Last Word: Luciano Di Meo

Di Meo’s, Whitley Bay

Let’s start at the beginning, what do you eat for breakfast?
Since January, I’ve been taking breakfast a bit more seriously and eating thinks like porridge, poached eggs, avacados and spinach omelettes.

And your go-to guilty pleasure?
It would have to be a banana split. I’ve replaced meals with them in the past.

What would be your last meal on earth?
I would go for fresh calamari fried in a little flour, followed by a T-bone steak cooked on an olive wood barbecue, and finish with a banana split.

What can I find in your home fridge right now?
There’s always a lot of Italian food – gorgonzola, pecorino, Parma ham, salami and olives. Then there’s some spinach, a bit of kale and some sirloin steak, which my kids love.

Which ingredient would you grab if you could only choose one?
Olive oil. Coming from a family of olive farmers, it’s a major part of our dishes.

Which is your most important piece of kitchen kit?
In the café, our pizza oven is essnetial. We roast vegetables in it, cook pizzas in it – we really try to make the most of it.

And your favourite cookbook?
I have a copy of the old Bero cookbook and use it all the time for basic things like Yorkshire pudding and sponge cakes.

What’s your favourite dish to make at home?
I have two – pasta e fagioli, which is pasta with a kind of bean stew, and trofie al pesto, which I first made when living in Genoa. The trofie is complicated, but I love to make it.

Do you get many famous customers in the café?
Si King of The Hairy Bikers is a fan of our ice cream and a regualr visitor, and we’ve been popular with some of the international Newcastle United footballers through the years.

What’s your most important bit of advice in the kitchen?
Keep it simple. Let good quality ingredients be the stars. And have plenty of Maldon sea salt to hand.

What would you be doing if you weren’t running the café?
I always dreamed of being a pilot when I was growing up.

If you only had £10 to spend on food, what would you buy?
I’d start with a Greggs corned beef pasty then make a pasta e fagioli at home.

Who is the greatest cook ever?
My uncle, Isidoro ‘Eddie’ Di Meo. He cooks simple dishes, but with the most amazing flavours. He grows his own vegetables, gets his own olives cold pressed, makes his own wine, and the taste sensation of his food is unlike anything else.

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