Irvine's a little hard to call home when your old stamping grounds are the rural hills of Italy's Piedmont region. So when chef Ugo Allesina visits his Alpine hometown, pieces of his childhood often come back with him.
"We currently have a very European home kitchen," he says. "I grew up on a farm in a small Italian village of Sovazza, so I try to bring back things that remind me of that."
In his 20 years living in the States, he and wife Michelle have amassed a collection of gadgets handed down from his family, including some dating back to the 18th century. They give him comfort, as do soundtracks from old Spaghetti Westerns.
"That's what I grew up on in the '70s. They were always my favorite movies. The music puts me in a happy mood when I'm cooking."
Clipped and Cupped
Eleven-year-old son Gianluca loves soft-boiled eggs in the morning. "We have special scissors that cut the top of the egg perfectly," says
Allesina, "so I can serve them in these Alessi egg cups that my son really likes."
Allesina also has a mezzaluna, or half-moon knife, he uses faithfully. "Chopping parsley is easy with this."
Spaetzle, tiny German dumplings that resemble gnocchi, is another favorite dish. "My wife inherited an 18th century spaetzle maker from her great-grandmother. We'll have spaetzle for three or four days in a row. The best is eating it the following morning for breakfast, with eggs."
Direct from Italy
"To keep things authentic, I have little Italian signs, simple bottles, cookie jars, and things from Italy. These are all over my kitchen."
Mom's the Top Chef
"Rabbit stew is one of my favorite dishes. I try to replicate my mom's recipe, and I never, ever get close."
18420 Von Karman Ave.
Photographs by Ethan Pines
This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue.