Chef Davide Manzo cooks in a wood-burning oven that he built himself at Trattoria Rustica, a restaurant he renovated with his own hands and by his own design in Pittsfield, MA . (www.trattoria-rustica.com)
INTERVIEW: "My name is Davide Manzo, and (my restaurant is) Trattoria Rustica. The reason I did Rustica is because of ‘rustic’. Hundreds of years old beams, and hundreds of years old bricks, and stone walls – they’re rustic. And the way I cook – I want to cook with fire. And, ‘rustica’ means rustic, it means something that comes from way back."
“I make my own mozzarella because I believe it’s important. Like I make my own bread here. If I stopped doing that bread, I think people will notice. People today, I feel so bad, they don’t eat bread they don’t eat pasta. And, I’m just saying: ‘What are you trying to deprive yourself from? So, don’t eat so much of it! Eat a little less. But, enjoy the flavors.’ I come here every day, and I have to be here at such a time just to make the bread. If I don’t I’ve got a problem because the oven (a brick wood burning oven) I’ve got to fire up to make it hot, and the most important thing is that brick oven. The flavor of the bread comes from that because of the wood … the wood. That was my dream … it is my dream. To prove it to people that the flavors are there in the fire in the brick oven. There is something there because it doesn’t matter who you talk to, they cannot duplicate that flavor on a stovetop.”
“Every year, it seems like the farmers are growing more because there’s more demand for organics. I grew up with that. I remember being on the farm, where my mother and father had a little farm. That’s how they lived, cultivating the land. As a matter of fact, my mother, she had a little piece of land and she made things grow like magic. And, that’s how I learned, from the quality. My grandmother passed it on to my mother. Quality … we have to grow quality not quantity.“
“My family, the region where I come from, and in the ancient civilization of Pompeii, they were all ‘artigiani’. ‘Artigiani’ are people who are gifted. The gift or the genetics or the family descendants do all this art. It can be from anything, from painting, from being a mason, from being a chef, a seamstress, from being a carpenter, or from being anything. You make a living from working with your hands. You know, I do art, but I’m working. And, I don’t have any illusion about being famous. Because, I’m an ‘artigiano’, I make a living from my art that I sell, that I make. Sometimes art isn’t going to make you famous, you’ve just got to live with what you want to be, and realize what you can be. Love comes from a passion. This passion was in me from my genetics or my soul or my dream that I have to finish. And, it’s something that I can’t describe, but I know exactly what I’m doing. The inner life was telling me, ‘I am what I am and I’ll be who I am’.”
"On the front of the door, you’ll see ‘Antichi Sapori’ – ancient flavors – that I brought from the memories of the flavors that I had from the past and the history of my mother telling me about my grandmother."