DUBAI: Antonio De Crecchio began his career back in 2006, working as a pizza chef in Naples, Italy. He was, he says, just 14 years old. 

“I’ve always loved food and cooking, but that’s when I truly fell in love with cooking,” he tells Arab News. “My first boss was tough on me, but it taught me a lot about handling the job and pushing myself to get better.” 


Antonio De Crecchio began his career back in 2006. (Supplied)

He continued to work as a pizza chef at various Rossopomodoro outlets across the UK, including London, Birmingham, and Newcastle, before returning to Italy to lead the team at Rossopomodoro in Torino and Milano. In 2019, he moved to the UAE, taking a job as pizza chef at Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Dubai. He is currently executive chef of Amò at Via Toledo in Dubai’s Address Beach Resort.  

“Working here has been emotional for me,” he says. “After spending many years in a casual dining restaurant, opening a fine dining restaurant feels like reaching a higher level,” he said. 

Here, De Crecchio — affectionately known as Chef Toto — discusses tips for amateur chefs, his love for Italian cuisine, and his most challenging dish. 


Amò is at Via Toledo in Dubai’s Address Beach Resort. (Supplied)

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs cooking at home? 

Invest in a Bimby. It’s a great tool for making pizza dough, ensuring that the result matches what you’d get at a restaurant. Plus it saves a lot of time, allowing you to focus on other tasks. Making dough correctly requires a lot of experience, so having the right equipment can make a big difference. 

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

Yes. Often. 

And what’s the most common issue that you find in other restaurants? 

One thing I notice, especially with Italian food, is that the pasta is not always cooked al dente, as it should be. This can be challenging for me because I have a strong preference for the traditional Italian food that my grandma used to make. 


Tiramisu. (Supplied)

 

What’s your favorite cuisine when you go out? 

My favorite cuisine is Italian, especially pasta. It reminds me of my home country and brings back fond memories. 

What customer request or behavior most annoys you? 

The requests that annoy me the most are when they ask for pasta with chicken and pizza with pineapple. 

What’s your favorite dish to cook?  

My favorite dish to cook is pasta, because it reminds me of Sundays back home when my mom used to prepare it for our family lunches. 


Pizza Chiena, a savory pie. (Supplied)

 

What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right? 

The most challenging dish for me to perfect is our egg dish. It requires cooking at a low temperature to maintain a soft interior, and achieving the right texture for the foam that accompanies it is crucial. If you don’t achieve the exact balance, then the dish loses its identity. 

As a head chef, what are you like? Are you a disciplinarian? Or are you more laid back?  

As a head chef, I prioritize discipline, but I avoid shouting at my staff. In the kitchen, maintaining both discipline and empathy with my team is essential for success. 

Chef Antonio’s gnocchi with duck ragu  


Gnocchi with Duck Ragu Recipe. (Supplied)

INGREDIENTS 

1kg potatoes; 100g parmesan cheese; 15g salt; 1 egg; 375g all-purpose flour; 1kg duck legs; 250g carrots, chopped; 250g white onion, chopped; 250g celery, chopped 

INSTRUCTIONS 

For the duck ragu: 

1. Heat a pot on the stove until it reaches smoking point. Add blended oil. 

2. Season the skin side of the duck legs with salt. Sear them until the outer surface of the meat is scorched, then transfer to a deep tray, cover them with their fat and place in the oven at 150°C for two hours. 

3. In the same pot used for searing, add the celery, white onion and carrots to the duck fat and deglaze with approximately 4 liters of chicken stock. 

4. Bring the stock to a boil, then slowly add each leg to the boiling stock. 

5. Transfer the stock and duck legs into a large oven dish and heat in the oven at 160°C for two hours. 

6. Remove the dish from the oven, take the duck legs out of the liquid and gently pull the meat from the duck legs, setting it aside. 

7. Transfer the remaining liquid to a pot and reduce for one hour. 

8. Allow the reduction to cool down, then mix it with the duck meat to prepare the duck ragu. 

For the gnocchi 

1. Steam the potatoes until tender, then mash. 

2. Add grated parmesan cheese, salt, egg, and flour, and combine to form a dough. 

3. Roll the dough into ropes and cut it into small pieces to form gnocchi. 

4. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then cook the gnocchi until they float to the surface. Remove and set aside. 

5. Toast the cooked gnocchi with butter and additional parmesan cheese in a pan until lightly browned. 

6. Plate the gnocchi and top with the prepared duck ragu. 

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