Interview: Aldo Zilli is starring at Bolsover’s first food and drink festival

Aldo Zilli
Aldo Zilli

“Every village, town and city in the county should have a food festival because it brings families together in a good Italian atmosphere,” said celebrity chef Aldo Zilli.

Bolsover has taken him at his word with the first food and drink festival hitting town this weekend and Aldo as its star guest.

He said: “I feel very honoured. I have never been to that part of the world before.

“I’ll be showing people how to make fresh pasta by hand from scratch - all you need are eggs, flour, a sharp knife and a rolling pin.”

Aldo will work with town suppliers such as Jaquest Fine Foods whose smoked fish will be used in his demonstrations on Saturday. He will also trawl the festival’s stalls to source local ingredients to fuse with his Italian cooking.

A new ale, specially created by Raw Brewery and launched by fellow guest Roger Protz, editor of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, is also in Aldo’s sights. “I like a good beer,”he said.

Regarded as an institution in England where he has been cooking up Italian fare for 40 years, Aldo said: “I had restaurants in the 80s in London when Italian food was quite new in this country; you couldn’t get sundried tomatoes and olive oil had to be bought from the chemist. I was one of the first restaurants to put risotto on the menu, at Signor Zilli in Soho.”

It was at that restaurant where Aldo cooked fennel sausage for his favourite guest, Prince Edward. “He liked it so much that he came back after two or three days,” he said.

Dad-of-three Aldo’s speciality is fish dishes. “I grew up in Italy, working in a fishmonger’s when I was 13 and got paid in fish which I would cook for my seven brothers and my sister,” he said.

And his favourite dish nowadays? Good old-fashioned British fish and chips!