6 Questions with Giorgio Rapicavoli

What do you remember most about growing up part-time in Italy?

I think the craziest thing that I can remember more than anything are the smells. The bakeries I went to growing up have a distinct smell, the macelleria where you get coffee has a smell, the cheese shop, the salumeria, my uncle’s garden—I can remember the particular smell of the peppers. So there are tons of food memories from growing up and going to the mountains and stuff like that, but the smells I think are the things I always go back to.

What recipe do you associate most with your family?

I grew up with a single mother but she managed to make dinner all the time. Pasta Pomodoro—which is very simple, basil, tomato, garlic, olive oil, salt—was something we had a lot. She worked all day and it was something she could whip up very quickly. That was kind of the epicenter of growing up for me. It’s delicious and still resonates with me and I still make it. And it’s amazing that how much she worked, or how crazy her schedule was, there was still time to cook and have dinner together. That’s what I love so much about that dish.

Why did you feel the need to return to Miami after you won Chopped to open a restaurant?

Chopped was amazing. It was an incredible experience. My judge, Chris Santos, and I got the call to see if I wanted to run his restaurants. And I went up there for a week, but Miami’s always been my home. It was always my goal of instead of going somewhere else, why not be here and make something in this city?

Eating House’s quote is ‘if cooking is an art, we’re making graffiti.’ What dish would be the poster child of that statement?

We have two very popular dishes. One is a take on my mom’s carbonara she used to make growing up. But it’s got egg yolk, black truffle and bread crumbs. So it kind of goes against the grain, but the way I see that graffiti is an evolution of classic art and calligraphy is how that dish evolved. Then, we do a really interesting local heirloom tomato salad, with peanuts and mint and cilantro, fish sauce and we freeze coconut milk. So it’s kind of like a traditional caprese, but it’s got these flavors of Vietnam and eastern Asia. So it’s kind of crazy.

Eating House has been referred to as elevated stoner food. Was this the idea you set out to do?

When Eating House first opened up, we were a pop. So, we went to the grocery store every day before service. We didn’t have a purveyor or that option. When you think about the ease, we didn’t have time to make a toasted corn crumble, so we’d crumble up Fritos. We didn’t have hours on end to do all this stuff, so we’d take Dr. Pepper and reduce it and smoke it, you know? So, we got that term because we were really using stuff from the grocery store. That was our only way to provide food! We’re famous for Captain Crunch pancakes. But that only happened because one day Captain Crunch was buy-one-get-one-free, and I was like, ‘Cool let’s use this to make some money and figure out what to do with this product. And we still have them today. Now, eight years later, the menu is much more vegetable-driven, but stuff like those pancakes never went away.

Every article about you describes your clothing. So, what is the iconic Giorgio outfit?

Hm, I’d say definitely some jeans, I live in jeans. Some Jordan Ones sneakers. I like to mix it up with a button-down shirt. Over the years owning a restaurant, button-downs fit me less and less well, so maybe it’s open with a t-shirt under it. So, kind of nice, kind of casual. Usually some shade of army green is quintessential. That’s why I love Italy, everyone’s so styling. And my dad is Argentine, so it’s very typical for them to care about the way you dress, and first impressions. My dad was always talking about looking proper, wearing good, clean clothes, product in your hair. I love clothing, cooking, music. As long as it has something to do with creativity and making something, I love it.