Sciacca (AG) - Italy
I joined the hospitality industry when I was just a teenager, full of expectations, enthusiasm and willing to learn.
I attended the Professional Institute ‘Sen. G. Molinari’ in Sicily, and obtained a degree in Hospitality in 2003, and that’s when I decided I wanted to become a Chef. I had the chance to attend and complete many courses and seminars during and after high school.
I started working as Head Chef for Accor Hotels in Italy in 2004. There, I had the chance to gain higher confidence and capability in administrating a kitchen team, and overall improve my technique.
After 4 years I moved to London, willing to improve my English skills and try something new. With some tenacity and a bit of luck I found work at Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli in 2008, where I met Giorgio Locatelli. This was a very significant experience for me, both personally and professionally.
I spent one year in Geneva (Switzerland) working at ‘Molino’ restaurant, learning French and refining my skills.
I went back to Sciacca in 2011 and opened a restaurant ‘Mediterraneo’ in partnership with two other colleagues.
I was then offered a job from ‘Brunetti’ in Carlton, so I packed my suitcase and came to Australia in 2013.
I started working as Head Chef at Caffé e Cucina in January 2014.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
Well…I’ve always had a passion for food and cooking, that started as a game at first, but quickly evolved into a true devotion and it is now my life.
How would you define your style?
Italian, of course! Even if I’ve spent most of my career working abroad, I’ve always kept a strong connection with my roots as well as love for our traditions.
Obsessive compulsive about?
Tidiness and cleanliness! The kitchen has to be spotless… and also the precision in every single dish - I really can’t help it – everything has to be impeccable!
Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences:
I am always inspired by all the great and creative Chefs I’ve had the chance to work with during my career. My two personal ‘idols’ are Massimo Bottura and Giorgio Locatelli from whom I take inspiration for my work and creations.
What do you love about this business?
I love the unlimited chances it can offer you to express your creativity and imagination. Moreover, the smile on diners’ faces when they’re happy and have enjoyed their meals is just priceless and it’s the greatest reward for all the work.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Flour is essential for my work. I love to make pasta myself and bake fresh bread. Parmesan could be another basic ingredient…after all everybody knows how much we Italians like it.
Most ‘eyebrow raising’ menu item?
Well, I would probably say ‘Lombatina d’Agnello’. It’s a lamb rack laid on a sweet and sour eggplant cream, with caramelized shallots and a Brunello di Montalcino reduction. It’s a beautiful dish and people seem to love it so far as much as I love making it.
‘Il Pacchero al Verde’ could be my signature dish. The inspiration comes from my hometown culinary traditions. Paccheri Pasta with cod fish filling, crunchy balsamic eggplants and dehydrated cherry tomatoes finished with a mint and pea puree.
Attention to detail and a passion for Italian culture are the hallmarks behind Caffe e Cucina on trendy Chapel Street in South Yarra. A standout on the Melbourne restaurant scene since 1988, small tables, dim lights and high-end service are only part of Caffe E Cucina's charm, as guests are greeted with freshly baked bread on arrival while top-quality olive oil is never far from the table. Pastel walls adorned with framed prints of Italian cities and drinks set the mood for dining from an extensive menu, perhaps starting with flour dusted, shallow fried calamari, with rocket and balsamic mayonnaise. For the main, opt for pan-fried wild barramundi, in a saffron broth with broccoli, cherry tomato, clams and crostini; while pasta lovers delve into tagliatelle with lamb red ragu and pecorino.