We met with Vito Mollica – Gold Chef testimonial – in the kitchen of his restaurant Il Palagio at the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence, where he is Director of Food and Beverage and Executive Chef. We talked about edible gold, his favourite cuisine and Florence.
How and when did you discover edible gold?
With Gualtiero Marchesi and his saffron risotto with gold leaf.
Where do you prefer to use it and why?
We use it mainly to decorate sweets, but also to make a dish(*) more interesting: edible gold creates beauty.
Any advice for those who want to try using edible gold?
Always use it as the finishing touch that enhances a good dish(*). Never use it to cover for not knowing a certain technique.
How would you describe the general atmosphere in your kitchen?
Disciplined listening. There are common rules that everyone knows and respects (I am the first to do so!). The team listens to me and I listen to them. And together we are all working towards the same goal: to do our best work.
You were born in Southern Italy and have worked in Milan and Prague. You arrived in Florence in 2007. Do you have a favourite spot in the city?
I’ve got two! The first is the Lungarno. Early in the morning I go running along the river. I leave the city behind me and head south. Is that because you are homesick? (laughs, ndr). The second is Piazzale Michelangelo. I love it, especially early in the morning when you have the extraordinary privilege of being one of the few people seeing Florence from there.
I have a real passion for works of art but especially the David. Michelangelo created such a marvel that when I see it, even in pictures, I am enchanted.
You were born in Basilicata. How much from 1 to 10 have your origins affected your cuisine?
11! Some time ago I took my team to Basilicata for an event. I had already taken them with me to Sao Paulo in Brazil, to Washington, and to New York, but after the trip to Basilicata they thanked me so much. Basilicata is a land of naturally generous and welcoming people. I can explain it with a little story. I was with my wife in a remote village and we had to get change for a 50 Euro note. So we went to a café, ordered a coffee and, since it seemed too little, I added six bottles of water. The lady at my checkout asked me what I was going to do with 6 bottles, each of which cost 1.5 Euros. I confessed to her that I was buying them to avoid the embarrassment of asking for change after only purchasing one coffee. Mi ha venduto una sola bottiglia, congedandomi con il sorriso più genuino che abbia mai visto.
One of the typical dishes of your land is the Pignata. Have you ever prepared it for your clients?
No, unfortunately! It takes too long to cook, up to 9 hours. It was a dish prepared by farm workers. They filled the pignata (an earthenware container, ndr) with everything they had available and put it near the fireplace early in the morning. When they came back from the fields at night their food would be ready. Great ingenuity and unique goodness!
Your favourite dish?
Pasta! With seasonal products or with traditional tomato and basil. It’s always my go-to.