JAMIE Oliver has paid an emotional tribute to celebrity chef and former boss Antonio Carluccio.
The restaurateur, dubbed the godfather of Italian gastronomy, passed away aged 80 after a fall at his home, his agent confirmed earlier today.
Reminiscing on his time with Carluccio, the Essex cook said: "He was my first London Boss at the Neal Street restaurant 25 years ago.
"He was such a charismatic charming don of all things Italian!! Always hanging out the front door of the restaurant with a big fat Cigar a glass of something splendid and his amazing fuzzy white hair.
"My love goes out out to his partner Sabina and his family and his dear and close friends on this very sad day.
"Viva Antonio Carluccio. Cook a feast up there mate xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx."
Hi guys with great sadness I’ve heard that Antonio Carluccio passed away this morning. He was my first London Boss at the Neal Street restaurant 25 years ago which was an institution and Mecca of wild mushrooms where I had the pleasure of working for him. He was such a charismatic charming don of all things Italian!! Always hanging out the front door of the restaurant with a big fat Cigar a glass of something splendid and his amazing fuzzy white hair . The imagine here is from his great cook book that first got me hooked on Pasta which I found so very inspirational and drove me to work for him. I also had the pleasure of making and producing his TV show the “Two Greedy Italians “ with his life long best friend and partner in crime @gennarocontaldo who were hilarious together !! he was an amazing food ambassador that will be sorely missed. My love goes out to his partner Sabina his family and his dear and close friends on this very sad day. Viva Antonio Carluccio @cookcarluccio Cook a feast up there mate ?xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
A statement from the chef's agent stated: "It is with great sadness that we announce that Commendatore Antonio Carluccio OBE sadly passed away this morning."
A regular on TV shows like Saturday Morning Kitchen, the chef was the founder of Carluccio's restaurant chain, working it into a £90million empire with 90 restaurants and more than 3,200 employees.
A statement from the restaurants read: "We are incredibly saddened by the news that Antonio Carluccio, our founder, passed away on Wednesday.
"Antonio built Carluccio’s from one restaurant to the fantastic brand it is today.
"It isn’t just Antonio’s name above our doors, but his heart and soul lives and breathes throughout our restaurants.
"Antonio was an OBE, OMRI and a much loved and respected Italian cookery writer, cook, restaurateur, food expert and TV personality.
"He was regarded as the Godfather of Italian cooking. Antonio has been a huge inspiration to many of us and his energy, zest for life and sense of humour will be greatly missed."
Carluccio also received the Commendatore, the equivalent of a British knighthood, from the Italian government in 1998 for services to Italy.
— Antonio Carluccio (@CookCarluccio) November 6, 2017
The chef had only shared his last recipe two days ago – a "winter warming soup for the first frost of the year".
His knowledge, achievement and contribution in cooking even saw him receive an OBE from the Queen in 2007.
Antonio had a colourful life after being raised in the rural northwest of Italy, having briefly worked as a sales representative for a typewriter manufacturer.
But the chef soon traded it in for work in restaurants, opening up the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden, London, in 1981 which traded for 26 years.
He was married three times, first to Gerda, then Francesca then to Priscilla.
He was later with archaeologist Sabine.
Such sad news about Antonio Carluccio a true gent and honest man ?
— Candice Brown (@CandiceBrown) November 8, 2017
Antonio was awarded the AA Hospitality Lifetime Achievement award in 2012.
In a tribute, Masterchef critic William Sitwell said: "The saddest news. One of the loveliest people, and a really wonderful friend, Antonio Carluccio, has died."
In a touching tribute, he shared memories of the chef, writing: "He had such warmth and at 80 great energy.
"He was only working in Australia very recently.
"It is so sad but what an absolute joy to know that he really was a friend. Every mushroom growing quietly beneath a pile of leaves in one of the secret woods that only he knew about might shed a little tear knowing he will never pick one of them again."
Great British Bake Off star Candice Brown added: "Such sad news about Antonio Carluccio a true gent and honest man."
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