While visiting the laid back outer-London area of Richmond, I didn’t pre-plan any specific eats. Instead I walked around and decided on the day which can be a nice way to explore a new place rather than having every part of a trip scheduled.
As I walked up to the restaurant to read the menu outside, I spotted a familiar face in the window. It was none other than delightful Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo, talking on his mobile phone.
Gennaro taught Jamie Oliver how to cook Italian cuisine and as I follow Gennaro on Instagram I knew that he regularly cooks at Jamie’s restaurants and features pictures of the special dishes. It didn’t take long for the penny to drop – this was Gennaro’s day at the Richmond restaurant.
I went inside and was seated in the courtyard, still a little giddy from my unexpected star spotting. I love watching Two Greedy Italians – a deliciously funny show following Gennaro and his cookery pal Antonio Carluccio as they sample regional ingredients and cook local dishes during their travels throughout Italy.
When the waiter came to take my order I still hadn’t looked at the menu so I confessed that I was having a fan girl moment. He then casually asked if I wanted a photo with Gennaro, saying he loves to chat with diners and that he would ask him to drop by before he left. I couldn’t believe my luck!
Very unexpectedly a few minutes later Gennaro walked over to my table and with flushed cheeks I immediately stood up, opened my arms and asked for a hug. He was ever so kind, asking the waiter to bring me another glass of prosecco as he sat with me in the courtyard, asking about my trip and where I had been so of course we had to talk about my recent stay in Sicily!
Gennaro then took me to the kitchen where we chatted a bit more and he introduced me to the restaurant manager (also from Sydney) and had him take our photo. He also talked about working with Jamie the day before and showed me some of the goofy photos of them in his phone.
I was so chuffed to meet Gennaro – he is genuinely one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. He was kind and generous with his time AND helped me decide what to order for lunch as he’d spent the morning cooking with the team in the kitchen.
For starters I enjoyed the caponata – a small serving in a bowl with crusty bread. This reminded me of the version I made in the Sicilian cooking class I went to in Taormina.
The summer risotto – one of the specials of the day – was the perfect choice for a long holiday lunch. Diced crunchy seasonal veg in a stock of broccoli and cabbage with peas and broad beans, zucchini, carrot, asparagus and onion topped with pesto, purple and green basil cress and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Friends, I would love to hear about your fan moments. When have you unexpectedly met someone your admired?
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