If you’re of the industry, if you’re a local here in Malta, and if you’ve been following the happenings of St Julian’s newest (and hottest) Entertainment District; you’ll probably know that Celebrity Chef Gino D’Acampo is bringing his franchise to Malta; and we could not be happier.
As Mercury’s Media Partner; HORECA Magazine is proud, hounoured and humbled to present an Exclusive Interview with the charismatic Gino D’Acampo; a legend who has brought many smiles to our faces through our TV screens, but from April 2024; those smiles will extend to culinary gleams!
Unable and unwilling to tamper with the words below, I beg you to read this as naturally and authentically as Gino himself; if you listen close enough; you’ll hear his captivating Italian accent trickle through:
What inspired you to become a Chef, and how did your culinary journey begin?
As a young boy, I would always watch my late grandfather cook. He was a Head Chef and a great one at that. I knew then that I wanted to follow in his footsteps and enrolled with the Luigi de Medici Catering College in Naples at the age of 14.
From here, I continued to develop my skills in restaurants across Europe including Perignon in Nice and Head Chef at Sylvester Stallone's Mambo King in Marbella, before moving to England aged just 18. Over the next six years I continued to hone my skills in several kitchens before I got my first TV break at 24. It was then that my career really took off.
You've had a successful career in television. What do you enjoy most about being a TV Chef and host?
I’d always dreamed of becoming a Chef. The TV work is, however, an accident. You might say I’m living someone else’s dream. And it is a dream. I’m fortunate not to have to do shows for the money or because I’m told to, I do them because I want to. For example, my latest programme, Gino’s Italy: Secrets of the South - was a pleasure to film. I got to travel to my home country and show off some of Italy’s lesser-known gems. It’s times like this that I think I’m a lucky man.
How do you balance your role as a celebrity Chef, restaurateur, and family life?
I work hard, but I also make time for my family, that’s important to me and not something I will compromise on. I work for six months of the year and holiday for six months of the year. If you don’t take quality time out, what is the point? I have a fantastic team around me who of course help, without them I couldn’t do any of this.
Chef Gino D'Acampo
Can you share some of your favourite Italian recipes and the stories behind them?
There are so many, all of which have a story behind them, whether that be from my travels or time spent with my family. One of my favourite recipes during the colder months is Fettuccine con Salsiccia – a beautiful pasta dish characterised by the inclusion of great quality Tuscan sausages and cooked in a creamy ragù made with mascarpone cheese, folded through al dente ribbons of fettucine. It currently features on our Autumn/Winter menu and is a firm favourite with guests.
As a family we love to gather with a traditional lasagne and a great bottle of wine. The recipe has been handed down in the D’Acampo family for many generations, though I call it Lasagne di Mamma, because my mother taught it to my sister and I when we were about 11 years old. It’s a great tradition that my wife will pass on to our own children.
Italy is known for its diverse regional cuisines. Which Italian region's food do you find the most intriguing or underrated?
Currently, it has to be the region of Puglia. In the last five years, it has blossomed as far as Italian ingredients and dishes. The main reason is because Puglia is very flat, so it’s easy to cultivate. It is near the Adriatic coast, so you get saltiness from the sea which comes through the wind and into the ground. This makes the soil rich in minerals, so the ingredients grown there are unique as far as flavour is concerned. Bear in mind that Puglia is the region where we produce the most olive oil in the whole of Italy and the reason is because it’s completely flat. So, the air circulation between the sea and the ground is just incredible.
In addition to Italian cuisine, what other culinary traditions or ingredients do you enjoy experimenting with in your cooking?
I like to experiment with anything and everything that is in front of me. Apart from Italian, I don’t particularly have a favourite cuisine or ingredient - though I do have a lot of curiosity. I like to use any produce that I have available to me, as long as it is local, fresh and in-season.
Luciano's has been expanding, and there's exciting news about a new location opening in Malta's Mercury in 2024. What can diners expect from this upcoming restaurant, and what made you choose Malta for this venture?
Mercury is a destination unlike any other. I’m super excited to open the doors to my first international restaurant here, at the incredible five-star ME by Meliá hotel.
Located on the fifth floor of the luxury hotel, we will be bringing the finest Italian cuisine to Malta, providing the perfect blend of indoor and alfresco dining with a beautiful rooftop terrace. For guests staying at ME by Meliá and Mercury Suites, we’ll also be providing a first-class gastronomic in-room dining service alongside breakfast, meetings, banqueting and events.
I chose Malta for my first international opening because of the fantastic opportunity at Mercury, but also because of Malta’s rich food history. It has a strong Italian influence and is located just a short distance from Sardinia, which makes it feel like a home-from-home.
I’m looking forward to introducing guests, residents, and visitors at ME Malta and Mercury to the diverse range of incredible produce I have been fortunate to source on my many travels across my native country and to providing them with a real taste of Italy.
Can you share the philosophy and unique features that set Luciano's apart from other restaurants in your chain? What makes the dining experience special for your patrons?
Each one of my restaurants has its own distinct appeal, personality, and unique features fitting with their location. Guests joining us in Liverpool for example can enjoy unrivalled views of the city from our incredible 360 Sky Bar.
Located 18 floors above ground level, it’s the highest alfresco roof terrace in Liverpool, where guests can indulge in authentic Italian cicchetti alongside a wide range of classic and signature cocktails.
Guests joining us in Newcastle, however, can get a little closer to the action, with our beautiful waterfront terrace providing views across the River Tyne. In London, at Luciano by Gino D'Acampo, guests can enjoy an elegant and intimate dining experience in the heart of the West End, just a stone’s throw from London’s theatre district.
What’s consistent across our collection of beautiful restaurants, however, is our commitment to providing guests with the finest Italian cuisine in upscale experiential lifestyle environments. Our guests are at the forefront of all that we do, and we take great pride in ensuring that they have an outstanding experience when dining at any of our restaurants.
We’re ambitious and have a number of exciting plans in the pipeline, in the UK and internationally. It’s important to me that as we continue to expand, we do it right. We have a number of parties interested in opening our restaurants worldwide, and we could. That’s exciting and a fortunate position to be in, but we will only do it when we can do it to the standards which we hold high.
Our focus currently is on our opening at Mercury, Malta, which is a huge project and where I’m looking forward to introducing guests to the finest Italian cuisine. You’ll have to watch this space for more detail on what is to come, but I promise you it’s going to be special.