Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our weekly “27 Questions” column, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same amount of time it takes to sit through a 2-minute speed date.
Like many culinary masters who call Hong Kong home, chef Angelo Agliano is a passionate mariner — the son of a fisherman born with sea salt in his bones. It makes sense why, of all the possible locales in Asia, the award-winning Sicilian chef landed here — an international trading hub as literally and metaphorically connected to the ocean as he is.
Recently signed on as the new culinary director at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Tosca, Agliano creates vibrant, visually sumptuous dishes that honour seafood’s elemental flavour and the timelessness of Sicilian cooking. “My philosophy is to stay true to the original tastes and traditional recipes from my childhood,” says Agliano, “[but we’re translating] them into the elegance of a fine dining restaurant.”
That abiding respect for ingredients in their essential form is an impulse the newly-minted Tosca capo has nurtured for decades. Among a handful of Robuchon disciples who now preside over Hong Kong’s fine dining scene, Agliano has nearly 10 years of experience in Asia (he was responsible for opening both the Hong Kong and Taipei outposts of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon). He’s a chef who’s deeply committed to enriching the culture of sophisticated yet unostentatious Italian food in Hong Kong. We sat down with Agliano for a quick pre-service chat to talk guilty pleasures, Italian sparkling, and how doing a simple thing well is harder than it looks.
Name: Angelo Agliano
Neighbourhood: Happy Valley
Occupation: Director of Tosca di Angelo, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Fine Chinese, particularly the bao zi (steamed buns) at Lung King Heen.
Vito Corleone, otherwise known as “The Godfather”.
I started apprenticing in the kitchen when I was 14.
Champagne! Or any good Italian brut such as Bellavista.
Around two months ago whilst I was back in Sicily.
My sofa — it’s extremely comfortable and the most relaxing spot in my apartment.
Seeing as I’m always in the kitchen, a night owl for sure. If I could avoid mornings altogether, I would!
Pasta. With a sauce of fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
The humidity — it’s intolerable.
Australia, because I’ve never been. I’ve always dreamt about working on a farm for 6 months and Australia is the perfect destination for me to do that.
A few weeks ago. I was taking the Italian food critic Andrea Petrini to Lamma Island.
Enjoying a pizza with a bottle of red wine, all by myself.
Natural disasters — such as a tsunami or earthquake.
My days cooking in Paris.
Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Marlon Brando, Sylvester Stallone and Robbie Williams.
I grew up near the Mediterranean Sea, so I always love being close to the ocean when I want to be alone with my own thoughts.
I think often about those days when I’d go fishing with my father — he was a fisherman by trade. He taught me a lot about seafood, umami and the fruits of the ocean.
I actually never reveal any bad news to them [laughs]! To the extent that I don’t even tell them when I’m sick — I don’t want them to worry.
The smell of the ocean — that salty, refreshing scent I wake up to when I’m in Sicily.
I’d like to think so, yes. I’m very proud of my risotto.
I’ve had various mentors throughout the different stages of my career. When I first got into the trade, my teacher from cooking school taught me the fundamentals of being a chef. Then, I met maestro Robuchon of course, who helped open my eyes. One of the greatest lessons I learned from him is that “it’s much more difficult to do simple things right”.
I’ve travelled pretty extensively throughout Europe — maybe 10 different countries. Within Asia, I’ve been to five or six.
I’d definitely rather be alone for the rest of my life — for me, freedom is everything.
Tosca di Angelo, 102/F, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 2263 2270