Photo credit: Aromicreativi
This week, we hear from living legend Pierluigi Roscioli, a career baker who runs the family-owned Antico Forno Roscioli in Rome’s historical center. His pizza bianca rules my life and whether you try it on its own or filled with mortadella or figs and prosciutto, I guarantee it will rule your life, too. The pane di Lariano, a local
sourdough, and pane di Kamut, bread made with heirloom Khorasan wheat, are equally spectacular. Check them out at Forno Roscioli on Via dei Chiavari. Over to you, Pierluigi:
Parla Food: Can you describe your work and how it came about?
Pierluigi Roscioli: I am a baker, and my family and I are four generations that have baked. My work was not born; I was born into my work. This bakery is fairly old; it has been here since 1824.
PF: What inspires you?
PR: Bread is a form of gastronomical expression which I do not think should be altered. With bread making there is no need for a lot of innovation as happens with cuisine in general. My inspiration comes from always willing to respect the traditional production methods and the raw materials. Bread is true expression of raw material as it is always made of very few elements: water, salt, flour. If you can find the best of each of these materials, you can make a good product.
PF: What job would you like to try?
PR: I think I would have liked to be a mechanic because I like to use tools and I have always liked cars and motorbikes. If I hadn’t been born baker I would have been a mechanic.
PF: What job would you not like to try?
PF: Who do you respect most?
PR: Respect in Italy is a strong word and it is taught in a strong way. First of all I respect my family, my father, mother, wife and children. Then I respect people who do what they say they will, who do not play tricks, who are honest, also intellectually honest.
Photo credit: Aromicreativi
PF: When you were young, did you know you would have become a baker?
PR: When you are born in a family like mine there is no option. My grandmother has 11 brothers and they were all bakers. I hope that my son and my daughter will have an option. I did not have one.
PF: What is your favorite food?
PR: Generally, I like meat in all of its forms, both raw and cooked. I like simple food, like barbecue and I also like bread very much, which accounts for my figure that resembles a giant Kinder egg.
PF: Are the recipes all old or are there any new ones?
PR: Some are very old. For example the recipe for the Roman pizza bianca was perfected by one of my grandmother’s brothers in the 1950s. The recipes of some of the other kinds of bread are very old as well. We do try to experiment but we always keep an eye on tradition and try to respect it. For example, at the moment we are trying to make crackers, which do not belong to Italian tradition, but we are making them with typically Italian ingredients, like white spelt flour, whole-wheat flour, organic seeds like pumpkin seeds, ground pistachio or sunflower seeds. This way you can make a product which has international flavour and is at the same time related to the Italian tradition: only extra virgin olive oil and unrefined organic Sicilian salt.
PF: What is your favorite drink?
PR: First place, wine, and then whiskey. I don’t know how to pronounce it, but I like Scotch from the Highlands. We have an excellent selection of Scotch whisky [at the Salumeria].
PF: What characteristics do you mostly appreciate in other people?
PR: Honesty, I like people that do what they say, without lying. For example, in a kitchen with a recipe, I always give my recipes out, as I have always given my recipes to the people I have taught. After all, the recipe is a starting point. The difference is in what each person does with it. Cooking is an art form: it is very primitive but it is still a form of art. Everyone has their own sensitivity. Removing a little bit more or a little bit less fat from meat before cooking it makes a difference. On the recipe you only see “Take a piece of meat and cook it this way”. When making bread, if you leave it to rise 2 hours more or 2 hours less, or if you add something or something else: if you only follow the recipe, your mind standardizes. Many people give out a recipe for something which they make in a different way, or do something different to what they say. I think the most important legacy that can be left in cultural and educational terms is honesty, and transparency.