Giuliano Bugialli, the Italian cookbook author and teacher, is a stickler for what’s appropriate, traditional, and natural. He’s not the sort of man who would think it fun to make Christmas cookies in June or eat imported brussels sprouts in springtime. You might as well sing “Happy Birthday” on Thanksgiving. His first concern, when faced with the question of what he’d want for his last meal, was that it would entirely depend on the season. We told him he could decide for himself, or even imagine the impossible: tomatoes in season at the same moment as artichokes, asparagus together with squash. This idea did not appeal to him in the least, of course, and he seemed taken aback at the suggestion of such liberty. Then he came up with a way to beat us at our own game.
So, you’ve officially decided. What would you have for your last meal on earth?
Yes. My last dinner: fusion food, nouvelle cuisine food, or bastardized Italian food, which are all so bad that the meal would make me happy to say goodbye.
Oh, perfect. That is hilarious.
Well, I always hated those things, so it’s normal for me. Instead of having something good to eat, and then being sorry you have to die, I would rather welcome the end of the suffering by choosing something I don’t like.
What is it that you dislike about the fusion and nouvelle cuisines?
It’s not a cuisine. It’s a gimmick. I have always felt this way. For me, it has to be real food. I have not changed in this way.
And about Italian food. Do you eat at any Italian restaurants in New York?
It’s very difficult to find a real, authentic dinner here. There are dishes, certainly, and some are very good. But to have an entire meal that is really Italian is not easy.
So you cook when you want Italian food.
Yes, mostly. Even in Italy, I’d say, when you want to go out, you want something that is special, or difficult to make, or has ingredients that are different than what you can buy yourself. That’s different. But why go out for something you can prepare homemade in two seconds, like pasta with tomatoes? In the big tourist cities in Italy, you have to watch where you’re going too. I just don’t care to go out for plain food.
What kinds of restaurants do you go to here, then?
Mostly Asian restaurants. I like all different ethnic foods, and New York is a great place for that.
It sure is.
Giuliano Bugialli shares a recipe for a pasta dish that “you can prepare homemade in two seconds,” from his cookbook Bugialli on Pasta (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2000), on Eat for Victory, the Village Voice’s food blog. (villagevoice.com/blogs/food)