Welcome to this new chapter of Food Republic!

Let me introduce myself briefly.

I take pictures for a living. Mostly movie stills and portraits. I love movies. I also love to shoot what I see around me when I travel, or when I eat. In fact, I love eating. I love food. I love to cook. A lot. I’m pretty good at it, too!

I am no avant-garde chef but luckily I live in Rome, where I get easy access to the freshest ingredients and the ancient wisdom of combining them in the most simple and effective way to create what is known as “Italian cuisine.” I always wanted to blend my passions into a single creation and to share them with everybody else. I also thought it would be nice to pass on some of the traditional knowledge I come across in the wonderful and weird country I live in, straight from the source. 

By the way, people call me Ali Baba. Or more simply, Baba. Like the fat brood-hen from the movie Chicken Run. Hence, Baba’s Italy. Baba’s Eat Ali. Got it? Alright.

I am NOT Italian though. I’m Swiss, from a small provincial town known for an international film festival. I moved to Rome about 20 years ago to work in the movie industry. This gives me enough passion to be true in what I do and at the same time enough detachment to keep me from taking sides, as opposed to what all good Italians love to do: turn everything into politics.

I would like to take you through different food areas and give you a bit of background on the origins of their recipes, maybe tell you some stories and from time to time, tell you about places I eat at and cooks that I meet.

I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy making it.

Ready? Let’s go!

#01-Traditional Roman first courses
Cooking Italian is pretty simple. It’s based on a few seasonal ingredients and therefore varies enormously from region to region. To me it’s all about the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of the preparations, which doesn’t mean there aren’t complex textures, flavours and preparations in Italian cuisine, it just means… there’s no nonsense in it!

Here’s why I say this: a while ago I was looking at a YouTube video in which two thirty-something bored wives from somewhere in the Midwest were explaining how to make next year’s tomato sauce, presenting it as some sort of bible of downright organic Italian cooking. So, between countless afternoon gin and tonics (don’t get me wrong, I love drinking and cooking, but this was plain old spring break getting drunk…), they proceeded to fill a huge pot with virtually everything they found around them. Different kinds of tomatoes (anything goes), garlic AND onion (pure blasphemy), coloured peppers and other vegetables (please?!), hot peppers AND paprika (Italian what???), and what not. By the end of the video they were so drunk they could barely speak, but were still able to put the cherry on the cake by putting all this mess through a blender! ARGH!

I don’t want to get into the perfect tomato sauce right now (it will surely come) but that’s what I call pure nonsense. It’s like shrimps on pizza. Like grated parmesan on seafood pasta. Like meatball spaghetti. Or like fettuccine Alfredo with cream!!! I mean, you can cook anything you want, just don’t call it Italian.

I realize I might sound pretentious here but I don’t care, really. I know what I’m talking about. Italy IS pretentious anyway, in everything it does. Why shouldn’t it be? It’s got the best of everything, and for the longest time! If you wish to eat Italian like the Italians do, and maybe learn something about italy in the process, you will follow me here.

Related: Photo Gallery: Baba Eat Ali First Courses (for larger versions of the photos below—some may call it food porn—please visit this gallery or click on the images to enlarge)