CESARE CASELLA is an award winning Italian chef and restaurateur. An expert in Tuscan Italian cuisine, Chef Cesare Casella is known as the chef with the rosmarino and is rarely without a small bouquet springing from his jacket pocket. Chef Casella is the Executive Chef and owner of two New York City restaurants, Salumeria Rosi on Amsterdam Avenue and Salumeria Rosi on Madison Avenue. He is the Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Center in New York City and serves as the Chief of the Department of Nourishment Arts at the Center for Discovery in Sullivan County, New York. Most recently, Chef Casella was invited to serve as a Board Member of the Friends of the USA Pavilion and represent the United States at the upcoming EXPO Milano 2015. Chef Casella has written several books including True Tuscan and the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award nominee, The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Italian Cuisine. He also contributed to the English edition of Food Editore’s Gusto, an encyclopedia of Italian food and ingredients published by Abbeville Press in April 2014.
My life is all about food. I was born in a restaurant, and I grew up in a restaurant. But the life of a chef is not only about the restaurant itself. It’s about the ingredients. It’s about the farm. The life around food. I feel very lucky that I have been able to incorporate food into both my work life and my personal life.
The first time I came to New York was on vacation. Always I would come to New York on my vacations to visit my American friends who I had met at Vipore, my restaurant in Tuscany. The nightlife and the culture in the 90s was incredible and when I was offered a job at Coco Pazzo in New York I was very excited about moving. But I wasn’t completely ready to leave Italy behind so instead I decided to be a consultant for Coco Pazzo and I would come to New York for one week each month. Finally in 1992 I had the chance to become the Executive Chef of Coco Pazzo and I decided to move to New York permanently. Now I have been here for more than 20 years.
The first time that my mother and father came to visit me in New York. It was for the opening of Beppe in 2000 and for me it was the best moment. I was so proud to show them that I had built a place in New York where I was maintaining the authenticity of Italy and that I was proud to be an Italian in New York.
I am very excited to see this photo. I wanted to shoot either in Central Park where I walk everyday from Salumeria Rosi on Amsterdam to Salumeria Rosi on Madison, but then I thought maybe Madison Avenue early in the morning would be cool. When I met Alexo and we were thinking about what would be very Chef Casella and very New York, we decided to take a photo in the middle of the street. But not just standing like the tourists do. We brought one of the chairs from the restaurant and I sat in the absolute middle of the street. We had to be quick because the traffic was coming but really I think the location was perfect. I love New York, the people, the traffic, the pace of this city and I think that being in the street really represented those elements. For my outfit I wore one of my favorite shirts that my daughter gave to me recently. It is bright green and it makes me happy. Recently I have stopped wearing a chef jacket in the kitchen. Instead I wear a regular shirt and apron. And always I have my rosmarino in my pocket.
I love this project and for me it was very exciting and special to see the exhibition at Casa Italiana. Really I wish I could have seen the exhibition in all of the cities and see how people react outside of New York.
I like to think that I am very true to my Italian, and really my Toscano background. Always I want to share this mentality and culture with the guests in my restaurants and really everyone that I meet. I like to teach them how to do things the Italian way by being simple, authentic, and honest with their food, their products, and the way that they approach life.