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Iron Chef judge Donatella Arpaia spills

bucatini alla matriciana

Q: Your newest restaurant, Donatella, serves Neapolitan pizza. What’s special about it?

Donatella Arpaia: It has to be cooked in a wood-burning oven for 60 to 90 seconds. The ingredients are flour, water, yeast, and salt. There are no additives. It’s a bread-like dough that’s crispy and soft. We use very little yeast, so it’s light.

I worked with the master pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia. He’s the only pizzaiolo (an expert pizza maker) in Naples. I sent my chef and I there to study. (Coccia’s) two chefs are here at the restaurant for the first six months. I’m really committed to making the most authentic pizza possible.

Q: Your father, also a restaurateur, didn’t want you to go into the restaurant business. Why did you do it anyway?

Donatella Arpaia: Because I’m a stubborn girl. He felt the lifestyle (of a restaurateur) was so difficult … it really takes a toll on your personal life. I don’t think he imagined I would take it to another level. He’s really proud of me now.

Q: What do you cook when you’re at home in your own kitchen?

Donatella Arpaia: Pasta, pasta, pasta. It’s one of those go to things. It’s fast. It’s easy. I do make a lot of handmade pastas, but I don’t use a machine—I make it all by hand. (A favorite is a long, tubular pasta dish called) bucatini alla matriciana. I’ll get guanciale (or bacon or pancetta) and onion and sauté it over high heat and then add the tomatoes and cook it for 20 minutes.

It’s one of those dishes that everyone loves, and it’s simple and quick and yummy.

>>>Get Arpaia’s recipe for bucatini alla matriciana

Q: Who in the food world do you admire?

Donatella Arpaia: I’ve become such good friends with Bobby Flay. I think he is so talented. I think because he has become such a star, people forget that he is a chef-chef. In terms of food, I love Jean-Georges (Vongerichten). He is so trailblazing. I really admire him.

Q: You’re always so well dressed. How do you describe your sense of style? Where do you shop?

Donatella Arpaia: I do like a lot of dresses, especially for TV. It’s always an outfit that’s complete. I do not like busy patterns; I go with bold colors.

I like to be a little sexy and a little glam. I definitely have a voluptuous body, so I have to keep that in mind. I shop at because I have gotten so busy. You don’t impulse buy so easily when you shop online.

(For) shoes, I’m a Louboutin addict. For dresses, I love Black Halo. I like (Roberto) Cavalli, (Carolina) Herrera, Valentino.

Q: How do you stay in shape, given that you’re always around food?

Donatella Arpaia: I definitely have a European style in terms of eating. I never diet or eat diet food. I never put anything artificial in my body. I think the key is to stop eating when you’re full and to have a balanced meal with a lot of fruits and vegetables.

After filming “Iron Chef” I gained 8 pounds. I’ve lost it now, but I gained it. You eat exorbitant amounts of food. You have to taste it; you can’t taste and spit.

Q: What can you tell us about the food television show that you’re developing?

Donatella Arpaia: I’ve been talking to the Food Network for a while and we’re going to be filming the pilot in a few weeks. It’s definitely going to be me, as kind of a restaurant doctor. There will be a little bit of my restaurant world in it.

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