da Giacomo Milano

Csaba dalla Zorza rediscovered Milan after living abroad for some time, and as she approached the city again, our historic venue on Via Sottocorno became like a second home. During dinner, she shared with us her passion for cooking, the importance of the slow living concept, and her experience at Giacomo Milano.

How did you develop a passion for cooking, and when did you realize that you wanted to turn it into a genuine profession?
I have always been passionate about good food since I was a young girl. I started cooking at home around the age of 15, and setting the table with care was always something I enjoyed doing for myself as well as for others. However, it was at the age of 33 that I decided to try transforming this passion into a stable career. I went to Paris, enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, and earned my diploma, not with the intention of working in a restaurant, but with the desire to write about cooking and food. A year later, in 2004, my first book was released. And I haven't stopped since. In 19 years, I have written and published 22 books.

How would you describe your personal approach? Do you feel tied to tradition, or do you enjoy experimenting with ingredients and flavors?
I think mine can be defined as a contemporary approach. I like simple recipes, not too time-consuming, because we home cooks today are also full-time working women. I want to eat well every day, not just on weekends. I use seasonal ingredients, often local ones. But I also love infusing my Italian cuisine with recipes from other countries. Without going overboard.

Is there someone you consider a mentor? Why?
I have more than one because I believe my work is multifaceted. Nigella Lawson taught me to love food in all its forms and to write about it well. I read her books, then had the opportunity to be her editor when I was directing the publishing house Luxury Books, and we got to know each other well in person. Donna Hay taught me food styling; she's the number one in my opinion, formerly with Marie Claire Australia. And Anna Jones is the food writer whose prose I admire. In Italy, my mentor was Elda Lanza – I had a correspondence with her via email in the last years of her life, discussing everything, but especially good manners.

Your work combines the worlds of food, publishing, digital, and inevitably, lifestyle. How did you learn to find a balance between online and offline life?
It's very simple: I work online and live offline. I prefer to live at a slow pace, so I still use pen and paper, watch very little television, and I'm not fond of digital in my private life. But I could never do without it for work; I always have the computer with me, and I like to work by integrating various media: newspaper, TV, radio, social, and web. Technology is essential for work. But when I stop, I disconnect. And I never know where my phone is when I'm at home.

Can you describe a typical day for you?
It depends a lot on the time of year: when we shoot the TV series, I'm out all day, but when I write, I work from home. I am quite routine. I always wake up at the same time: 6:30. On Sundays, I usually get up at 8:00. The first thing I do is make coffee; then I prepare lunch to take away for my children, who go to high school, bake bread, and only then do I get ready. If I don't have to go out, I work from home, from my studio, but I dress and put on makeup as if I were going out. I do the grocery shopping almost every day, on foot or by bike, work a lot but at a slow pace. At the office, at the newspaper, I go a couple of times a month; we are a digital nomad editorial team, we meet online. In the evening, I like to eat with my family, and I'm the one who cooks. At 7:30, I close the computer and put away the phone: the private shift begins.

One of the habits you promote with your work is to consume less and better for a better life, and your latest book, "Cucina economica," contains many ideas to apply this principle in everyday life. What benefits can come from adopting such a lifestyle?
If we learn to consume less, that is, not to waste, the main advantage is essentially feeling like better people. Of course, there is also an economic saving – but that's not the point. Waste is immoral to me. Food should not be thrown away, and people's time should be respected. Being economical does not mean spending less, but rather achieving the best result with the least use of resources.

kes people refer to one another by name. Wine is the generating engine of coexistence, of the ability to create arguments, of discussion... all the great important decisions of humankind have been made over a glass of wine.

Another concept that is often talked about today, in contrast to a reality that is moving faster and demands increased productivity, is that of slow living. Do you think it's possible to apply it to food? In what way?
I apply it to everything, always have, and it works very well. Slow living means going at a human pace, not being overwhelmed by the anxiety of having to do everything. Essentially, it means knowing what we want and choosing it. Applied to food, it translates into consuming ingredients that are truly seasonal and local (Italian), cooked only as much as needed, and not layered together to make them something different from what they are originally.

You are an expert in the art of hospitality, a fundamental aspect of Giacomo Milano's philosophy. One of our priorities is to make customers feel at home, thanks to the welcoming environment and our attentive service. What can never be missing to make people feel welcome and comfortable?
There isn't a single thing: hospitality is a combination of details. Certainly, the pleasantness of the environment, lighting, and the sound around us. Then, of course, feeling at ease comes from a serene attitude from those around us: walking without haste, speaking slowly, not betraying anxiety is crucial.

You were born in Milan, a place dear to Giacomo Bulleri, who chose to open his first restaurant in the historic via Sottocorno. What kind of relationship do you have with the city?
I rediscovered Milan because in the first part of my life, I lived a lot abroad. It's a small city, dotted with architectural gems and beautiful gardens, full of interesting places. I love it, especially when experienced on foot or by bike. Milan inspires me, surprises me, sometimes it seems like I never know it well enough. I love the small and somewhat secret streets, and via Sottocorno is among them.

Giacomo now has several locations, but this undoubtedly remains the most distinctive. We like to think of the restaurant on via Sottocorno as a place with a unique charm, reminiscent of the old Milanese trattorias of the early 1900s. Do you remember the first time you came here? What impressed you most about our place?
Sottocorno and Giacomo are a bit like the restaurant around the corner for those times when you need to sit down and have someone cook for you and do it well. The first time I came here with my husband, I was captivated by the old-fashioned atmosphere, the green boiseries on the walls, the well-ironed white tablecloths. In short, the attention to detail. The idea of a home where you can eat well in a friendly atmosphere.

Giacomo Bulleri deeply believed in the ability of food to evoke a spectrum of memories and sensations through flavors, textures, and their combinations. What did you order tonight, and what does this dish bring to mind?
I agree with him; food is a magnet to which memories approach and attach themselves forever. I ordered the seafood salad. Fish, for me, is my mother's cooking – I prepare it less often, she, being Tuscan and having lived by the sea, loves it particularly and prepares it very well. These dishes have the scent of home for me.

What do you like about Giacomo that makes you come back every time you have the opportunity?
Despite the success it has had, Giacomo has remained "the restaurant around the corner," and that's what I like the most. It's a sincere place to spend happy hours.

Our founder, Giacomo Bulleri, believed deeply in the ability of food to evoke memories and emotions, thanks to its flavours, aromas and textures. What does this combination bring back to your mind?
It always reminds me of Sunday family lunches, when none of my brothers were working and we would all gather around a table to eat cotolette. It is also made here in the Langhe, perhaps with a little less butter... That smell and taste reminds me of family.

How would you describe your experience at Giacomo in three words?
Gourmet, because the food is very good. Familiar, because the atmosphere is like a home dining room. Relaxing, because it's elegant but not excessive, and you can truly feel at a friend's home