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From Bari with Love, an Interview with Chef Mauro Campanale

Appetito interviews the young Italian chef, Mauro Campanale, to explore the ways he melds his background with a modern NYC aesthetic.

Chef Mauro Campanale.

Chef Maura Campanale at work.

Chef Mauro Campanale was born in Bari, Italy, in the region of Puglia. As a young boy, he started working at his family's agriturismo, where he discovered his passion for cooking. At age 19, he left Italy to explore the world and worked in various cities, including São Paulo, Milan, and London. He arrived in New York City in 2018 and has worked in the kitchen at esteemed eateries Casa Lever and Antica Pesa Brooklyn. As Chef Mauro plans his next venture, Appetito caught up with him to discuss his background, inspirations, and intentions as one of New York's most impressive young chefs.

How do your roots in Bari manifest in your cooking today?

My upbringing in Bari is the cornerstone of my culinary identity. Growing up, I was surrounded by rich Puglian traditions and flavors, which have significantly shaped my approach to cooking. For example, my dish "Octopus and Roots" is a direct reflection of my childhood memories, where the land meets the sea in Bari. It embodies the rustic yet sophisticated nature of Puglian cuisine.

Chef Mauro Campanale's "Octopus and Roots."
Chef Mauro Campanale's "Octopus and Roots."

You've mentioned drawing inspiration from art, particularly from figures like Andy Warhol. How does visual art influence your culinary creations?

The vibrancy and boldness of Warhol's work inspires me to push boundaries in my kitchen. Just as Warhol transformed ordinary objects into art, I strive to transform simple ingredients into extraordinary culinary experiences. The visual aspect of my dishes is just as important as the taste – I want each plate to be a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Your retreats to the Hudson Valley seem integral to your creative process. How do these moments of solitude in nature fuel your culinary vision?

These retreats are essential for me to reconnect with my inner creativity. The serenity and beauty of the Hudson Valley offers a stark contrast to the bustling energy of New York City. This change of pace and environment allows me to clear my mind and approach menu development with a fresh perspective, often leading to unexpected and innovative culinary ideas.

Chef Mauro Campanale (center, right) with Italian Consulate General, Fabrizio Di Michele (center, left) as part of National Italian Chef Team.
Chef Mauro Campanale (center, right) with Italian Consulate General, Fabrizio Di Michele (center, left) as part of National Italian Chef Team.

With your extensive experience in places like Antica Pesa and Casa Lever, how do you incorporate modern trends while staying true to your Italian roots?

My goal is to strike a balance between tradition and innovation. While I deeply respect and draw from traditional Italian cooking, I'm also excited by the possibilities that modern culinary techniques and trends offer. For instance, while working at Casa Lever, I embraced the challenge of presenting classic Italian dishes with a contemporary twist, always mindful of maintaining the soul and flavor profiles that define Italian cuisine.

Chef Mauro Campanale's "Melanzana Arrosto."
Chef Mauro Campanale's "Melanzana Arrosto."

How do you hope your culinary journey and dishes impact those who dine with you?

I hope to take my diners on a journey that transcends the ordinary dining experience. My dishes are not just about taste; they are about storytelling, emotion, and connection to my Italian heritage. Whether it's a simple pasta dish or an elaborate entrée, I want each creation to reflect my life's story – from the streets of Bari to the artistic vibes of New York – and leave a lasting impression on those who experience it.

Related: Mauro Campanale's Food Memories

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