Alex Guarnaschelli Talks Cannoli, Flash Mobs, And Her New Show In Tuscany - Exclusive Interview

A lot of people have a lot of opinions about the best food movie of all time. If you ask Alex Guarnachelli, she'll tell you her favorite is Jon Favreau's "Chef." Whether you've seen her on popular food TV shows like "The Kitchen," "Chopped," "Supermarket Stakeout," and "Iron Chef," or you know her as the daughter of the cookbook author Maria Guarnaschelli, there's no denying that Guarnaschelli is an iconic fixture in the culinary industry.

Her quick sense of humor and vivacious demeanor lit up the stage on February 26 during her cooking demo at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, where she also was honored at a special dinner and hosted a "Godfather"-themed Italian feast. She's also got a new show, "Ciao House," on the horizon, which has many of her fans excited for the future. Despite her hectic schedule, Guarnaschelli made time to give an exclusive interview to Tasting Table and discuss everything from flash mob dances to good cannoli and "The Bear."

Alex Guarnaschelli was honored with a flash mob of Food Network talent

You were honored at this year's tribute dinner on Saturday evening. How did that go?

What an unbelievable experience. I was surrounded by longtime colleagues that have grown into wonderful friends. We did a flash mob dance, my daughter gave a speech, and we were treated to a roundup of the previous tribute honorees. It was like prom night for me! What a privilege.

[Was there] anything anyone did to celebrate you that was memorable?

My friend Antonia Lofaso organized a flash mob dance that a lot of Food Network talent rehearsed together. It was amazing what a sense of community [was] forged between all of us. We are often on our individual shows and rarely all together to do anything. Other than my daughter's speech, which was the most special of all, the dance was so fun.

Good texture makes good cannoli

What are your tips for making good cannoli?

The most important thing to understand about a cannoli is that you can make the shells and the filling in advance, but you can't fill the cannoli until you're ready to eat it. Additionally, the texture that crushed pistachios or tiny chocolate chips adds is critical. It wouldn't be a cannoli without those textures and without a tiny hint of lemon in the ricotta. Go to Ferrara Bakery on Grand Street or Rocco's on Bleecker [in New York City] and sample the examples.

What do people get wrong when they try making Italian food?

Because a lot of Italian American dishes start with pasta, that's an important food group to prepare correctly. People tend not to salt their pasta water enough, so it sticks together as it cooks. People also put oil in their pasta water. It's like putting suntan lotion on and then jumping right into a swimming pool! The sauce you make slides right off the oily noodles. As we learned from "Goodfellas," always brown your meatballs and then finish cooking them in the sauce.

Elevate your cooking game with red wine vinegar, anchovies, and grainy mustard

What are three ingredients people should be using to up their cooking game?

A bottle of red wine vinegar is cheap, and a splash of it anywhere, like a gravy, sauce, or even apple pie filling, can really perk up other flavors and bring them to life.

You may not love anchovies, but the oil in the tin can of anchovies is priceless and the foundation of delicious things like Caesar salad dressing. Buy a small tin of anchovies and drizzle a little bit of the oil anywhere you put Parmesan cheese.

Grainy mustard is also underrated. You get great texture from the mustard seeds, and a fabulous mix of acidity and creaminess comes from this nondairy source. I absolutely love it.

Chicken thighs with tomato [is] one of your most beloved recipes. Why are thighs better to use than breasts?

People love to say that chicken breasts are boring because they have no fat. I honestly love both cuts of chicken. Thighs are good because they have richness and a great skin that certainly adds a layer of flavor and heartiness to something acidic like tomato sauce. That said, if you slow-cook chicken breasts and are careful not to overcook them, they can be just as luscious.

Alex Guarnaschelli's favorite food movie is Jon Favreau's Chef

What's your favorite food movie, and why?

I absolutely worship the old-school classics, like "Big Night" and "Eat Drink Man Woman," but my favorite is Jon Favreau's "Chef." It beautifully illustrates the frustration and depression that many chefs feel at various moments in their career. Sometimes chefs feel stuck or lost. Sometimes their own kid, a rough night at the restaurant, or a beautifully made grilled cheese sandwich can relight the way.

Did you see "The Bear"? What did you think about it?

Any chef has mixed emotions when they see years and years of toiling over a stove boiled down to a cooking show. That said, a lot of what "The Bear" illustrates is true about restaurants and what a wonky, wonderful family you can end up with from a restaurant kitchen. When the chef sells some of his clothes to get the meat he needs for dinner service, those types of twisted choices made complete sense. The joy the cooks get from executing a perfect chocolate cake or making a risotto that a critic plucks from obscurity as something exceptional — those are the types of moments and personally rewarding payoffs that chefs look for time and time again. I loved it.

Guarnaschelli is very excited about her new show set in Tuscany

What projects do you have coming up that we should look out for?

I'm most excited about the premiere of my new show, "Ciao House," with co-host Gabriele Bertaccini. It premieres April 16 at 8 p.m. on Food Network. The show is a competition between 10 chefs for the enriching culinary adventure of a lifetime. It's set in Tuscany, which is where Gabriele grew up, and the mixture of food lessons and drama makes for such a great watch. Super excited about it.

Your show "The Kitchen" on Saturdays is great — are you guys all friends in real life?

We really are. We hang out together. We eat pizza together. We bicker like siblings. We agree to disagree. Most of all, we share a great love of food and a desire to share our various points of view and expertise with our loyal audience.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Want more Alex Guarnaschelli? Check out her new show, "Ciao House," on Food Network, premiering on April 16 at 8 p.m., or check out some of her recipes on or And learn more about the South Beach Wine & Food Festival at