Food Network fanatics may recognize Claudio Sandri, who took over last month as executive chef at Roberto Donna’s Bebo Trattoria (2250 Crystal Dr., Arlington), from his TV debut on Iron Chef America, when he helped Donna stage an impressive comeback victory over Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. But Sandri and Donna go back long before that, having attended the same culinary school in their hometown of Torino, Italy. Sandri moved from Italy to DC six years ago to work for Donna at his high-end Laboratorio del Galileo, went home for a quick stint in Italy, then came back to this area when his old friend needed capable hands to take over the kitchen at Bebo. Here, the chef chats about his favorite dessert made by his pastry chef wife, his meat-and-cheese-stocked fridge, the Iron Chef he admires most, and more.
Favorite menu item at Bebo: Veal carpaccio—it’s thin slices of veal with fresh mushrooms on top, Parmesan, celery leaf, and lemon dressing. Very fresh.
Favorite type of pasta: Linguine with shrimp or lobster.
Favorite pizza toppings: The Quattro Stagione. It has mushroom, artichoke, ham, and black olives. It’s something I would order in Italy.
Favorite cuisine: Besides Italian? Spanish.
Favorite dish to cook for the kids: Pizza. They love pizza the American way, with pepperoni.
Favorite cocktail: Negroni.
What are your fridge staples? It’s always milk, Parmesan cheese, and two or three different types of other Italian cheese, like Robiola or provolone. Then I always have prosciutto and two or three kinds of salami.
Favorite junk food: A burger from Five Guys. Just plain, maybe with a little mustard.
Favorite late-night eat: Usually, what I do when I go home is just relax a little bit with one nice bottle of red wine and some hazelnuts or dried fruits, maybe a piece of Gorgonzola.
Favorite meal of the day: A midday plate of pasta.
Favorite local restaurant: A la Lucia in Old Town Alexandria. I don’t have much time to go to restaurants. When I’m on my day off, I usually just do something at home on the barbecue.
Most memorable meal: The first day I was here in the US, I came to Galileo, and Roberto was cooking in Laboratorio. There was one empty table; he told me to have a seat there. This was my first very good meal.
Favorite dessert: I need to ask my wife about this—she’s the one who makes the desserts [at Bebo]. Right now, it’s the bonet al limone. It’s like a custard, with lemon cooked and blended inside the custard. Very refreshing. It’s from a Roberto recipe.
Who’s your favorite of the Iron Chefs? I think my favorite is Mario Batali. I met him when we went there in New York for the taping. That night we ate at his restaurant, Babbo. Don’t ask me what I had—I don’t remember! It was a long day.