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Meet Ambrogio Maestri

Meet Ambrogio Maestri

Opera singer, food lover, and even chef – Ambrogio Maestri wears many hats, whether he is singing an aria at the Met in New York or stirring a risotto at home in Italy. The famed epicurean-turned-baritone has dedicated his life to a harmonic balance of his two passions: music and food.

Opera lovers eagerly anticipated Ambrogio’s return to the stage as the titular character in Don Pasquale, which was at the Met in March. But first, he joined beloved Chef Lidia Bastianich on March 2 for an exclusive dinner at Eataly NYC Flatiron, where the longtime friends cooked, ate, and talked about their shared passions for Italian "eccellenze," or excellence.

Before these upcoming performances, Eataly Magazine sat down with Ambrogio Maestri to discuss his love of music and food.

What connects your love for food and music?
As you might imagine, I have an obvious answer: what better pleasure exists in the world than that of music and good food? I have never denied myself of either of them! In many operas, the reference to wine and food is ever-present; that's why, after a "bella cantata" (beautiful singing), I always enjoy a “bella mangiata” (beautiful eating), accompanied by a good glass of wine!

Do you have a favorite childhood memory about food?
I remember it like it was yesterday: when I was very, very young, I first tasted braised beef with polenta, a typical dish from northern Italy (get Eataly’s recipe here!). My mamma was determined to make me drink from the bottle, which I’d stopped liking. One night, while the adults were eating dinner, my grandpa, a real “buon gustaio” (epicurean), pulled me up on his knee, dipped my spoon in a yellow batter – the polenta – made sure there was the juice from the braised beef, and gave me a taste. Since that day, I was finally weaned!

Polenta con Ragu_web

Tell us about your experience in the food industry.
Starting as a young man, I worked very hard for many years in the family restaurant – which my mother still manages today– so I could pay for my studies of music and singing, then practice in the little free time that I had. In fact, my first public performances were in front of customers in our restaurant.

What dish do you love to cook most today?
My favorite dish comes in part from the “pavese” culinary traditions around my hometown of Pavia, Lombardia. I like to cook risotto for my friends and family. From my area, there is a saying: “rice is born in water and dies in wine!” I was raised in a family with five generations of butchers and restaurateurs, so for me cooking is as natural as singing.

(Editor's note: Ambrogio shared his secret for the perfect risotto with Eataly Magazine! Check out the baritone's own recipe here.)

In your upcoming dinner at Eataly, what are you most excited to discuss with Lidia Bastianich?
When I first met Lidia Bastianich years ago, I found her to be an extraordinary person. Despite her being an international culinary star who has cooked for many of the world’s celebrities, including even the Pope, it felt like I was talking with family. She represents the excellence of Italian cuisine, and I adore her. I can’t wait to cook with her, and certainly this experience I will carry with me in my heart for the rest of my life.

lidia ambrogio maestri

Buon appetito!

Editor’s note: This interview with Ambrogio Maestri has been translated from the original Italian.