Alfio Longo, executive chef at Circo, was born in Germany and raised in Pistoia, near Florence, Italy. While working as a sous-chef at Uno Piu Ristorante in Montecatini, he came to the notice of Sirio Maccioni and his family, who invited Longo to join their restaurant group. Longo has worked in restaurants across the world, including in Italy, Macau, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Turkey.
Epoch Times: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Mr. Alfio Longo: Since I was 10 years old, my idea was to do something related to food and hospitality. I was always fascinated when my parents took me out to restaurants or hotels—for me it was a really important event. I chose and applied to the food and hospitality school in Montecatini Terme, where I started to learn all the aspects of the hotel industry, reception, service, and culinary. I decided to specialize in culinary and continue my school training in the kitchen to become a chef.
Epoch Times: What is one of your significant childhood memories of food?
Mr. Alfio: My grandmother is a great mentor. I was always around her, watching what she was doing, asking what is this, what is that? And still today when are together, she tells me, I tried this, then I tried to do that. We always talk about food with each other.
Epoch Times: What is your approach or philosophy to cooking?
Mr. Longo: My mission as chef is to make people happy. Simplicity, good taste, quality are my ingredients. I use three, four ingredients, no more than five. I try to take authentic, traditional dishes, and try to elaborate a little bit for a modern touch. I don’t like heavy cuisine. I try to be light.
Epoch Times: What’s your current favorite ingredient to play with?
Mr. Longo: Here at Circo, we always have seasonal products in our choices. I have a seasonal menu insert that changes with the season. Asparagus, zucchini flowers, … I just received some Jersey tomatoes that are superb. With this base, we build a dish.
Every [restaurant] that I’ve been, the product is extremely important. I really like searching for products. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard.
Epoch Times: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen in the kitchen?
Mr. Longo: It was at a beautiful five-star hotel complex, with an Indian-American family to celebrate a wedding in Turkey, with a huge buffet, if you can imagine, for 600 people. There were people [cooking] from everywhere: three, four from France; three, four from Spain, from Morocco, from Spain, China, Japan, me with other Italians … All this was happening in one big kitchen. It was crazy. There was bouillabaisse, sushi, … The kitchen was very well-equipped!
Another crazy thing happened to me … at a big party for 600 people in the Caribbean. They said, “We have a big event, you need to come in two days, has to be a three to four course menu, has to be Italian.” At Miami airport, they found my knives. I said, I’m chef… They stopped for me two hours.
When I got there, there was no kitchen. So we [brought in] a lot of trucks, with the equipment to cook. That was the kitchen basically. There was a garden where we cooked meat. There was a refrigerated truck … I’m running all over. The dining room was huge. It was a very successful night [in the end].
Epoch Times: When you’re not cooking, what do you enjoy doing?
Mr. Longo: Sometimes I try to relax, bike around New York City, swim, discover new things, and travel while I am working.
Epoch Times: What current trend do you find worthwhile?
Mr. Longo: I’m a chef. I follow the seasons for sure.
Epoch Times: What trend do you find overhyped?
Mr. Longo: Sometimes you pay just for the location.
120 W. 55th St. New York
This article appeared in our New York Summer Dining Guide, 2013 Special Edition. To see the complete summer dining guide as a pdf, click here.