As two anaconda pasta sheets snake along the walls of Perth’s Government House, Antonio Carluccio claps his hands in delight. The pasta-making competition is held in his honour for his first ever visit to Perth and the room is abuzz. The 75 year-old has taken the time out of his gruelling Australian tour to support the charity Mondo Community Warriors (MCW) founded by his close friend and butcher Vince Garreffa, aka the Prince of Flesh. Before entering the function he takes the time to smell the roses, which in this case are Kangaroo Paws and are surprisingly odourless.
His fleeting 36-hour Perth visit is a frenzy of talks, book signings of his autobiography A Recipe for Life and The Collection (300 of his favourite recipes) and endless photos with groupies. He’s eased into the madness with an intimate dinner at Opus Restaurant generously hosted by Michael Tamburri, owner of La Vigna Wines and director of MCW. Michael thoughtfully selected wines with vintage dates adding up to the age of the Godfather of Italian cuisine. Antonio entertains with stories of being chauffeured around in garish limousines with swimming pools and cheeky tales. Like the time he offended a waitress by ordering a “quickie” instead of a quiche. With dozens of marriage proposals on the table there are many ladies, including his current girlfriend 20 years his junior, who could forgive the verbal faux pas from a man fluent in five languages (Italian, German, French, Italian and English). Especially one who is as passionate about love and life as he is about food. Even he says, “I’m blessed to be doing this at my age.”
His engagements climax with a gala dinner for 250 of his adoring fans. The menu, taken from some of his 18 cookbooks (which incidentally were written by hand) includes an antipasto of steamed asparagus, tartare of raw salmon with silver beet and anchovy fritters; followed by a five mushroom tart and then a lamb noisette with fried artichoke with grilled soft polenta floating in an exquisite broth. The strawberry tart and Sicilian cannoli infused with pistachio custard with a mousse of ricotta cheese, sultanas and Marsala almost defeats the guest of honour himself; but not quite as he takes to the stage and works his charm.
With an emphasis on simplicity, his motto is “minimum fuss, maximum flavour.” Although the life candidly portrayed in his autobiography has been anything but easy. However, the common thread is food and even though he was at the helm of the Neal Street Restaurant in London for 25 years, he insists he’s not a chef, “Food is my passion. It’s a way of life and I love to cook and to share.”
There’s no disputing he shared the love with Perth and we tried to return in kind with picture perfect sunshine which would have been welcomed if he hadn’t lost his sunglasses. He’s instantly offered three pairs and shrugs quizzically, “I ask for things and they come?”
Perth is eternally grateful Vince Garreffa asked and Antonio Carluccio came.
Antonio funded his own travel. MCW contributes to 31 charities supporting the disadvantaged, vulnerable, at risk and deserving individuals. Every single cent raised goes back into the charity and Antonio’s visit raised $45,000+. www.mcw.org.au