Pietro Zito does not like being called a chef. Behind his gentle shyness in welcoming his guests, he is a person who has a vast knowledge of culinary culture, learned in part from his parents and grandparents, and in part by first hand experience.
The history of Antichi Sapori begins with Pietro’s irresistible calling to become a chef ever since his childhood days in this rural village in Apulia and which brought him to become owner of this very popular cult-restaurant: stress from city life slowly fades leading the way to an infinite array of aromatic and flavorful emotions and memories that stay with you even after leaving the restaurant and accompany you on your way home.
How did your restaurant begin? When and why?
It began in 1992 when the cuisine in Apulia was concentrated on sophisticated dishes; it began therefore as a culinary challenge and a return to my roots. Traditional cuisine with a touch of folly. I decided to open my own restaurant because up until that time I couldn’t see myself reflected in what I prepared.
Given your origins in Apulia and your experiences in the territory, what is your outlook on Apulia’s future?
In my opinion, it isn’t right to talk about “Apulia” we should really talk about many Apulias because there are so many traditions in the different towns, each one with its own distinctive features and history. I feel very close to my hometown, I am from north of Bari and I identify myself with my origins also from a gastronomic point of view.
How would you describe your culinary style?
Simple, immediately recognizable and traditional. A culinary style that awakens our early memories of traditional, genuine homemade recipes. Basic ingredients are always fresh seasonal vegetables.
Do you have a particular obsession in the kitchen?
No particular ritual, but it is essential for me to have a good extra virgin olive oil in the kitchen, it is the basis for all my recipes. Once I actually refused to cook because I didn’t have a good extra virgin olive oil.
What is your favorite recipe?
Anything that has vegetables as the main ingredient, I could recommend Pancotto with mixed vegetables, strictly in-season vegetables, or orecchiette with fava bean purée, olives and aged ricotta.
What are your future plans?
There are many projects to be developed, some of which are very important and some are already underway such as my participation in Expo 2015’s Round Table where I have been invited, together with other experts, to prepare the “Carta Milano”. I have recently been to Tokyo supervising the opening of a new restaurant that will bring to Japan many aspects of my culinary style.
Could you recommend to me a place in Apulia that you are particularly fond of?
Castel del Monte is without a doubt the place that I am particularly fond of and I would recommend visiting it both for its beauty and for its historical significance.