Italian Star Chef Aldo Zilli exclusive: “Too much sugar turns my children into little animals”

Celebrity chef Aldo Zilli is married to actress Nikki. They have two children; Rocco, nine and seven-year-old Twiggy.  Aldo Zilli talks to Sanjeeta Bains about London,  family life and of course food, glorious food! Aldo Poster Shots - 16th Jan 2014

What’s your favourite area in London? 

I love Soho – it’s a great, bustling area and it’s where I opened my first two restaurants (Zilli Fish and Zilli Café) So lots of amazing memories for me. I’m back working there, as I’ve just joined Soho Radio. I host a show, Aldo Zilli’s After Service on Thursdays at 2pm.

What is your radio show about?  

It’s a mixture of music, chat, guests and food. I share recipes and do tastings live on air. The other day we did a baked beans tasting challenge!

What are your favourite London attractions?

Last summer was the first one where we didn’t have a family holiday abroad and I felt like I discovered London all over again. I took the kids to Madame Tussauds,  London Zoo and Hyde Park. I also really love going to Harrods and I was very sad when they closed the Petshop department – it was an amazing place.

What would you do if you were Mayor Of London for the day?

I like cycling around London but I always wear a helmet so as Mayor, I would make all cyclists wear helmets. I cringe when I see tourists jumping on Boris bikes with no helmets on. It’s crazy!

Chef Aldo Zilli with Sanjeeta Bains.Copyright 2013 © Sam Bagnall

How would you describe your parenting style?

Very Italian. We’re always together as a family, eating round the table. I discuss things properly with my kids. I like to spend as much time as possible with them.  I like to have fun with them.  My wife Nikki is a lot stricter than me but our styles complement each other.

What do you love to cook for Rocco and Twiggy?

Obviously we all love pasta! I hide vegetables and fish in pasta dishes so my kids will eat it. I like to make it less pasta and more protein. I’m always watching what they’re eating and putting in their mouths.

The right diet for children is very important.  I’ve noticed when my kids go out on play days, they come back like two different children. They’re like little animals! They loaded up with sweets and chocolate. They’ve got a sugar rush and don’t know what to do with it.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate. I’ve developed a real sweet tooth in the last few years. I wish there were more health food shops in this country. There are too many coffee shops where I can buy chocolate! My daughter Twiggy also loves chocolate.  I like to bake a chocolate cake at home but not too often!

You’re from the central Italian region of Abruzzo.
How has that influenced your cooking?

The first eleven years of my life were spent on a farm in the mountains and then we moved by the sea so I like to use lots of vegetables and seafood in my cooking. I ended up opening two fish restaurants in London – one in Soho and one in Covent Garden.

Chef Aldo Zilli with Sanjeeta Bains. Copyright 2013 © Sam Bagnall

Sanjeeta Bains with Chef Aldo Zilli

After selling your restaurants you’re now consultant for the San Carlo restaurant group. What does that involve?

I taste recipes and create new dishes. As well San Carlo Cicchetti in Piccadilly, we recently opened a new Cicchetti in Covent Garden, which has been very exciting. I love the restaurant business.

What’s the most popular dish from the Cicchetti menu?

So many. Our truffle and pecorino ravioli is one of our bestsellers. It’s so good!

Aldo is chef consultant for the San Carlo Group of restaurants, which recently opened Cicchetti Covent Garden.

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