Chef profile - Gip Dammone, of Salvo’s trattoria in Leeds

Jill Turton talks to Gip Dammone, of Salvo’s trattoria in Leeds.

Gip Dammone.

Busy, buzzing, informal and relaxed, this joyful Headingley trattoria has been dispensing reliable pizza and pasta and more to a grateful clientele for over five decades. Salvatore Dammone opened Salvo’s in 1975 supported by sons Gip and John and his floury-fingered brother Pinu, best remembered for belting out operatic arias while throwing his pizza dough.

So how does a hectic, close packed, sociable restaurant handle a pandemic? How do you create that buzz with half the tables and fewer customers? And then how do you cope with the hammer blow of lockdown and Tier 3? According to Gip Dammone, by good management and a massive dose of optimism.

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“We’ve been through other tough times and ridden them out. We’ve been doing this long enough, that I think we can ride this one too,” he says.

Salvo’s has been serving pizza and more for 50 years.

What’s the first dish you cooked? Eggs. My mum and dad were both working. Mum shopped every day for food like an Italian so there was nothing in the fridge. I had the idea of dropping an egg into a pan of water. I’d no idea there was such a thing as a poached egg.

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Who or what has been your food inspiration? My family: aunts, cousins. Uncle Pinu would go to the fish market at 4.30am to get the fresh fish off the boats or they’d collect a massive pan of snails from the hillside. I’m influenced by the chefs we’ve had at Salvo’s. If our current chef Oliver Edwards has an idea I’m happy to let him fly. John Lyons was here for two years and brought sous vide, dryers, freezers – he was an inspiration.

What was your first cookery book? I was given Ceserani and Kinton’s Practical Cookery when I went to Thomas Danby College in 1972. In my first job I was told to make 360 Yorkshire puddings. Ceserani’s recipes only served four. I had to scale up. I was mixing it for a month. The Silver Spoon cookbook was given to every Italian woman when she got married. I’ve got my mum’s here from 1952, written in Italian. The pages are all yellowed and it smells great.

Who would you love to have for dinner? I’m a music fan, so Rosanne Cash and Roy Ayers. I’d love to have my mum and dad back and Georgio Locatelli – I love chatting with chefs, any chefs.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Spaghetti, I’m obsessed with spaghetti. And I love crumble. I make a crumble mix and keep it in the freezer. I always have scampi in the freezer. Cheap hot dogs in a squishy bun and it’s fish and chips once a fortnight.

What ingredient or utensil could you not live without? My big heavy iron pan. A thin one has nothing to hold the heat. Once my pan has warmed up it retains the heat. Two knives. Everything can be done with a chef’s knife and an 8-inch serrated knife. I use loads of parsley because I think it’s good for me.

What did you do during the lockdown? Walking but only a little bit. I’ve started doing demonstrations for Salvo’s Facebook page. Nothing fancy or showing off, none of that four egg yolks nonsense.

What are your plans going forward for Salvo’s? Our general manager, Paul Smith, is making sure it’s safe. I don’t know about others in what’s left of our industry, but I think our business is fairly resilient. We have 50 years of customers and there has been a great outpouring of support.

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