Interviewed April 2009
Aimo Moroni is chef/patron of the long established Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan, which currently has two Michelin stars.
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
I am Aimo Moroni and I have been working as a chef since 1955. With my wife we opened our restaurant now called Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan, in the same location in 1962.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
Soon after the Second World War I came to Milan and I worked in two renowned restaurants of the city. But my mother was also a great chef in noble families in Tuscany and I have learned a lot from her as we started to work together in a kitchen in Milan in 1955 .
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
It is a personal interpretation of the Italian culinary culture: our territories had developed in the past different flavours, tastes, recipes according to the local history, human knowledge, geography, traditional productions. We try to take and keep the best products that these different areas propose, and we elaborate them with a great respect of their natural richness, with a memory to the tastes of our memory, but at the same time with a totally new elaboration.
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
I cannot speak for other restaurants, but in our case we can say that it is a mix of passion, love, good flavour, combined with great professionals to work with. Today we are far from where I start: a team of young, motivated and very skilled people keep this restaurant at a top quality level.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
I have a “signature dish”, which does not want to be the synthesis of my style, but it is surely a “manifesto” as it tells about my style. It is “Spaghetti made with a special variety of durum wheat (Senatore Cappelli) with spring onions and hot pepper sauce”. We have created it in 1965 and it is still the most loved dish we make. It might seem very simple, but it has to be tasted to understand why it has passed its 39th years of life and people think it is so “modern”. Best ingredients (the oil, the salt, the durum wheat, the touch of parmigiano cheese, the basil from Liguria), great care to get the best flavours from them, soft and careful cooking of the ingredients, melting of all the ingredients in the final stage: all these aspects are so subtle and important to have as a result a full of flavours and taste. I enjoy to let taste emerge from ingredients consider to be well known, something that surprise people. Everybody knows onions or tomato or anything else, the challenge is if we are able to make you discover flavours and complexity that you have never imagined.
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
All those which are good, I mean produced with such a care that the result is already great. I work with a plus and I know that this richness must be kept. But if I must say what I love, maybe are those ingredients that people do not consider as “high standard”, to show them how great they can be. This should be the work of the chef.
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
To be sincere during my day off I often stay home and invite friends, my employees, my relatives as I love to cook for them. Sometimes I visit other restaurants, but there is not one particular place where I prefer to go as each of them has a particular and different style.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
I consider the most interesting experience of my life working in the kitchen with my wife, her being my lover and friend, the first and most difficult customer, a concrete person as I am full of dreams. You cannot divorce or quit every time you do not agree, you have to find all the time the point. And this is a challenge itself.
What would be your “last request” dish?
It is a dish of my youth of the region where I was born: the “fritto misto alla toscana” which means a mix of many fried vegetables and meat made in the Tuscan style.
Is there another chef that you most admire?
It might seem not answering your question, but really it was my mother. She was able, with almost nothing to eat (you can imagine the problems during and soon after the war), to create some great dishes for the family; simple food but a lot of love and fantasy helped her to make each meal a special remarkable moment.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
Yes, remember that is more than a job, it is quite a “mission”: passion, love, put all the effort and energy you have to learn, listen, but never forget your humanity as it is what one day will make you happy. A chef is not merely a facet of technique, recipes, tools, it is a facet of persons. Never forget that.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
My final thoughts go to the future: thanks to the young chefs Fabio e Alessandro, the maitre Nicola, the sommelier Federico and my daughter Stefania I can see the future here. Today having a restaurant is a difficult and complex matter, but I can see that a great team is the only key to have a chance to create and develop a successful business and the happiness of us and our customers.
Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia