Food Talks: Willem Dafoe, His Italian Family, Broccoli, Carciofi & Panzanella
Eight things you cannot possibly know about Willem Dafoe, who just got nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor
In the Food Talks, we interview celebrities on their favorite Italian restaurants, wines, recipes… Because Hollywood people love Italian food just like anyone else!
Known for his versatility, unconventional characters and willingness to appear in controversial roles, Willem Dafoe has an acting career that spans over 4 decades. He has collaborated with the best directors including Cimino, Alan Parker, Wenders, Wes Anderson, Scorsese, Lynch, Stone (Platoon!!!), Kathryn Bigelow, Herzog, Lars Von Trier, Spike Lee, Schnabel, David Cronenberg, Schrader, Minghella, Angelopoulos, and Abel Ferrara, which directed him in Pasolini, our beloved Italian writer, poet, director, actor, journalist, philosopher, novelist, playwright, painter and political figure.
I met him again in Toronto for his last movie, The Florida Project, where he plays a manager at The Magic Castle, a budget motel just outside Disney World. THUMBS UP for this wonderful movie for which he received both a Golden Globes and an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Among the many subjects, here is his take on why he loves Italian food.
- I love food! I wake up in the morning and one of the first things on my mind is food, what are we going to eat for lunch? At lunch I think about dinner, so I gotta be Italian right? [laughs]
- Parlo Italiano. My wife Giada is from Italy, we live between Roma and New York. I speak a little Italian, I learn it by listening to music. I like Franco Battiato. Italy is a very dear part of my life, it is really the only place I can call home, besides New York City.
- Family is important. In Italy we have family and friends. Giada was born in Abruzzo, her parents are from Puglia. I like the sense of family that you have, the long summertime lunches with uncles who give you advice, the limoncello at the end of meals… Family means to help each other through difficult times, give each other a hand, as in a community.
- I can cook! Giada is a very good cook, from her I learned the importance of paying attention to details, as well as form and substance. She is a great cook, but I can make very good pasta. I’m a simple man with lots of food fantasies, like growing my own food and cooking it. I like being outside and foraging for my ingredients for dinner. For real.
- I cannot smuggle food through customs, so don’t ask me! When you come from Italy all of your friends always ask you to bring food from there! I’m the guy that if I’ve got some food in my luggage and I get stopped at customs, sweat breaks out on my forehead. You cannot rely on me to get your favorite cheese into this country!
- I don’t eat meat. I admire vegans, but I’m only a vegetarian. I like to eat fish once in while, but I don’t eat meat anymore because animal farms are one of the main causes of the destruction of the planet.
- Best dishes I have ever had in Italy? Fettuccine with funghi o carciofi alla romana at Ristorante Da Nino in Rome, pasta con le sarde at Osteria Tre Colli in Ragusa, Sicily, and broccoli with black olives, garlic & lemon with oregano from Puglia.
- If I put you in front of a stove right now, what can you make? Not a problem: merluzzo [cod] con la panzanella, a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes very popular in summer. Panzanella includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. Simple recipes, simple ingredients.