Happy birthday, Harry’s Bar!
by Elisa Panto
Harry’s Bar has just turned 90; on this special occasion, we have met its founder, Arrigo Cipriani. A true force of nature, a man of great intelligence, always very active: he writes books, teaches at the university and loves driving his 530 HP Mercedes!
- Mr Cipriani, what is your best memory associated with Harry’s Bar?
It was my first official day of work. In the afternoon, I took my first private law exam, I got 19 and, at 6 in the evening, I stood behind the cash desk. My father told me “You will never be a great lawyer!”
- How did overseas customers react to your dishes?
I arrived in New York in 1985, where they used the worst rice to make a risotto and didn’t know what Parmigiano was. I started doing what we were already doing here: I ordered the best products and started offering the typical Italian cuisine, the real hand-made one … and we immediately gained great success.
- Over 35 locations around the world, dedicated premises, e-commerce, the new store in Losson della Battaglia, what is the secret of your success?
Men are born free, therefore cuisine must never impose anything, but must be balanced and meet the taste of everyone, both adults and children. The Italian dishes, if properly prepared, are the closest to the international taste of everyone. In Dubai, the most popular dish is the Venetian-style liver!
- Feeling the same “emotions” when you eat a carpaccio in Venice or in New York. Is this Cipriani’s strength?
The welcoming atmosphere – typical of family restaurants – must be always the same. Therefore, if your spaghetti are overcooked, it doesn’t matter, because it’s the whole environment that truly counts.
- You rarely talk about wine, what relationship do you have with it and what do you think about serving wine to your guests?
I haven’t been drinking for 7 years. Alcohol was doing me harm, and it was a pity, because I loved drinking! I think that every restaurant should offer good wine in a carafe, so that everyone can afford it. In my opinion, a sommelier and a long wine list are an imposition.
- You are considered a great leader in your sector, is it an honour or a burden for you?
I don’t believe that I am a great leader. I am the simplest man in the world. What I refer to as complex simplicity is seldom understood: there must be comfort, freedom, lack of imposition, attention to details and constant learning.
- Would you like to give any advice to the young people who want to work in your sector?
Don’t watch cooking television programs! It is a strange and false world, because the young aspiring chefs have realized that this job may be very difficult, and sometimes the working conditions are very hard. The cuisine requires culture and a passion for reading. Nowadays, social media are a major issue, because they are killing culture.