10 minutes with: Bruno DiFabio

The  Staff Canteen
Bruno DiFabio is a six times world pizza champion. Coming from a food-inspired Italian American background, Bruno has over ten restaurants in the United States but has now brought the taste of New York pizza to London. The Italian American has won pizza titles in Naples, Brussels, Paris and Las Vegas in competitions that are a tense race against the clock to make the best pizza. Bruno told us what it is like to compete: “These are serious high-pressure competitions; you have the whole year to prepare for it and about ten minutes to make your product, serve it to judges and hopefully win them over.”AH HYF 18 (low-res) Bruno got into the spirit of Italian food from an early age working in his grandfather’s restaurant from around 10-years-old. Bruno says: “I was kind of born into the business, my grandfather immigrated to the United States in the 1950s and he had a restaurant on the west side of Manhattan so I started working there from a very early age.” Through his grandfather’s restaurant Bruno’s passion for cooking grew. While also the first in his family to graduate from college, Bruno knew he loved the kitchen since he was young. He said: “I knew from a very early age that I wanted to do this, just the comradery with the guys and the fact that they actually let me prepare meals for the customers.” Bruno has been surrounded by Italian food all his life but is quick to distinguish between Italian food from Italy and Italian food from New York. He says: “I am Italian American but Italian New York is really what I am. New York Italians have their own cuisine.” He continued to talk through the differences: “You go to an Italian Restaurant in New York and it’s quite different from what you would find in Italy but it’s a staple of the New York food scene and I feel like pizza’s birthplace really is New York. AH NYF 12 (mid-res)“I know it started in Naples, Italy but where it really took off, grew, and multiplied in droves was out of New York.” In Bruno’s new London based restaurant he wants to bring this authentic New York style to the UK: “What we are bringing here on Charring Cross Rd. is, whether you like it or you don’t like it, authentic New York Pizza and New York Italian cuisine.” Currently having a total of 11 restaurants in the United States, Bruno has opened his first one abroad - NY fold, a name inspired by the ‘no forks or knives’ approach to New York pizza eating. Bruno’s restaurants are all pizza ‘forward’ but other New York Italian dishes are on offer. “Its definitely a New York Italian menu, so we offer pasta dishes like penne vodka or spaghetti and meatballs and we offer a pesto cream sauce with chicken but all of the sauces are scratch made. We offer three deserts that are made from scratch too as well as the dressings for the salads.” Ingredients are really important to Bruno, he aims to find all the best materials: “We are really into raw materials, local and organic when possible, not BHTs and so fourth.photo 4 “Sustainability when possible but we are also interested in finding the best possible raw materials and if that’s a cheese from Italy or an olive oil from the North Eastern side of Italy then so be it, but local and organic when possible.” Wanting all of his restaurants to be independent, Bruno talks about going out of the way to find the best ingredients, he said: “We are not a ‘cookie cutter’ place we allow our chefs to gain inspiration from raw materials. At farmers markets here in London we are wild food foragers and we are also into edible plants that grow wildly in the countryside.” There are specific reasons as to why Bruno chose London for his first restaurant outside of the United States, partly to team up with business partners Annabel and Michael Wheeler, but also to offer something different to the UK market. He said: “I felt that London was underserved in the pizza category and I feel that the Italian Neapolitan style here in London is quite overdone. “I think there is definitely a niche and a void that needs to be filled when it comes to slices. Everything New York, everyone loves New York; I think the authenticity speaks for itself.” London seems to have been Bruno’s plan for a while, his goal, to offer something a little different to the chain restaurants that often dominate the high street. He said: “From the start about two years ago we targeted London and I’ll be honest, but what I found to be kind of sad about London’s food scene is that there are so many chain restaurants here. AH NYF 1 (mid-res)“You will go down the street in every single neighbourhood and you will just see the same named restaurants.” Bruno doesn’t hate branded places but wants his restaurants to remain independent: “I just thought it was kind of sad that there weren’t more independent restaurateurs and that’s exactly what we are. “Finally a landlord took a chance on us and allowed us to take this great space here on Charring Cross road and we’re not going to let them down.” It is difficult to argue with Bruno’s dedication to finding the right materials and it seems that he is inspired by the approach of his suppliers: “I have developed a lot of inspiration by visiting people that produce my raw materials. They have taught me reverence and respect for my items, for all of the things that are important to me as a pizza maker and I have taken it to other steps. We don’t use commercial yeast in any of our baking, I think that’s something that is pretty hip and should be written about.” The yeast used in Bruno’s pizzas is regenerated daily but comes from Italy. Bruno spoke about the process: “I forge my yeast in the Dolomite Mountains with a linen cloth, soaking up the dew of a plant.”Bruno_Image2 The signature style on offer at Bruno’s restaurant’s is all about the dough and having an easy to digest crust. He spoke of the method: “We offer more of a medium body crust and it’s a flavourful crust, because of our fermentation method it’s a crust that is very digestible because we allow the yeast to break down.” Bruno said he had to ‘beat people away with a stick’ due to the long queues forming outside his restaurants. The chef wants his restaurants to remain independent but will look to expand if the new opening in Charring Cross proves successful. By Wilfred Collins NY Fold is now open and is located 103 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0DT
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th August 2015

10 minutes with: Bruno DiFabio