Remember Sirio Maccioni. The Tuscan at the summit of international cuisine
We republish a special interview with the man who revolutionized the Italian cuisine of the world
He’s one of the most well-known Tuscan names abroad. A native of Montecatini, Maccioni opened Le Cirque in New York in 1969. It wasn’t long before it became one of most famed cult restaurants in the metropolis. Today, it boasts numerous counterparts all over the world (its most recent restaurant is in New Delhi, India). Ultra-famous for being the only restaurant in the world to have set the table for five American presidents, Sirio Maccioni is forever bound to Tuscan cuisine and products.
What’s the secret behind it?
Hoping that you won’t be lucky (he laughs). Germany, France, Italy…I’ve travelled all over the world. Whenever people told me that somewhere was a good place but that it was tough to find work, I would go there. I can say that I’ve gained a good level of awareness about my profession. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to understand what it represents, its diverse interpretations and the expectations of a certain level of the public. We now have six restaurants throughout the world… seven actually…because by the end of the year, we’ll be opening another in New York inside the Hotel Pierre. As always, it will be 100% Italian.
How much have your Tuscan origins influenced your choices?
I’m Tuscan, Italian and European. I know no other influences. In Tuscany, there are excellent restaurants and simplicity is our cuisine’s strong point. Complicated cooking—French-style food let’s say—no longer works. There isn’t public demand for it. Throughout the course of your career, you’ve had the pleasure of meeting many renowned people…
Frank Sinatra helped me come to America. I had the pleasure of hosting all the presidents and Nixon was the best. But the most important thing is to pay attention to everyone and give the right amount of consideration to each person sitting around an important figure. And not to talk too much. I’m very Italian, but you just need to stop talking. There’s no truly great service expect the attention you give a client. There are a lot of Italian restaurants in New York that don’t even know where Italy is.
What do you miss about Tuscany when you’re far away?
What places do you like best?
I only consider a vacation worthy of the name when I spend it at home in Montecatini.
What if I asked you about the ingredients that can never be lacking in your cuisine?
Just one thing: simplicity. A rich menu used to be a winning secret. Whereas today, the secret is good quality. You have to do less, but do it better. And you have to be around: at least one of my three children is always at the restaurant. And the chef is in the kitchen, that’s what makes the difference.
And what about you?
I work six days a week and what really scares me is getting old. I go to the restaurant every day and try to understand and satisfy my clients’ desires.
You once told us that your passion was mixed boiled meats. Is that still true?
I’m not the only one, it’s also a passion for French chef Paul Bocuse! I like what Italian women prepare at their homes. A women who knows how to cook and who goes to the market knowing what to buy is better than the rest.