It’s clear from Ilario’s dishes that he prizes ingredients above all else, with many of his recipes appearing simple and straightforward. His Pasta, potatoes and mussels, for example, contains just that – with the finest quality tomatoes, lemon zest, thyme and garlic the only additional aromatics. It’s the way Ilario cooks these ingredients, however, and the thought processes behind each dish, that make them award-winning. ‘I am never precise when I cook,’ he says. ‘There’s no specific product list because I use everything – be that local produce, something from abroad or ever food from the supermarket. It’s true that when you grow up in a particular place you can cook the local food, but when you have a lot of experience from all over the world, you can take influences from Asia, Mexico – anywhere. The key is to marry it all together.’
Ilario’s food is certainly unique and quite hard to define, but it is certainly Mediterranean in nature (he always uses olive oil instead of butter or cream) and makes the most of modern, innovative cooking techniques. He is particularly passionate about his three ‘Ps’ – pane, pasta e pasticceria (bread, pasta and pastries) – which are all made from scratch in-house.
Food might be his first passion, but Ilario also has a soft spot for grappa, Italy’s grape-based brandy. He has the largest grappa ‘library’ in Italy, and is a particular fan of Grappa Romano Levi. ‘I started collecting bottles of grappa for fun, but it soon became a passion,’ he says. ‘Every bottle has a story behind it. For instance, Romani Levi is an extraordinary product, made in the traditional way. The grape musts were originally dried by hand using an open fire.’