Q&A: Emma Humphreys, General Manager, Carluccio’s, Intu, Derby

Carluccio’s is the latest name to enthral diners in Derby. Having been open just over a month, the restaurant is a gorgeous space serving up delicious treats and authentic Italian food with a contemporary twist.

I dined at Carluccio’s Derby earlier this week (see original review here). What struck me is the diverse menu selection, including one that is vegan friendly. It is National Vegan Month, so vegans may be interested in knowing that Carluccio’s have a standalone menu that is both vegetarian and vegan friendly. You can see this menu by clicking here.

I caught up with General Manager Emma Humphreys, who has been with Carluccio’s for the past four years and who is tasked with overseeing the running of Carluccio’s Derby Intu branch.

Whilst chatting to Emma, we spoke about one of the dishes that is no longer on the menu – penne alla luganica. This was one of the first dishes I tried at Carluccio’s around 10 years’ ago. It was this dish that made me fall in love with pasta, and the Carluccio brand. This is an impassioned plea to the powers that be at Carluccio’s. Please please would you consider bringing back this heavenly dish? Food for thought.

Back to the lovely chat with Emma. Here is what she had to say about the brand-new menu which for the first time ever, includes pizza, and how she wants diners to feel when they eat at Carluccio’s.

Why choose Derby as a spot for Carluccio’s new opening? What do you think Carluccio’s can bring to Derby’s dining scene?

Carluccio’s was looking to have more presence in the Midlands (we already have Nottingham and Leicester sites). A lot of people wanted Derby, we had customers coming in requesting this all the time. Derby was one of the places where we just needed to get into, so people don’t have far to travel and it’s on their doorstep.

How do you want diners to feel when they’re tucking into your delicious dishes?

We want everyone to have a great time and feel part of the family. All our dishes are based on traditional Italian recipes. We want people to sit here and understand the simplicity of flavours. We pride ourselves on using fresh ingredients, so we just want to deliver the best. Think of it as food like your mum used to make.

What can Carluccio’s fans expect from the brand in the next year? Any exciting menu changes you can tell us about?

We’ve had our biggest change ever. Derby was our first site for this to happen. It’s a new vision, where we’ve incorporated a more modern day ethos. We’ve had a massive overhaul of the menu and introduced pizza for the first time. There’s a more open plan dining scene, we’ve changed staff uniform, and there’s a more relaxed vibe. On the menu front, every six months, we change menus to go with the seasons, so spring- and summer-time will have more salads and antipasti.

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What do you think makes a good Italian dish?

It must have amazing flavour, but you don’t want it to be over complicated. One of our, or Antonio’s philosophies, is ‘MOFMOF’, which is “maximum of flavour minimum of fuss”. That’s what we aim for, using simple, good quality ingredients.

Antonio Carluccio said: “If I could take only the basics of Italian Food with me to a desert island, I’d choose hard grained flour, tomatoes, olive oil, parmesan cheese… basil and garlic.” What dish can you make using just these ingredients?

I’d make bruschetta, it’s on the menu now too! Or perhaps a simple pasta sauce, with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and basil.

What are the bestsellers from the menu, or does it vary from region to region?

It varies from region to region, but we definitely have Antonio’s recommended dishes, including penne giardiniera (giant Pugliese penne with courgette and fried spinach balls). This dish is a big favourite and has diverse appeal. We also serve pizza, and I know some of our sites don’t, so it’s a big thing for us. Everybody loved the penne alla luganica, which only recently came off the menu.

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I’m seeing a resurgence of deli-larder-restaurants across the country, yet this is something that Carluccio’s championed from the early days. How ahead of its time do you think the Carluccio’s brand is, and what do you do to try and stay ahead of the competition?

Antonio started with the deli. That was what he originally opened. He started sourcing amazing quality ingredients, making them available in the UK over 20 years ago. That had never been done before and it was new territory. He kept that going through the restaurants as well. We’ve always been ahead with the deli plus our products all come direct from Italy, which sets us apart from others.

Have you been to Carluccio’s in Derby’s Intu? I would love to know how you got on. In the meantime, if you want to visit Carluccio’s please hop onto their website here or call 01332 367645 to make a reservation.

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