Today we present an interview to Maico Campilongo from Calabria, a strong italian guy living in US since 2005 with his brother Franco. Campilongo brothers are the owners of Terún (in Piedmontese slang, Terún alias “Terrone” is a derogatory term for Southern Italians farmers), the most popular Italian restaurant in California. Together with Terún co-owner, best friend and Apulian Executive Chef Kristyan d’Angelo, Maico and Franco are the ones behind the success story of restaurant-pizzeria Terún with A UNIQUE MISSION: Italian Quality Food! After three years in business, brothers and business partners Franco and Maico Campilongo were having so much fun and success with their first restaurant, Terún (on Palo Alto’s California Avenue), that when opportunity knocked – just a few doors down and across the street – they answered. The new restaurant, iTalico, serve “very special pasta dishes (traditional with a modern twist)”; an authentic 100% Temple of Premium Pasta, with the goal to tell all the passion and love for the best italian food in the world. Terún and iTalico, indeed, are “two completely different things,” Maico Campilongo said.
Hi Maico, thank you so much for your availability! Pizza & Pasta are probably the most delicious food in the world. What was your mission and motivation to open your first restaurant-pizzeria?
We lived in a city for tourist like Scalea (in the Calabria region of Southern Italy), and we worked as waiter and barman in the restaurant-pizzeria owned by our uncle since 1987. I had the opportunity to meet the Apulian Executive Chef Krystian d’Angelo in 2006. He was the Executive Chef of an Italian restaurant in Palo Alto. One day I was at Krystian’s house to drink coffee and I saw a pala for pizza. “What do you need it for?” I asked. “My mission – Krystian said – is open the best pizzeria in California.” In 2012 I happened to be with Kristyan d’Angelo not far from Los Angeles, in the local branch of the AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana). We were participating in an intensive three-day course that allowed us to receive the AVPN certificate for our Terún. I remember those three intense days: we repeated the protocols endless times, so as to be able to pull a perfect Neapolitan pizza out of the oven. The dream that you wish will come true: if you live in Los Angeles, your idols are actors and actresses; if you live in the Silicon Valley, your idols are CEO and Owners of Worldwide Brand such as Google (Larry Page), Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg) and Apple (Lauren Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow). Furthermore, I worked also at Caffè Venetia with Kevin Systrom, one of the founder of Instagram. I met so many famous people at Terún and iTalico: Andrè Borschberg (co-founder of the Solar Impulse Project, the first ever round-the-world solar flight, successfully completed in July 2016), Oprah Winfrey (American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist), Jeff Bezos (founder, chairman, and CEO of Amazon), Lance Armstrong, Bob Roll (American former professional cyclist, author and television sports commentator) Federico Faggin (Italian physicist, inventor and entrepreneur, widely known for designing the first commercial microprocessor) and more!
Congratulations, what an amazing job! After three years in business with Terún, you opened iTalico with your brother Franco, on Palo Alto’s California Avenue, just a few doors down and across the street. Coincidence or Strategy?
When Nick Czap (journalist of New York Times who wrotes an article about Terún in 2014) visited us at iTalico, we explained to him our mission: while the emphasis at Terún is on Neapolitan-style pizzas, Chef Kristyan d’Angelo has made pasta the foundation of the menu at iTalico. I worked with my brother Franco in a californian restaurant named “PASTA?” for many years. “PASTA?” was an Italian fast food 100% focused on Pasta: absolutely brilliant! More than 10 years of success, then the closure of the restaurant by reason of bad management. It’s not easy to manage a restaurant: 90% of restaurants fail in first year statistically, and 60% in the third year of business. One of the goals of our project at iTalico is to give pasta the role it deserves in the Italian-American restaurant scene. We want to preserve tradition while speaking about the present with an eye on the future of Italian cuisine; we want to dispel urban myths according to which pasta is has no quality or is fattening (my father has always had pasta both for lunch and supper, he’s 75 and he’s not obese, he’s great).
Recently (it’s not the first time) New York Times talked about you in an article about the high quality of italian pastas. We were proud and happy to discover Rustichella d’Abruzzo on your menu. What was the first recipe with Rustichella?
Paccheri Rustichella d’Abruzzo “aglio e olio” (garlic and extra virgin olive oil) with ‘nduja, grana padano shavings, cherry tomatoes and basil, a perfect mix and balance of Calabria and Abruzzo flavors, amazing! This recipe is not on the menu, because we prefere include it as “last minute special recipe.” Our dishes represent the history and passion of the producers. We have built trust in relationship with Rustichella d’Abruzzo during the years, thanks to the strong relationships with our suppliers, especially with The Chefswarehouse (a firm selling food for restaurants) and Big Ciccio (alias Gilberto Frosoni). He’s a trade consultant and works for Chefs’ Warehouse. Gilberto has every advantage in selling Chefs’ Warehouse’s excellent products, he’s a romantic Italian man and soon to retire. Furthermore, our friend Rosetta Costantino from Calabria, recommended us Rustichella d’Abruzzo. And the rest is the high quality of Rustichella since 1924.
Dinner with Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Federico Faggin: 3 pasta dishes paired with 3 wines. What would be your choice?
It’s not easy.. I try to do my best!
Mark Zuckerberg: Paccheri Rustichella d’Abruzzo “aglio e olio” (garlic and extra virgin olive oil) with ‘nduja, grana padano shavings, cherry tomatoes and basil, paired with a glass of Librandi Duca San Felice 100% Gaglioppo, a calabrian vine variety absolutely special.
Jeff Bezos: Paccheri Rustichella d’Abruzzo with braised rib eye, tomato sauce, carrots, celery and parmesan, a perfect match of carbs and proteins for a sportsman like Bezos, paired with a glass of Rosset Terroir vine variety 100% Cornalin D.O.P., a strong wine from the Aosta Valley, the best choice for this dish.
Now, I’m so hungry it honestly.. but before tell me about your passion for cycling and food!
You are right! Sometimes I think: “I would to take part in Giro d’Italia with Terún Cycling Team!” Here in Silicon Valley we created with passion and love the “bike-friends” project, focusing all the activities on Terún brand. Me and my brother Franco are very passionate cyclists for many years. Racing bike or mountain bike? No difference, we love cycling! And good food and sport is our add value. Every year, we organize the “Terún Ride”, a funny bicycle riding experience among friends: we started much too early in the morning from Terún (after coffee) for 120-140 km of “freedom”. After we’ve throttled our legs with a hard and funny ride, we are ready to eat a super Pizza at Terún, paired with beer and wine. This is always the best way to eat together with friends! “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”, Albert Einstein said. We try to do our best everyday.