Frankie Dettori is described by many experts as the greatest jockey of all time, he is also one of the preeminent members of London’s huge Italian community. Ahead of the Royal Ascot Race festival, the centrepiece in Britain’s racing calendar, which opens tomorrow, Swide caught up with the gregarious Italian.
London has a very large and important Italian community how do you fit into it?
I am integrated with London as I have my restaurants there “Sette” in Sydney Street which is a pure regional Italian restaurant and I have “Frankies” in Knightsbridge and Stamford Bridge/Chelsea Football Club with Marco Pierre White. I am in London as often as the demands of the day job will allow and I am often racing at a track near London. I am also very involved in a new show called “Top Hat” which is on at The Aldwych and is doing really well.
In what ways do you identify with your Italian roots?
My mother lives in Milan and we have a family house in a very wild part of Sardinia so I am always there plus we ski in Cervinia every Christmas. I rode, for instance, in Rome last Sunday so I am there every month.
Which ‘Italianisms’ do you hold onto, and which English habits have you assimilated?
I eat Italian all the time unless I have a rare Sunday off then I go for the English roast with Yorkshire pudding!
How does the Italian horse racing industry differ from that of England?
The Italian horse racing is under huge economic pressure at the moment and needs much more support from within the country. In England we also have low levels of prize money but there are international owners and the best bloodstock in the world is in England and Ireland.
Is there an area or place in London that reminds you of home?
My restaurant “Sette” is as close to Italy as you can be.....lots of noise and great food!
Are you aware of an Italian history/tradition in the city of London?
Not really, but all over London you can see the parts of Italy that the English brought back with them from their European travels.
Will you attend any Olympic events during the games in London?
Sadly I will be riding but I am carrying the Olympic flame in July at Ascot, which is a huge honour.
What do you like most about Londoners?
The football clubs, the cabs and the fact that they are proud of their city, which is a world leader in food, fashion, theatre and finance.
You fly a flag for Italian fashion, you are always impeccably turned out. How would you describe your dress sense?
I like all of the Italian main brands and I either wear suits or upmarket casual gear. My appearance mirrors my performance and I am expected to promote my own sport so a classic look is important.
Do you consider yourself an ‘Anglophile’?
Yes I have been here since I was 13 but my heart and soul are Italian.
Interview by Hugo Mc Cafferty