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The day Antonio Carluccio told me I was beautiful

PUBLISHED: 10:09 13 November 2017

File photo dated 16/11/00 of Celebrity chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio, who has died at the age of 80, his agent has said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday November 8, 2017. See PA story DEATH Carluccio. Photo credit should read: Michael Crabtree/PA Wire

File photo dated 16/11/00 of Celebrity chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio, who has died at the age of 80, his agent has said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday November 8, 2017. See PA story DEATH Carluccio. Photo credit should read: Michael Crabtree/PA Wire

Opinion: Sharon Griffiths remembers a truly charming encounter with chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio.

The British are traditionally rubbish at service. Unable to tell the difference between “service” and “servile,” we’d much rather be rude. Too many of us still think that looking after people is somehow beneath us. We’re getting better, but it’s a long haul.

Other nationalities have no such qualms. As a broad generalisation, they want to look after us, want us to be happy and are desolate if we’re not. The Italians are particularly good at this.

Antonio Carluccio, who died last week, was the epitome of Italian charm. It was impossible to be with him and not somehow feel happier. Even when things went wrong.

Years ago, a friend and I tried to get a table in his Covent Garden restaurant. We hadn’t booked. The restaurant was full with diners crammed in every corner. Carluccio himself was at the desk.

He explained, sadly, that he just couldn’t fit us in, just look, it was physically impossible, “even for two such beautiful women.” We knew it was total nonsense, but it was delightful nonsense. Then with extravagant gestures and sparkling eyes, he gave us a rose each and one of those big wrapped bon bons.

We drifted back into the street clutching our roses and sweeties, and felt boosted and amazingly special. It took us a while to realise we were cold, hungry and still had to find somewhere to eat.

Only Carluccio could turn rejection into something so good.

It’s an Italian thing and Carluccio wassomehow more Italian than most.

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