Paolo Masciopinto has been with us at Sarti as head chef for the last four years. The Italian chef refines and defines dishes and creates a constantly changing seasonal menu, but to become the head chef of a one-hat, award-winning restaurant takes work and dedication. Paolo committed himself to his craft years before coming on board at Russell Place.
“I always wanted to come to Australia,” he says. Firstly, Paolo wanted to improve his english, went to London and ended up being there far longer than he’d originally planned as he secured a great job with chef Giorgio Locatelli opening Locatelli’s second restaurant at London Bridge.
Still, Australia was on his mind, “I did my research before I came here and I watched documentaries on Australia. I always was attracted to this country.”
But then he found another distraction, “after London I went to America and worked in Los Angeles for a year and half. Then, I finally came here, everyone was talking about Melbourne food, so I decided to come to Melbourne. It is the capital of good food in Australia,” he says.
So, Melbourne was lucky to eventually have Paolo cooking here and he started at Grossi Florentino. He was at the Bourke Street venue for a year and a half. “I ended up getting the role of sous chef, then I moved to Sarti.” It was when Riccardo Momesso was head chef and Paolo worked with him for 18 months. Paolo then moved to Stokehouse in St Kilda but it was when he was working at Sosta Cucina in North Melbourne that Sarti co-owner, Joe Mammone called Paolo to return to Sarti as head chef. “I was glad to come back,” he says, “I had a great great relationship with Joe when I had been sous chef at Sarti. I had been looking after all the specials and the dishes from the menu. I think that’s when Joe saw my creative side and my ability to create menus.”
When asked how he describes his cooking, Paolo says, “My belief is using traditional Italian methods, but I don’t fully believe in using Italian ingredients. So my idea is to have a beautiful meal, following the Italian tradition cooking-wise, but I can actually use produce that is from Australia which is very beautiful.”
He continues, “I always follow the Italian style of cooking but I always put a bit of a twist as well. I like a modern key to Italian cooking, while using Australian produce. The meat is beautiful, the vegetables I’m getting are all beautiful from here.”
In terms of produce, Paolo loves what Australia grows and rears, the meat in particular, “It’s something really unbelievable,” he says, “The grain-fed beef, the lamb, everything. Even just the t-bone I have on the menu is from Cape Grimm, it’s something unbelievable for me. I am working very closely with all my suppliers. I get the t-bone from Gary [Gary’s Meat, Prahran Market] and he dry ages it for 45 days.”
And when we ask him about what he loves most about cooking, his face lights up! “Creativity, and adrenaline,” he smiles, “It’s a strong passion, it’s about feeling part of something. I love the pressure, I love the adrenaline I get with the service. I love the concentration, the looks from customers when they have a good meal.”
Our final question?
Paolo, what is Sarti to you?
“It’s family,” he smiles and walks back into the kitchen.