The chefs at Trapizzino are cooking up history lessons. Paul Pansera and Stefano Callegari infuse their original trapizzinos and pizza bianco with flavors crafted from old-world Roman recipes. But their dishes aren’t dull textbooks, the duo’s restaurant on Orchard Street recently caught good looks from the likes of Action Bronson and Mario Batali.
CONVICTS caught up with Paul and Stefano to get their word on storytelling through food, the similarity between New York and ancient Rome, and their mission to share ancient tastes with the modern world.
How’s it going, gentlemen? To start, can you tell us your names.
My name is Stefano Callegari.
And my name is Paul Pansera.
And where are you from?
I’m from Rome, Italy.
Yeah, both of us, we come from Rome.
What was life like growing up in Rome? Especially in terms of food and baking?
We grew up with food, with bakers, with pizza bianco, with rolls. It used to be quite normal to see bakers every corner of the city.
When did you guys first start the Trapizzino concept?
Something like nine years ago. Roman food was almost disappearing. So I thought ‘Okay, something nice can be done with old fashioned recipes from Rome, from Italy.’ It works.
Sounds like it. Talk about the place food holds in Italian culture?
You must know that food in Italy is a really big deal. We always say it’s like religion. We’re always talking about food. We got this oxtail recipe that no one knows how old it is. maybe a thousand years that we’ve made oxtail like that, with lots of celery. Same with the way we still cook, it’s got an energy, a power, a very strong power. And when you eat-we don’t say sandwich-but when you eat a trapizzino with oxtail, you’re not just eating something good, but there’s a story inside and that’s very nice, and people can tell this.
Talk about the oxtail a bit?
The flavor of the oxtail is like it comes from the center of the earth, because there’s something really ancient, something strong, but wonderful because it’s-I can say opulent- because it’s something, textual, strong.
That sounds amazing. Can you travel with the sauces?
Secret. I have to hide it.
Switching gears a bit, talk about the drive for founding Trapizzino?
We didn’t really start this for the business. It was for a mission. Nobody wants to cook very long and do hard work, everybody chose to do business with food by doing something fast and quicker, that’s easy to sell. This food takes long to prepare, some of the longest preparation you can choose to do. It’s so good and nobody wants to do it because it’s hard work, so it’s what we decided to do. And we love the food and the history it has.
Talk about this ‘mission?’
The mission is for everybody to eat something with history, to eat the real food we do in Rome, from the same family recipe that’s one hundred years old. We’re gonna do that same thing in the United States and all over the world.
Tell us about New York, the United States. What do you guys think of New York?
New York is like Rome 2000 years ago.
It’s our second city.
What has been the response to Trapizzino from the city?
New Yorkers pay a lot of attention to how you cook, what you use, and they really care about the identity. This food has strong identity, because it tells you about Rome, about Italy.
What’s the most important thing about your food?
I saw you guys met with Mario Batali and Action Bronson? Did they like your food?
Yeah, really much.
They were surprised.
They’re good guys to have on your side. Have you had Mario Batali’s cooking?
Once, but I know he’s the best.
What about Action Bronson? Have you tasted his food?
I like his songs. and the videos, they’re very funny. It’s great. I don’t know about his food because I just saw it on TV, but I think he’s great.
We will ask him to cook together, maybe.
Right on, gentlemen. Thanks for the chat and best of luck with everything.