Domenico Francone was born in a family with a strong food culture and soon became passionate about this fascinating world, by first exploring the family vegetable garden with his grandfather, then savoring his grandmother’s fresh pasta and his mother’s flavorful dishes. Driven by great curiosity, even before enrolling in a Hotel School, he began working in pastry shops in his hometown where he understood and developed his culinary passion.
During his years at school, as many other young individuals, he did a few jobs in hotels on the coast of Romagna in order to get an idea of how this works in reality and understand the needed steps to become a chef in the future. He feels what he learned first was that a great spirit of sacrifice was needed to undertake this profession.
Upon graduation from the Hotel School, and thanks to the help of a Chef, he had the opportunity to move to Tuscany at a very ambitious restaurant project that was ready to open. Here Domenico become acquainted with the Michelin World, professionalism in the kitchen and he was always tempted to work on all lines without leaving out any aspect. He truly believes that hard work, consistency and responsibility is a must in the hospitality industry.
Later on he had the opportunity to work at Castello Banfi with some of the most well known chefs of Italian Cuisine, that allowed him to considerably improve his skills and to be part of a team that achieved a Michelin Star. After this experience and in order to keep moving forward and knowing more about different cultures, Chef Domenico moved to London where after just 5 months the restaurant where he was employed also got a Michelin Star.
This was a magical, but at the same time exhausting he feels.
Subsequently, he felt that he had to keep travelling to discover new cultures and types of cuisine but at the same time his priority was to go back to Tuscany, his second home. Again, Castello Banfi offered him both opportunities, so the decision was pretty simple. “With the entire team, we have been able to make ‘La Taverna’ an excellent restaurant and a perfect balance between traditional and gourmet cuisine and also the perfect location to taste Castello Banfi wines at lunch time,” he says.
In 2013 Domenico and his team decided to open the restaurant “Sala dei Grappoli”, the fine dining restaurant again, where the style is a modern interpretation of Tuscan and Italian Mediterranean Cuisine. The thought was that this is a must in such a wonderful environment and a great value add for the region and of course for the guests staying at the luxury boutique hotel “Il Borgo”.
During that time he became Executive Chef at Castello Banfi, which includes not only restaurants “La Taverna” and “Sala dei Grappoli” but also the different outlets of “Il Borgo” along with promotions around the world where guests can enjoy and understand the philosophy not only for the food but also with the wines that are produced in the estates of Montalcino and Strevi.
Do you have a favourite time of the year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
My favorite season is summer, when the territory offers us the best ingredients of the Mediterranean cuisine like herbs, vegetables and the sea gives us the best products too.
What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
I’ve started this job when I was only 12 years old, so I immediately found my way. But like a lot of guys I used to play football and I was a good goalkeeper.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
Of course my preferences do influence my menus but mostly my origin influences my menu a lot. Coming from Puglia I like to add my home region in my menu.
What do you think is the most over-hyped food trend currently?
When a guest in my restaurant asks for for beef fillet or French rack of lamb I can’t understand that, i believe we should use all the parts of the animals and seasonal vegetables only then we can have less food waste.
When are you happiest?
Talking about my job, I’m very happy when I have the chance to travel around the world, cook in prestigious kitchens and meet great chefs with interesting philosophies.
When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?
When I’m not in the kitchen I love to spend time with my kids but i also run, swim and go around the Val d’Orcia Valley on my motorbike.
Where is your favourite place to dine?
Usually I love to try the typical (local) food of the place where I am. But when I go back to Puglia my favorite chef is still my mom after all these years.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
Definitely Panzerotto. This is a fried pizza bread stuffed with tomatoes and mozzarella, typical from the place where I come from.
What makes the local food scene so exciting?
It’s the atmosphere of the place. Having the chance to be able to taste a fruit from the tree, a fish just arrived from the sea or an anecdote heard from the housewife while making pasta. This for me is absolutely priceless.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
Fortunately in the previous year i created few new dishes and one of them which makes me immensely proud is tortelli maremmani cooked my way. It is a mix of the place where i come from, the place where i live Tuscany and a mix of techniques.
You’re having friends over for dinner tonight. What’s on the table?
For sure raw langustine and champagne with very a good bread and a delightful dessert to finish.
Name your favourite city that has it all: food, culture, and nightlife.
I had the opportunity to live in different cities around the world but London is the place where we can have it all, in terms of food, culture and nightlife.
Can you tell us more about the cuisine at your restaurant?
At sala dei grappoli restaurant i try to mix the best Tuscan ingredients, my Apulian origin along with an international touch, all of this in combination with the wine of Castello Banfi makes it a fabulous experience for my guests.
Tortelli Maremmani a modo mio….(Tortelli Maremmani, my way)
- 400g flour “00”
- 100g semolina
- 100g egg yolks
- 3 eggs
On a pastry board, mix the the flours creating a crater at the center, add the eggs and egg yolks and knead. When the mixture is compact and elastic, cover it with a damp cloth and let it rest for about an hour. Roll out the dough thinly and make the tortelli with the filling, giving the desired tortelli shape.
- 500g beef for ragù
- 100g celery
- 100g carrots
- 100g onions
- 300g peeled tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 250g Brunello di Montalcino Castello Banfi
- 20g Banfi extra virgin olive oil
- 5 bay leaves
- 100g Parmigiano Reggiano
- salt and pepper as needed.
- Brown the vegetables cut into brunoise in a saucepan with a little e.v. olive oil, add the minced meat, add salt and pepper and cook over high heat until the meat is browned well. Drizzle with the Brunello di Montalcino Castello Banfi and let it evaporate, then add the blended peeled tomatoes, tomato paste and cook over low heat for about 2 hours. Stir often and add small amounts of water from time to time,
- At the end of cooking time, with the aid of a colander, sieve and separate the solid part of the meat from the tomato sauce. Place the tomato sauce in a saucepan and reduce. Set aside. Once the ragù meat has cooled down, season with parmesan, salt, pepper and place the mixture in a sac à poche.
- With a small part of the meat sauce, make meatballs and place them in the tomato sauce
- 100g spinach
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt and pepper
- Banfi extra virgin olive oil
Blanch the spinach in water for about 30 seconds, cool iced water, squeeze out excess water, and sauté in a pan with e.v. olive oil and garlic for a few seconds. Allow to cool well and whisk with a blender with Banfi extra virgin olive to a creamy consistency.
- 350g bufalo ricotta
- 150g heavy cream
- 3g agar-agar 8g proespuma a caldo
- salt and pepper
- Heat 150g of heavy cream to a boil. Add the agar agar and let it cool down.
- Separately blend the ricotta with the remaining cream, salt and pepper, add the warm cream, let the ingredients mix well, pour into a siphon and insert 2 nitrogen cartridges per siphon.
- At this point heat the spinach cream, the tomato sauce, the ricotta mousse in a bain-marie, drop the tortelli in plenty of salted water, cook and gently sauté with butter, adding cooking water to create a cream. Stir in the parmesan.
- Cook in the oven cherry tomatoes with extravergin olive oil, lemon and orange zeste, salt pepper and erbs for 45 minutes cover with silver paper
- Blend, strain and put in one sqeezer
- Add tomato sauce, tortelli, spinach cream, some meatballs to the plate and finish by topping with ricotta mousse