Growing up in a traditional Italian family there was always an emphasis on food, packed with traditional flavours and techniques. Nonna was always in the kitchen and the smells and flavours would always intrigue me even from a very young age, although my passion at that age was more about eating and experiencing rather than cooking it my self. As I went through my younger years, being a chef was not at the top of my list of ideal professions, I realised how hard the work was and the long hours required to be a Chef. But for me, I had an opportunity to step into a commercial kitchen at the age of 15 and work with a professional team. For me, it felt just right. I was able to learn quickly and gain the skills to run a section of that kitchen and other award-winning restaurants without the formal training of being a qualified chef. It was then I made my decision to become a restaurateur and chef one day.
My ultimate goal was to have my own restaurant at a young age. I worked very hard and very long hours to attain the skills required to have a business and run a professional kitchen. I made mistakes along the way, but that never stopped me. By the age of 23, I felt that I was ready to take the risk and open my first restaurant. Cucinetta opened in 2006 and has now been trading for 12 years.
How would you define your style:
Being a self-taught chef, I rely heavily on feel, touch and taste. My style is authentic Italian but adding elements to a dish which enhances the flavour and texture.
What is your feature flavour these days:
My feature flavour is to mix the different regions of Italy, this creates an experience in its own.
I am obsessive and compulsive about being a positive leader and try to do my best every single day. To demonstrate and create teams of leaders to perfect their profession. I am a strong believer that a chef's plate reflects his or her feelings and passion.
Your greatest culinary inspirations/influences:
I have no number 1 inspiration other than me. I am very influenced by my own personal goals and attaining them, along with my passion for food.
What do you love about this business:
What I love most about this business is that it challenges you to be your best every day. I love the adrenaline rush it gives when it's busy. I also enjoy that my cooking puts a smile on people’s faces and offers happiness. I love the fact that my food is a recollection in people’s minds of being one of the best experiences in food that they have had. I also love that feeling of accomplishment!
An ingredient you can't live without:
Chocolate. Tomato. Cheese.
Most eyebrow-raising menu item:
Seafood casserole. Sous vide octopus. Pasta and gnocchi.
This has always been a hard one to answer, I love everything on my menu, from our nduja to our pasta, mains and desserts. But I am very well known for my gnocchi and the traditional techniques I use to perfect it.
When only the best will do, head to Cucinetta perched at the top of Woolwich Road, overlooking Lane Cove River, where guests embark on a culinary adventure like no other. Offering an abundance of natural light, retreat into rustic decor of warm, earthy tones, a sandstone kitchen and bursts of greenery, best suited to intimate dining at any time of the day. Cucinetta is committed to reviving old cooking methods and sourcing the finest, sustainable produce for a seasonal menu; with a dynamic, open kitchen the showpiece of the restaurant. Delve into starters of crespelle – pan-fried crêpe filled with ricotta, scallops, pancetta, lemon, prawns, spanner crab, leek purée and chives; before mains of potato gnocchi, veal shank ragu, porcini mushrooms, gorgonzola, red wine, Parmigiano and rosemary.