Louise Fili

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LOUISE FILI HAS CREATED identities for hordes of restaurants, designed packaging for Williams-Sonoma, and redesigned the actual Good Housekeeping seal of approval, so it’s hardly surprising that she is attuned to culinary pursuits: “Having grown up in a family of Italian immigrants, I was taught the importance of cooking and eating at a very early age. It is no accident that I design restaurant identities and food packaging for a living. I am always cooking, whether at home for my family or at the studio for my staff.”


Where did you buy your ingredients for this dish—a chain grocery store, a local grocer’s, a farmer’s market, a deli? I make this crostata in the summer, when I can buy fresh plums in the Union Square Greenmarket. For this article I needed to prepare it ahead of the season, so I bought the plums at Garden of Eden, a gourmet market in the neighborhood, along with the other ingredients. The ginger gelato was courtesy of my client, L’Arte del Gelato. They make amazing Sicilian artisan gelato.

Is Garden of Eden the place you usually buy food?

I buy some things there, or at Whole Foods. But I try to cook only with fresh, seasonal ingredients and therefore limit most of my shopping to the Greenmarket. I really hate the Garden of Eden logo! I have offered to redesign it and am still waiting to hear from them.

Were the ingredients you used cheap?

Out-of-season plums are expensive!

Is this a dish you often make? If so, why? If it’s something you’re trying for the first time, why did you decide to give it a shot?

I make it almost every weekend in the summer, once the plums are readily available.

Did you have any mishaps while making this dish, or did it go smoothly?

I always make a big mess with the flour. Pastry is not my forte.

After you prepared this meal for our photo shoot, did you share it with guests or anyone else?

The photographer had two helpings. My staff devoured the rest for breakfast the next morning.

Do you draw any connection between the food you like to make and the kind of design you do? Is your approach to one similar at all to your approach to the other?

Most of the cooking I do is Italian-inspired, as is my design work.

How important is presentation to you? Are there certain types of dishware you favor, or ways of arranging food?

I focus more on the food itself.

Do you think your relationship with food has changed much over the years? In what ways?

I’ve become much more conscious of organic produce, sustainability and local farming.

Do you listen to music while you cook?

No. I like to cook in silence. It is my own form of meditation.

Plum Pine-Nut Tart recipe

“I first tasted this in a pasticceria in Italy. Many years later, I found a recipe in Gourmet magazine which approximated my taste-memory of it. It’s available at Epicurious.com.”


  1. Sweet pastry dough

  2. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pine nuts

  3. 2 pounds firm-ripe red or purple plums (about 8)

  4. 1/2 cup confectioners sugar plus additional for dusting

  5. 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds

  6. Special equipment: a 14-inch pizza pan or a large baking sheet


  1. Let dough stand at room temperature until softened and malleable, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  2. While dough is standing, preheat oven to 375°F.

  3. In a baking pan toast 2 tablespoons pine nuts in middle of oven until golden, about 5 minutes, and reserve. Cut each plum lengthwise into 12 wedges. In a food processor pulse together remaining 1/4 cup pine nuts, 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and anise seeds until pine nuts are finely ground.

  4. In a baking pan toast 2 tablespoons pine nuts in middle of oven until golden, about 5 minutes, and reserve. Cut each plum lengthwise into 12wedges. In a food processor pulse together remaining 1/4 cup pine nuts,1/2 cup confectioners sugar and anise seeds until pine nuts are finelyground.

  5. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface 3 or 4 times to help it roll out smoothly, and form it into a disk. On a work surface overlap 2 pieces of wax paper to make a 17- to 18-inch square and dust with flour. Put dough on wax paper and dust dough lightly with flour. With a floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a 17-inch round (about 1/8-inch thick).

  6. To transfer dough to pizza pan, slide a large baking sheet under wax paper and invert pizza pan onto dough. Holding baking sheet and pizza pan together, flip dough onto pizza pan and carefully peel off wax paper. (Unwieldy as it may sound, use this same method for transferring dough to a baking sheet if you aren’t using a pizza pan.)

  7. Sprinkle dough with all but 2 tablespoons nut mixture, leaving a border of about 2 inches. Scatter plums over nut mixture a
    nd turn edge of dough over plums. Sprinkle plums with remaining nut mixture and reserved toasted pine nuts.

  8. Bake tart in middle of oven until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool tart in pan on a rack at least 20 minutes and transfer to a large wooden board. Tart may be made 4 hours ahead and kept, uncovered, at room temperature. Just before serving, lightly dust tart with additional confectioners sugar.