army.
N: What did you do when you returned to Los Angeles?
G: Celestino opened up Il Pastaio and turned it over to me. After four years, I found a location on Robertson and Wilshire and opened Il Buco, which is a cozy little New York style trattoria. Then in January 2002, I started Piccolo Paradiso in Beverly Hills.
N: Now that we’re moving into fall, are you planning on doing any special menus?
G: Well Norbert, as you know, it's truffle season and I plan on using them in many dishes. I make a homemade tagliatelle with fresh white truffles and a poached egg on top. Of course, truffle oil can be drizzled on everything. And for you Norbert, I will create a special truffle fondue!
Click here to view the recipe for Giacomino Drago's Fontina Fondue Sauce
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