“They had a good time making fun of us,” said Mr. Pellegrino, adding that if the party had acted the same in a local trattoria, “they would have gotten a kick” in the behind.

Informed of the accusation of rudeness, Ms. DeRuiter was appalled. “The attempts by the chefs of Bros’ to blame their clientele for the quality of the service received,” she wrote in an email, “is the antithesis of what makes a good restaurant.”

Misunderstood masterpiece or lousy meal, a richly deserved excoriation or hatchet job, what is clear is that Mr. Pellegrino had unexpectedly emerged as the ultimate caricature of the self-obsessed haute cuisine chef. Even more than his Michelin star, that marks how far he has come.

Mr. Pellegrino lives with Ms. Potì in nearby Scorrano, where he was born and raised and where the authorities recently disbanded city hall for its mafia infiltration. His father “had problems with the law,” he said, and his mother prepared typical dishes like horse meat in the kitchen of the family farm and agritourism hotel, where he rode horses with his two little brothers. She told them that one would be a cop, the other a crook. He insisted he would be “a chef with a chain of restaurants.”

Mr. Pellegrino said that culinary dream helped him avoid the criminality that captured many of his friends, but so did the discipline he learned playing rugby. Bros’ restaurant now has its own Bros’ Rugby Club, which brings local players into the kitchen and the restaurant’s foreign interns and staff, sometimes apparently unwillingly, into the gym and onto the pitch.

“Team spirit,” he said.


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