What brought you to the Mornington Peninsula?
I moved to Australia three years ago because my fiancé/business partner in crime :-) is from the Mornington Peninsula. I fell in love with the Peninsula immediately. It reminded me so much of where I was born - where the mountains meet the sea. Rosebud is so much like Southern Italy, beautiful hills and hidden gems, plus the added beauty of beautiful beaches.
What can patrons expect when they dine at Unica Cucina e Caffe?
When patrons dine at Unica Cucina e Caffe they can expect exceptional service and the freshest of food. I prepare each dish ‘al momento’; at that moment. I am the only chef, the only one who cooks in our restaurant. I prepare every single dish and can cater to all tastes. I am a true Italian, my palette only understands Italian food, so my flavours are very, very Italian with influences from the south as well as the north as I lived in Milano for 26 years. Every single dish is made with heart and soul with Italy on my mind. It is the only way I know how to cook. My fiancé Michelle runs the front of house and she ensures every person that comes to our restaurant is as comfortable here as they are in their own home. A real Italian experience.
Where do you source your ingredients?
I mostly grow my own fresh ingredients, or my father-in-law does. We also have a local elderly gentleman who pops in with fresh parsley, basil, chili and rosemary when we do not have enough ourselves. Over summer we grew our own tomatoes. We have also just planted a crop of broad beans at the front of the restaurant to use in our dishes. I source Australian seafood where possible, our coffee is sourced locally, our cheeses are sourced locally. When I cannot find ingredients that I am used to, I have them imported from Italy.
What’s your philosophy?
Fresh is Best. This is the Italian way. I use what is in season and what can be sourced locally. If you taste our parsley garnish, you will notice the amazing flavour of our parsley.
What do you enjoy doing on the Peninsula when not at work?
The Peninsula has so much to offer and so much to discover. I love going for long walks or bike rides. I also enjoy visiting other local restaurants to understand the different flavours of Australia.
We hear your Spaghetti Marinara is popular. Can you tell us about this dish?
The Spaghetti Marinara is our most popular dish. It is filled with fresh local seafood. I believe its freshness is the key and that it is stacked with fabulous seafood in copious amounts. I have people who come in twice a week for it. I love making it, people love to eat it.
You make the desserts too?
I am passionate about authentic Italian flavours. The most popular dessert at Unica is the Cannoli Siciliani. I have the casings imported from Italy and then I hand fill these two, or sometimes four times a day. People come in and buy trays of them. A beautiful pastry casing filled with whipped Bufala Ricotta and Marscapone. A real traditional Italian dessert.
You have four children, are they keen on cooking too?
Yes, I have four beautiful daughters. A blended family. I am a lucky man. They all love to help in the kitchen and at home when we cook they enjoy making desserts and being the taste testers. I think that being an Italian family, we like to involve the whole family in the process of cooking. It is the heart of the home, the heart of our family. I think maybe this is why I became a chef. Cooking is the heart and soul of Italian families, and I love my family.