Italian Kitchen Royalty: The Granddaughter of a Queen, Ale Gambini
By Mary Kovach, Ph.D.
Originally published in ItalyUSA Magazine
Alessandra (Ale) Gambini is a Los Angeles-based chef who was born and raised in northern Italy. She is an entrepreneur who built her own multi-media platform: a cookbook, YouTube channel, web series, and blog. She’s brought the true Italian cuisine to the United States and kindly shares the secrets bestowed upon her by her grandmother to share with the world. Gambini is a humble woman with a generous appetite to convey her love of authentic Italian food. Her easy-going nature and enjoyable spirit make her recipes fun to try. While her go-to ingredient is Parmigiano Reggiano, she experiments with a variety of robust flavors in many traditional Italian dishes. She has a love and respect for both Italian and American cultures, raising her beautiful young daughter to speak both Italian and English fluently.
In this interview, Gambini shares the nature of Italian cuisine, her inspiration for cooking, her passion for buying local, and discusses her hidden talents.
Kovach: You hold cooking classes and teach specifically how to cook like an Italian. What does that mean – “cook like an Italian?”
Gambini: When I say “like an Italian,” I refer to Italians born, raised, and living in Italy. I was born and raised in beautiful Milano and spent the majority of my life in Italy! Italy is where I learned how to cook by spending hours and hours in my Nonna’s kitchen. I have very fond memories there.
Kovach: How does cuisine differ between the United States and Italy?
Gambini: Italian food and Italian-American food have some similarities, yet they also many differences. Italian-American cuisine is mostly influenced by the Italian immigrants’ traditions that originated in the beginning of the 19th century. The majority of these immigrants came from southern Italy and Sicily. The Italian cuisine itself is made of simple recipes with quality ingredients.
Kovach: You have a great YouTube channel – A Queen in the Kitchen. Who is the queen in which you named your channel after and how has she impacted your life?
Gambini: The queen that I refer to is my grandmother, Nonna Fernanda. She was my mentor both in life and in the kitchen. Everything I know about food is because of her and her influence.
Kovach: Your YouTube recipes are easy to make and your dishes burst with flavor. How do you come up with your recipes?
Gambini: Some of the recipes belong to the Italian cuisine, the ones I grew up with and I enjoyed my whole life. Other recipes are a combination of the traditional, with a twist of my own influence. Keep in mind that Italian cuisine is all about simplicity and the best quality ingredients. Once you’ve mastered the traditional dishes, you can add your very own touch.
Kovach: In collaboration with “I Love Italian Food” and the European Union, you created “Fresh Up Your Life!” a web series that you made to make people aware of healthier food options. What inspired you to do this?
Gambini: I’ve been collaborating with “I Love Italian Food” for many years. When they offered me the opportunity to collaborate on a project that promoted the extraordinary Italian fruits and veggies, I immediately said yes! I came up with some very simple, healthy, and delicious recipes that everyone can cook at home and in no time.
Kovach: What inspired you to write your own cookbook?
Gambini: Once again, my Nonna was my inspiration. When I moved to L.A. over a decade ago, I missed my family so much, and food was what always made me feel closer to them. My very first cookbook, “A Queen in the Kitchen,” is a collection of northern Italian cuisine recipes, mostly from my hometown of Milano.
Kovach: Why do you find it advantageous to buy local foods?
Gambini: I’m a huge fan of the Slow Food movement that promotes local food and traditional cooking. Slow Food was founded in Italy, by Carlo Petrini in the 1980s and has spread worldwide since them. The idea of Slow Food, is that it is an alternative to fast food. It encourages natural foods from local markets to help preserve the traditions of that area.
Kovach: Is there a particular region of Italy where you love the food above all others? Where it, and what is it that you love?
Gambini: Each and every Italian region has outstanding food. Personally, I love the Emilia Romagna region, where the majority of the PDO products (protected designation of origin) come from: Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella Bologna, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Moden, to name a few. I’m an egg pasta lover and what’s better that a plate of Tagliatelle col Ragù alla Bolognese?
Kovach: On your “OSDIA Interviews LIVE: Facebook interview, you said that your favorite dessert is tiramisu. However, you change up the traditional dessert quite a bit into different variations. What made you decide to enhance this otherwise traditional dish and what flavors do you now prefer?
Gambini: Tiramisú is my favorite Italian dessert and once you have mastered the traditional recipe, you can try different versions. I developed the rose infused assam tea tiramisu, and it’s just delicious. I’m flattered to say that with the picture of this dessert, I recently won a “Taste Award” in the food photography category! (Photo below.)
Kovach: You and your husband grew up in northern Italy and were musicians before you came to the U.S. You are so successful with all of your endeavors, what other hidden talents do you have?
Gambini: Thank you so much for saying that. Music was my first love and good food always played a huge role in my life. I don’t know if I have any other talent but I hope being a good mother to our daughter and fur-mom to our two cats is more than enough!
You can learn to cook with Gambini in a variety of places – Instagram (instagram.com/alegambinidt), Facebook (facebook.com/aqueeninthekitchen), or on her website (aqueeninthekitchen.com). Buon appetito!