iTalico, great pasta in Palo Alto

Maico Campilongo presents his new restaurant, featured in the New York Times. Focus on quality, in collaboration with Felicetti

Maico Campilongo, first from the left, with the te

Maico Campilongo, first from the left, with the team at iTalico (starting from Campilongo: Stefano Raineri, Franco Campilongo, Jose Manuel, Michael Oliverio, Kristyan Dangelo, Giuseppe Errico), the new restaurant in Palo Alto, California, entirely dedicated to the best Italian pasta, from Monograno Felicetti to Rustichella d'Abruzzo. iTalico (we’ve already written about their successful pizzeria Terùn) is a nice example of how you can offer Italian high quality abroad. Maico Campilongo tells us about his enterprise in this piece for Identità Golose

Only a few days ago the New York Times dedicated a niece article on the best Italian pasta artisans, and in particular to those who make it using “monograno” [one grain]. Of course a large part of the piece was dedicated to Pastificio Felicetti in Predazzo and the forward-looking choices of its patron Riccardo Felicetti. They also mentioned iTalico, a new restaurant in California opened by brothers Campilongo (read here), and entirely dedicated to pasta. In fact, to Monograno Felicetti. A few days ago Maico Campilongo sent us this text, in which he illustrates his enterprise, after the success of restaurant-cum-pizzeria Terùn – the Campilongo brothers come from Calabria. What better occasion to publish it? (Carlo Passera)

When we’ve spoken about the Silicon Valley I’ve always mentioned the nice and positive things I experienced over the past few years. Indeed, what happened to us was almost always positive and nice: the success of Terùn, both in financial and media terms, the presence of prominent Silicon Valley people in our restaurant and their stories, which we heard in the friendly setting that only a kitchen and a restaurant can offer. And then the meeting with new entrepreneurs, startuppers… We entered one of the most important places where global cuisine is being discussed, Identità Golose, guided by fantastic Camilla Baresani, and there we met Massimo Bottura and Niko Romito, not to mention Riccardo Felicetti, of the homonymous pasta factory, with whom we now collaborate, or Cesare Baldrighi, president of Consorzio Tutela Grana Padano.

Monograno Felicetti spelt ditalini with Italian borlotti beans and Calabrian sausage: one of the dishes at iTalico

Monograno Felicetti spelt ditalini with Italian borlotti beans and Calabrian sausage: one of the dishes at iTalico

And of course Paolo Marchi, founder and creator of Identità Golose. I could continue this fantastic list at length, mentioning also the more or less young a people who are revolutionising the restaurant industry in this place where you are hit by a beautiful wave: there’s a strong desire to do things, it’s a beautiful feeling and you feel you’re part of a much larger picture. We are a part of it: as my friend and journalist Roberto Bonzio says, as restaurateurs in the Silicon Valley we’re like those selling shovels and pickaxe in the days of the gold rush n California.

See: here in the Silicon Valley there’s many of us selling shovels and pickaxes, in our case pizza and pasta. Those who are luckier, like us, manage to tell the story of their homeland too: there are many Italians in California. The restaurants we open are like many startup businesses, roles change but the actors are always the same: the human element is crucial, there are many people and they move from one company to the other, it’s normal, and sometimes after working as an employee you may decide to open your own business, your startup. It’s part of the rules, it has always worked: you spend years working in a restaurant, and then you become a partner, or you leave and become a partner in another restaurant with other friends, if you don’t have enough money to open a place of your own. It’s the model we followed too, first with Terùn, since February 2013, and now with iTalico, the new restaurant we opened a few months ago.

Brothers Campilongo and their partner Michael Oliverio with Alex Atala and Massimo Bottura at Identità New York 2016

Brothers Campilongo and their partner Michael Oliverio with Alex Atala and Massimo Bottura at Identità New York 2016

iTalico is a project born early in 2015, adding new partners compared to Terùn: some already collaborated with the first establishment, others are trusted friends, like the manager. Opening a restaurant in the Silicon Valley is not easy but over the three years of experience at Terùn we borrowed the lesson of British entrepreneur Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, founder of Virgin Group, controlling over 400 companies: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well so they won’t want to”. And we also learnt that if you have a restaurant with a 4 million dollar turnover each year, even having 10% can mean having 30 or 40 thousand extra dollars at the end of the year, on top of your salary. This way you can have everyone involved, because the success of the restaurant becomes a shared interest.

So Terun has 5 partners (2 silent partners plus 3 working partners), iTalico has 11 partners (3 silent partners and 8 working partners). The new restaurant opened on the 24th July 2016 and soon became an important place in the Silicon Valley restaurant scene: while pizza is the queen at Terùn, at iTalico it’s dry pasta that dominates, thanks to the collaboration with Riccardo Felicetti.

One of the goals of our project at iTalico is to give pasta the role it deserves in the Italian-American restaurant scene. We want to preserve tradition while speaking about the present with an eye on the future of Italian cuisine; we want to dispel urban myths according to which pasta is has no quality or is fattening (my father has always had pasta both for lunch and supper, he’s 75 and he’s not obese, he’s great).

At iTalico we have a beautiful wood oven. We don’t use it to make pizza but to cook many dishes, such as delicious meatballs, a dish made with broccoli, or steak. The wood oven, the hearth, represent family, so much so that almost until the day Italy was united, in the Kingdom of Naples censuses were conducted by counting fires: each one represented 7 people on average and it was easy to count (think of how much easier it is in a historical centre to count the chimneys in the houses and get an idea of how many people live there). We always say that even if they cut our supply of gas or electricity at iTalico and Terun, we could still cook and serve pizza and hot dishes as if nothing had happened.

Our north stars are passion for the best food and for good company: when we started this adventure we could have never imagined that we could create what we’ve managed to do. This was made possible because we work with dedication, as a team, always united, from kitchen to dining room to management. I say: thank you guys, let’s continue this way. Because everything is possible. I’ll just give you one small final example: Stefano Raineri, of Bellagio, on Lake Como – not exactly a terùn like us, that is – a few years ago came to work with us as a waiter. He had plenty of talent, he acquired experience: he first became manager at Terùn and now he’s co-owner at iTalico. This is how we work.

341 S. California Ave, Palo Alto - California
tel. +1 (650) 473-9616


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