I don’t look at Massimo Riccioli of Rome’s la Rosetta and see only a truly great chef. I follow his outsized gestures, expressions and whimsy and see a comedian, a throwback to the stars of classic Italian cinema. I imagine a first-name celebrity: Say only Massimo and it can mean only Riccioli.
I was deeply disappointed by the news that Massimo had left Massimo, the glitzy London restaurant and oyster bar at the ritzy Corinthia Hotel. But I am grateful that before returning to Rome he revealed to me a secret to his culinary stardom as well as a hope for the future.
So what secret did I learn from the consummate Italian seafood chef who, though a fusspot for simplicity, can’t manage in the kitchen with only one all-purpose fish stock?
Did I ask him why he bothers matching fish stocks to the specific fish they enrich (e.g. a mackerel stock only for mackerel dishes?) No, I am not about to stock my fridge with a variety of single-fish fish stocks, no matter how convincing his reasoning.
Did I ask him about his sublime formula for pasta al nero di seppia (in cuttlefish ink), as the slideshow above might lead you to guess? No, I assumed the zesty tang from the sprinkling of grated Pecorina Romano did the trick, in open defiance of the no-cheese-with-seafood rule, and did not prod any further.
I chose instead to direct my question to his creative vision:
Where, Massimo, did you get your eyeglass frames?
Massimo smiled, pulled the blocky black frames from his face and examined the printing on the inside of their temples. The act was pointless and Massimo knew it. The tiny inscriptions are impossible to read without glasses. The frames, he revealed, were knockoffs of a model by a famous British designer.
“No, no, no,” he said. The frames were in fact originals from Mondelliani (Via dei Bergamaschi 49, Rome). Mondelliani co-founder Rosaria Riccioli is, in addition to being Rome’s first name in eyeglass design, Massimo’s sister.
Her brother the chef/comedian hopes to be back in London, possibly to prepare simpler, trattoria fare. But at the moment his greatest wish of all is that his sister Rosaria does not see this post.