By Sophie Cross
How did you find yourself working as Head Chef at TOZI?
I was Head Chef at Shoreditch House - at the time the best club in London - a huge place with three restaurants and a big team. It was a great place to work but I felt the need to go back to one place - classic Italian, my cooking, looking after people, all about the food and the passion. It was a big gamble but it paid off.
‘Tozi’ is Venetian slang for a bunch of friends. Is that symbolic of the TOZI team?
Stefano (who heads up front of house) and I have been at TOZI since day one and we’re old friends, we’ve worked together for ten years, 12-15 hours a day. We respect each other, go out together, travel to Italy together. We’re like husband and wife - he’s the patient one, I’m the crazy one! When you come to the restaurant you can really feel the bond of the team. I come to work with a big smile on my face every day.
At five years old, what do you think makes TOZI still stand out in the London restaurant scene?
When we opened Victoria was a quiet area but now it’s really up and coming as a foodie district and we also have Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It’s great for the area and competition is good because if you stand out, you stay busy. People really have a special, memorable experience with us. It’s about the environment we create and Italian cooking with minimum fuss, maximum flavour. You can play with the food, the concept is lots of dishes - not starter, main, dessert. We change the menu every two to three months and have specials every day.
What can we expect from your latest menu?
Our new menu has just come out and the focus is always on seasonality. Now that means asparagus, fresh peas, yellow courgette, crab ravioli, lamb, halibut, swordfish… We cook them very simply and the ingredients come in every single day - meat, fish and vegetables - most of it from Italy. I’ve been a chef in London for 18 years now so I’m lucky to have fantastic relationships with a lot of suppliers who know my standard and give me good prices.
What do you cook for yourself at home?
I like to relax at home but I also like to cook with my four-year-old son. He’s started to understand about ingredients and loves pasta and chicken. We were worried at first that he didn’t like vegetables but he’s starting to really enjoy them now - carrots, peas, broccoli, asparagus. When we can we’ll put on some Italian music and cook together - something like roast chicken and potatoes, or pasta, tomato and vegetables. Something simple and quick so we can spend more time at the table together.