ANTONIO Carluccio, who first named Malton as Yorkshire's Food Capital, has died at the age of 80.

The celebrity chef and restaurateur was a great supporter of the annual event and attended twice.

Tom Naylor-Leyland, director of the Malton Food Lovers Festival, said: "It is with immense sadness that we note the passing of Antonio Carluccio. Godfather of Italian cuisine, chef, restauranteur, writer, businessman and supporter of Malton.

As a visitor to the town in the last decade it was his humour, intellect and charm that touched so many people. On his first visit to Malton his ideas proved inspirational and through his support helped the development of the town as a foodie destination. As well as appearing at several food festivals, he coined the phrase "Yorkshire’s Food Capital” and also memorably adopted a local pig, naming it Sophia Loren.

He loved a coffee at Malton Relish chatting with owner Sophie who I know he always had a laugh with. It was only last year that he visited Malton for his fourth and final occasion cooking in the Milton Rooms and serving gelato in Groovy Moo with the assembled crowd in hysterics. 

Tom added: "He was gentle, amusing, clever and with an enormous and astonishing knowledge of food and gastronomy. He will be truly missed by his many friends in Malton and will no doubt be remembered for his great achievements around the world, his awards and by being the Godfather of Italian Cuisine.  

To many of us here in town he certainly felt like a godfather to Malton as well."

A statement from the Italian chef's agent said: "It is with great sadness that we announce that Commendatore Antonio Carluccio OBE sadly passed away this morning."

Carluccio, dubbed the Godfather of Italian gastronomy, was known for his restaurant chain Carluccio's and for appearing on BBC Two series Two Greedy Italians along with chef Gennaro Contaldo.

Carluccio opened the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden in 1981, when he was named runner-up Sunday Times Cook of the Year.

The restaurant was patronised by the Prince of Wales and Sir Elton John and launched the career of Jamie Oliver before it closed in 2007.

He co-founded the high street restaurant chain Carluccio's in 1999 and was awarded the AA hospitality lifetime achievement award in 2012.

He later sold his interest in the restaurant chain but maintained involvement from a distance.

Brought up in the country's north-west region as one of six children, Carluccio briefly worked as a journalist in Turin before moving to Vienna and then Germany, and eventually to London to work as a wine merchant, before devoting himself to restaurants.

Carluccio has written more than a dozen books based on Italian food.

He received the Commendatore, the equivalent of a British knighthood, from the Italian government in 1998 for services to Italy.

In 2007, Carluccio received an OBE from the Queen for his services to the catering industry.