Luca and Antonio Abbruzzino


Luca and Antonio Abbruzzino

It isn’t always easy working with family but Michelin-starred father and son team Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino are united by their passion for Calabrian produce.

Antonio Abbruzzino grew up in the small mountain community of Presila Catanzarese, his interest in cooking sparked by a mother who had run several Italian restaurants and food shops in Germany. After attending culinary school, he set out to travel the world. ‘I went to Japan, Russia, Turkey, Germany,’ he says. ‘But I wasn’t lucky enough to work with the great chefs of the world so I had to borrow ideas from here and there.’

In Sicily Antonio learned to use tomatoes, aubergines and capers at their absolute peak, Japan’s lesson was fish preparation and Turkey taught him how to balance spices. Eventually he decided it was time to settle down and, together with his wife Rosetta, opened a restaurant in Cantanzaro.

Antonio’s eponymous restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2013 yet despite this and his many years of experience, the chef considers himself humble. ‘I am a worker, one of those people who arrives in the kitchen first thing in the morning and leaves after everyone else in the evening. You won’t stop me washing a pot!’ He saves his pride for his son Luca, now twenty-seven: ‘He brought new ideas to the kitchen. I have to credit him with the star.’

As the son of restaurateur parents, perhaps it was inevitable that Luca would become a chef. Growing up he developed a deep love for the flavours of Calabria and worked in his parents’ restaurant, both in the kitchen and front of house. After leaving school Luca travelled in search of new inspiration, training in some of Italy's top kitchens and working with chefs such as Gennaro Esposito, Mauro Uliassi, Enrico Crippa and Pier Giorgio Parini before eventually returning home to take up a place in the kitchen alongside his father. In 2016 he was named young chef of the year by L’Espresso.

They have undeniably different styles. ‘Luca is more creative, by a long way,’ says Antonio. So who is in charge? ‘It's a battle,’ he laughs. ‘Every day is a fight, but in the end is always a fair compromise, an exchange of experiences. The kitchen is neither mine nor his. It is ours.’ They have their differences but are united by their passion for Calabria’s produce, and everything they cook is rooted in the local area.

‘Freshness and local products are the key,’ says Luca. ‘If we can’t get our usual products then we cook something else. All the raw materials have to be excellent. The meat we buy, for example, comes from a butcher who also runs a tiny laboratory at the back of his shop. He’s a genius and sells some of the best 'nduja in the region.’ It’s an approach that has made a table at the family’s restaurant one of the most sought after in Calabria.