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What made Antonio Carluccio so great, by fellow chef Mark Hix

The Independent logo The Independent 09/11/2017 Mark Hix

Antonio Carluccio smiling for the camera © Provided by Independent Print Limited Antonio Carluccio embodied simplicity, authenticity and good Italian home cooking.

This is summed up in one of his many memorable dishes, “polenta on the table” – a traditional meal which is just a meat ragu poured over steaming, soft polenta served straight on to a wooden, farmhouse table, without even the complication of plates.

I mentioned this previously in an article for The Independent as one of my favourite recipes. It comes from Antonio’s book Italia, which covers the regions of Italy.

Essentially, his food is very family-oriented and you associate him with Italian home cooking – and of course, with mushrooms. He made people more relaxed about picking and eating them. Antonio has always been known as the forager and mushroom man.

a man sitting at a table with a plate of food: 53726.bin © Provided by Independent Print Limited 53726.bin In our line of business we naturally ran into each other from time to time and we enjoyed more than the odd glass of whisky together. A lot of people who didn’t really know him may say he came across as being a bit grumpy – but that was just a persona. Once you got to know him, he was a ball of fun. And his food represents his character – unpretentious, authentic and uplifting. He did a lot for Italian food in this country and his easy style of cooking influenced a lot of people, including Jamie Oliver.

Antonio’s former wife Priscilla – creative director of the Conran Design Group and the youngest sister of English designer and restaurateur Terence Conran – played a key role in his career. A mixture of design, cooking and restaurateuring was his recipe for success – and she played a significant part in this.

Thankfully, Antonio’s legacy continues through his name and through his brand. Often if I miss my train at Waterloo or I have a bit of spare time, I will pop in to Carluccio’s and have a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine. His food his always enormously satisfying, but his great gift is that it is also accessible – everyone can appreciate it.

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Related: Antonio Carluccio dies aged 80 (Provided by Press Association)

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