When it comes to mushrooms Antonio Carluccio certainly knows his onions.

I only have to breathe the word fungi during our interview and the Italian-born cook is away, talking knowledgeably about his favourite subject.

“In Italy everyone goes picking mushrooms in season, as a child you follow your parents and they teach you and you learn slowly what they are about,” explains the 78-year-old restaurateur, who grew up in the wooded north-westerly region of Italy.

“And the passion starts there. And it’s really beautiful – it’s almost a treasure hunt.”

Now he plans to impart some of that zeal at this year’s St Albans and Harpenden Food and Drink Festival, with a stall dedicated to varieties of fabulous fungi.

Run by Antonio’s restaurant chain Carluccio’s, the stall will feature a host of interesting varieties – from the nutty Porcini, richly flavoured Chanterelle, to the sweet and crunchy Hedgehog Mushroom and the black, but truffle-flavoured, Horn of Plenty.

“We do this to highlight that this is the best season for mushrooms,” explains Antonio, nicknamed the "godfather of Italian gastronomy" for his long-running passion for cooking food from his home country.

“And because it’s my personal hobby, I would like to show people what it means to go into the woods, pick mushrooms and eat them as well.

“When people go to the market they can see them, smell them, buy them and cook them.”

A variety of advice will also be on offer at the stall for people who are interested in picking their own fungi in woodland around St Albans.

However Antonio offers a warning, and says: “I know that Britain is a little bit starved of knowledge, most of the people don’t go to pick mushrooms here but they buy them in supermarkets.

“People can pick their own mushrooms but they should know about it – there are also some poisonous mushrooms and knowledge is paramount. It’s a question of death or life!”

And the Carluccio’s mushroom-fest doesn’t end with the food fair, as the restaurant - with a branch in Christopher Place - has a range of special fungi-themed dishes available until the end of October, including mushroom soup, mushroom pasta, mushroom risotto and mushroom arancini - rice balls filled with mushroom.

As a boy Antonio enjoyed delicious food cooked by his mother. Then, while studying in Vienna, he missed her cooking so much he began to recreate the dishes she would make him at home and so his love-affair with cookery began to take flight.

After moving to the UK in 1975, Antonio began to work at the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden and began to attract attention from TV producers.

He made his first appearance on BBC2 in 1983 talking about Mediterranean food, and was later asked to write his first cookery book - An Invitation to Italian Cooking.

Antonio has written more than 22 cookery books - some of which are dedicated to mushrooms - and he is now working on his latest title which focuses on vegetables and is due out next year.

However, the gruffly-spoken gastronome, who in 1998 was awarded the Commendatore OMRI by the president of Italy for services to Italian cuisine, maintains he is not a ‘chef’ but rather a ‘cook’, as he had no formal training.

“The cook does it for love and passion and the chef they do it also for love and passion, but also for profession,” he muses, adding “I learned it all myself.”

Carluccio’s mushroom stall forms just one part of a myriad events taking place in St Albans and Harpenden for this year’s food festival.

At the Courtyard Cafe in Hatfield Road you can enjoy delicious treats while perusing a selection of work by local artists who are inspired by food (until Monday, October 5), or watch college students battle it out to serve the best meal at Oaklands College’s Great Food Fight (Thursday, October 1, 7pm).

Over in Harpenden, learn a thing or two about wine while enjoying a glass of fine Chianti, Rioja, Amarone or Rias Baixas at The Skew Bridge’s World of Wine tutoring session (Thursday, October 1, 7pm).

For younger food-lovers, celebrate all things culinary with a hands-on craft session at Marlborough Road Methodist Church in St Albans (Friday, October 2, 10.30am).

At The Sung, wave goodbye to summer with a barbecue and outside bar, enjoy music at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks or take part in the Supper Club’s Food Quiz at The Courtyard Cafe in Hatfield Road (Friday, October 2, 7pm, 8pm, 7.30pm respectively).

Enjoy a taste – or more appropriately a glug – of Germany in St Albans with a mini Oktoberfest at The Foragers at the Verulam Arms, with live oompah music, Oktoberfest beers from Munich and traditional German food (Saturday, October 3, noon until late).

Learn to photograph produce properly with a session around St Albans’ market led by professional photographer Stephanie Belton before learning about the history of beers at Verulamium Museum (Saturday, October 3, 9am and 4.30pm).

St Albans and Harpenden Food and Drink Festival, various venues, until October 5. Details: facebook.com/stalbansfoodanddrinkfestival