On The Line: Stefano Procaccini Of La Parolaccia Osteria Italiana, Part One

“People think Italians eat a lot. It's just a pleasure. We love to eat our appetizer, main course, second course, all the way to dessert, of course. We really enjoy taking our time with nice conversation. It's something we don't rush here at the restaurant. I want my customers to have the experience of enjoying the meal. Even if I have a line waiting, I would never rush them. When they're ready to go, they go.”

We toe the county line for this week's chef interview, chatting it up with Stefano Procaccini. Having just returned home from Italy, he was happy to share old and new memories.

How is this location different from Passaparola Trattoria?
It's more casual. More family-oriented and noisy because of all the people. They don't serve pizza. We also have a location in Claremont.

Where was your most recent meal? What did you have?
I was in
Italy, so I went to an Italian restaurant by the beach. The food there
is simple, but flavorful. I had a spaghetti with clams, fried calamari
and a branzino cooked with olive oil, parsley and salt and pepper.

Best culinary tip for the home cook.
Have fun in the kitchen, cook what you like and experiment with ingredients.

What is the secret to perfect risotto?
There's a thousand different ways to make risotto, but when our chefs make it here, I don't like them using a stainless steel spoon. I prefer a wooden spoon to stir the rice, because when I was growing up I was taught that the less you touch the rice, the better it comes out. The rice has to cook with the sauce that you put it with. It's a 15-20 minute dish. You can't rush it, so when customers order it, they already know they've got to wait.

Just like with everything else, I put a lot of passion, a lot of heart and love. I like making it with porcini mushrooms. We also have a version with lobster and shrimp.

What do you think of people who take photographs of their food?
It's okay. I did it when I was in Paris, but only because it was something very different that I wanted to remember.

Your vincigrassi (homemade lasagna) at your other establishment is made differently than what we normally see. Care to elaborate?

In that one we use meatballs. In Italy, there are different regions. In every region, there's a different way to make lasagna. I like to make a lot of dishes from many regions.

Sometimes some of the dishes don't go over well with diners. For example, there's a dish back home that uses oxtail. We made a pasta and shredded some of the meat in it. When you tell them that it's oxtail. . .  It's also the same for our carbonara pasta, because of the fresh egg. We make it the way it's supposed to be made.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
A few months ago I was vacationing in Paris, and I wanted to try something different. I cannot remember the name of the dish, but it was a specialty. It was uncooked veal and ground beef with fresh egg on top.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
Sometimes, when my kids ask for it we will go to McDonald's or In-n-Out–but not that often.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Cappuccino. A nice croissant or biscotti. I'm not a big breakfast person. Between breakfast and lunch there's usually a break with espresso and maybe some cookies. It's an occasion to be with friends and take a little break from work.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
I'm flexible, but I don't like to mix too many ingredients together. Sometimes I'll go to the table and talk to the customer, but the people that work here know what I like to do. If a customer asks for something strange, they'll give a suggestion to them. When you mix too many ingredients together, you lose the flavor of the meat or fish.

La Parolaccia Osteria Italiana is located at 2945 E Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 438-1235; www.laparolacciausa.com.

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