Before becoming the executive chef of his own Italian restaurant, Chef Michelangelo Aliaga of Primo Italia in Torrance dominated the kitchens of top restaurants Cecconi’s, LA Spiga, and Maschera. Aliaga traversed hardships and multiple countries to get to where he is today. Born of Italian immigrant parents in Peru, Aliaga’s love for cooking sparked from his grandfather’s own passion. He spent years of cooking and training in Spain, until he moved to Tuscany to learn under the tutelage of historical Italian chefs.
Aliaga has cooked for celebrities and socialites, but his main goal has always been to appeal to the people who truly love and appreciate Italian food. And that’s exactly what he is doing now – making handmade pastas and Italian region-specific dishes like Polpo alla Griglia and Porchetta at Primo Italia. On a recent visit, I got to try out some of the dishes myself and they are all so delicious and unqiue! The Picci Toscani al Tartufo Nero with black truffles is heavenly and the Filet Mignon was cooked to perfection. I had their gelato for dessert and it was the perfect way to unwind from a busy work day.
Chef Michelangelo was nice enough to take the time out to answer a few questions for us about Primo Italia and his experiences.
What is the inspiration behind the menu at Primo Italia?
We are all about creating dishes that are as authentic and traditional as possible- we even go as far as importing ingredients straight from Italy when possible.
What are some of your favorite dishes on the menu? What is the most popular dish on the menu?
Rigattoni alla matriciana because it’s a historical and unique pasta that has simple flavors. As well as our Testaroli, where we use a recipe and cooking technique that dates as far back as the 1300s and is recorded as one of the first pasta dishes ever. It has so much history and we take pride in being one of the few restaurants serving it.
How do you feel that your experiences in Peru, Spain, and Italy shaped you as a chef?
European discipline combined with the colorful freedom of Peru made me a strict chef but also gave me a chance to fall in love with the tradition of each country. When it comes to my cooking style, it has helped me to play and combine products, ingredients and techniques to improve a dish.
What was the first dish you ever cooked and what was that experience like?
I was very young when I started to get involved in the kitchen. My grandpa always had such passion in making some of the best pastas and stews and I would take any opportunity possible to lend a hand. Just being able to get in the kitchen was exciting for me.
Ever since I started, cooking has been my life around the clock. I am always looking to improve in all aspects of my career and I could not be more proud that I have the chance to do just that at Primo.