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Dining Out

Salvatore Coco: Chef Cuisine Concerto Restaurant
A pleasant Italian Chef talks to Annet Kulyagina
Photos by Alexey Gorov

How did you start to learn Russian?

At firts I thought I would never speak Russian or take the metro. But time passed, and the language and people became interesting to me. I take two lessons of Russian a week and now when I walk alone I enjoy reading the signs and even taking thr metro. I feel comfortable here.

Can you say that Moscow is your city?

I wouldnt say so. I can call a city mine only if I know everything about it. I do not know Moscow that much because, it is big; but the area I know is mine.

Have you made friends here?

I have a lot of friends. Most of them are businessmen and know what they want. They worked or lived in Italy and know Italian traditions and like Italian cuisine. You know it is kind of strange for me to have a Russian friend. You have a tradition to be with your family every free minute and you do not often go out. We on the contrary like taking our wives and children and go somewhere to have dinner together. '

I know what you may think; now when I am with my family I do not have a free minute: we go shopping, I am cooking and I feel that I am a father.

Is your family here with you?

No. But I have my family in the kitchen. The colleagues call me papa because I am trying to take care of everything in the kitchen. It is my work. I feel happy cooking.

Do you cook at home?

No; not when I am alone. I go out for lunch and of course it is not an Italian restaurant. I like Russian cuisine, sushi, Eastern cuisine. I know some restaurants where the price and quality are ok. I do not like expensive places.

Sometimes even if I work on some big feast I do not eat at all.

Why?

I am so stuffed with the smell, and feel tired controlling everything, that it is hardly possible.

Do you feel the difference between Russian traditional food and Italian?

Oh, yes! And I would explain it not only with the difference of culture, but also of the different kind of products they use. The climate is different. People like drinking alcohol with the food; Russians drink vodka. But you know even in Italy there is a difference. For example, I am from Sicily where it is hot and we dont drink alcohol much. But people from northern Italy drink a drop of grappa to get warm in the morning. Grappa is almost the same as vodka.

What else?

The difference is also in the way Russian and Italians combine the food.

But we have something alike still. Russian pelmeni and Italian ravioli?

In a way pelmeni are bigger in size and more traditional. We can have different kinds of filling for ravioli except meat and fish. We use cabbage and pumpkin and vegetables. So they are as different as if you compare Mongolian manty and pelmenis.

You know your job very well. Did you always dream to be a chef?

No, I studied medicine for five years; but then I decided to change my life completely.

But why cooking?

You know I was growing up with my nanny. When she was cooking I would always be close to her. I watched her making pasta, cakes, and then I started to cook myself. I cooked for my big family for family holidays and everybody liked it and I even could manage preparing meals for 20 and sometimes 30 people. And when I quit medicine, I knew what to do. I am with people and feel happy.







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