Moscow is the best city to live in
Andrea Impero has been working in the kitchen since he was 14. By age 27, he has managed to show off his culinary talent in Rome, London, and Vladivostok. The young chef’s ambition and ability to work brought him to Moscow, where he is developing a project called Maritozzo, managed by the famous chefs Marco Gubiotti and Ivan Pizzoni. Maritozzo includes a restaurant, cafe, and wine bar. Andrea talked to Capital Ideas about his experience with Moscow and the people who live here.
Andrea, how did you end up in Russia?
I was invited by chef Marco Gubbiotti lo launch a new project in Moscow, which included fine dining restaurant,wine bar and caffetteria. In that period I worked in london under the guide of Antonio Mellino, 2-Michellin-star chef, and I was interested to use this my experience. That’s why I agreed.
Had you been to Russia before this?
When I was 18, I had an internship for a month at Anatoly Komm’s restaurant Varvara. In 2012-2013, I worked at an Italian restaurant in Vladivostok, doing consulting work and creating a new menu.
You came with your wife. Could you tell us your love story?
It began in Rome, six years ago. I was a simple cook back then, and was cooking under the instruction of my teacher, Don Alfonso Iaccarino in Sorento in restaurant Taverna del Capitano where I worked for 4 years. Martina worked at the same place as a waitress. From then on, we went on all of our adventures together, moving to London, Vladivostok, and now Moscow. Martina is our service manager at Maritozzo. By the way, we got married in Rome on May 5th.
So you both spent your honeymoon working?
Yes. It’s more than just work for us, it’s our lifestyle and it gives our lives meaning. And we launched a new menu before the World Cup, we had a lot of guests due to this event. We plan to travel in the fall. We really want to go to Crimea and Sochi.
Weren’t you afraid to come to Moscow? Some foreigners think that Russia is a wild country where bears roam the streets.
This is an opinion that people who belong to the older generation usually have. I don’t know how things used to be, but right now Russia is no less civilized than Europe. Moscow is the best city I’ve ever lived in. Rome and London are good places to travel, but hard to live in. Moscow is very clean, there are places to go for walks, things to see.
And what about the people?
They say that Russians are unfriendly and not talkative, but that’s not the case. My first impression was that people were a little cold. But when you get to know them a little better, it turns out that we have a lot in common. The first thing is that we’re both very emotional, and we like entertainment and holidays.
What about your favorite places in Moscow?
I really like the Patriarch Ponds, and my wife and I go to Gorky Park. We’ve seen the whole center, have been to the Kremlin several time, went to museums, rode the metro. Martina really likes the GUM – it’s beautiful, even though it’s really expensive.
I make sure I go to the market once a month, I like the atmosphere, and I feel at home there. I mostly buy vegetables, fruit, there is good meat sometimes. I really like Uzbek tomatoes, strawberries from Crimea, and red caviar.
How do you like Russian cuisine?
I love herring under fur coat! I really like pelmeni, but only when they’re prepared correctly and are home-made. I tried them at a restaurant once, and it was really good. But then I bought premade pelmeni at the store and it’s just not the same, even if you get the most expensive ones. I like Uzbek plov with lamb and red rice.
Have you been outside of Moscow?
Right after I came, the whole team of Italians went to meet our suppliers and look at their factories. Among other places, we went to Tver Oblast, where the Italian cheese maker Pietro Mazza makes cheese. Of course it’s not the same as real Italian cheese, but it’s very close to perfect.
Have you felt the effects of the sanctions?
Of course. When I came, I couldn’t understand why there was no good butter, cheese, and other products I’m used to. But then we found substitutes, although we spent a lot of time looking.
Where do the products for your restaurant come from?
We have suppliers that ship us fish and seafood from Morocco, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia. We buy our meat in Russia, from Miratorg’s premium segment or Myas&Co, and we get game from the Far North.
We get imperial oysters and scallops from Vladivostok. They have the best scallops I’ve ever had, better than French scallops. But they’re not always on the menu because it’s a seasonal dish and I’m totally against frozen food. I think it’s better to not make a dish at all than to use bad quality products.
Sounds like you’re a perfectionist, is that right?
I always strive to be, even though it’s hard. Sometimes we don’t accept shipments several times a day and return it to the supplier because the quality is not good enough. But it’s worth it. Our guests appreciate this approach.
Have Russian clients already learned to tell good products from bad ones?
Undoubtedly, Russian people already know a lot about quality cuisine, even though being a chef is not considered a prestigious occupation here yet. We had the same attitude in Italy 20-25 years ago, in the early 90s. Now, a chef is a superstar who cooks with passion, who puts their heart and soul into the menu. And I’m seeing these changes in Russia. There are more famous Russian chefs, restaurant culture is developing, and it’s very noticeable.
What do you miss the most in Russia?
I really miss the sun and the sea! I miss my friends and my family. I have a really big family in Italy, like many people do. I want at least two children.
What do you dream about?
I dream about getting at least one Michelin star. I’ve been working in the kitchen for 13 years already, and I think it’s time to show some ambition.