Italian Food Safari is a celebration of the incredible breadth and hard work of the Italians who came and settled in Australia over a generation ago and have kept their food traditions intact. Food explorer Maeve O’Meara and legendary Melbourne chef Guy Grossi spend time with Australia’s top Italian chefs and producers, celebrating Italian culinary masterpieces alongside beautiful rustic family favourites.
Italian Food Safari opens with a celebration of the wood-fired oven, which many Italians constructed in their backyards when they arrived in Australia. Maeve visits the inspiring Ricupero family who settled in Jarrahdale outside Perth where they grow vegetables on a large scale and bake 140 loaves of bread every 2 weeks in the huge oven they built themselves – the crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside pane di casa so adored by Italians. Guy then shows a recipe for delicious bruschetta, using day-old bread. Guy joins olive oil producer Joe Grilli from Primo Estate in McLaren Vale at harvest time and learns about mixing oils for the perfect blend. Vongole harvester Tony Petruzzelli takes us to work as he rakes waist-deep in water off Adelaide’s Outer Harbour then Sydney chef Eugenio Maiale cooks up the classic spaghetti alla vongole, the one dish that he always keeps on his menu at his popular inner city restaurant A Tavola. For sweets, the crunchy fried biscuit cannoli filled with fresh ricotta is close to heaven, especially when its made by second generation Sicilian sweets master Achille Mellini from Grossi Florentino.
Italian Food Safari joins the last sardine fisherman in Fremantle on the Western Australia coast, the charming Jim Mendolia who supplies the fresh fish market. Melbourne cook Rosa Mitchell from the Journal Canteen, better known as Rosa’s Kitchen, shows Guy the secrets of her delicious classic recipe for stuffed sardines. Italian cuisine wouldn’t exist without pasta and Maeve visits the Baldino family at L’Abruzzese Pasta in Adelaide to learn how all the various shapes of extruded pasta are made including the “little ears” or orecchiette which Guy cooks in his restaurant kitchen with cime di rapa, a favourite dish from Puglia, where Guy’s family is from. He then ventures into the Victorian Alpine country to visit Simone’s, a beautiful country restaurant run by Umbrian chef Patrizia Simone who shares her recipe for roast duck, the centrepeice of an al fresco feast set out by a mountain stream..
Italian Food Safari focuses on the glorious tomato, with presenter Guy Grossi joining tomato grower John Monigatti on Echuca’s black soil plains during harvest. Maeve then shares tomato day with a large Calabrese clan – the Cipri family in suburban Sydney who have made fresh tomato sauce every year since the patriarch Severio arrived in Australia 45 years ago.
The woman who introduced much of South Australia to Italian food, cooking teacher Rosa Matto, makes a marvellous eggplant parmigiana. Sardinian chefs Giovanni Pilu from Sydney’s Pilu at Freshwater and Pietro Porcu from Melbourne’s Da Noi and The Tea Rooms at Yarck get together to show presenter Guy Grossi rustic dishes from their respective regions. Melbourne chef Graziella Alessi then creates a luscious dessert tiramisu.
Presenter Guy Grossi visits dedicated Melbourne artisan baker Daniel Chirico and tastes bread straight from the oven drizzled with olive oil and learns why loaves with soul take a little longer to make…and to prove that nothing in the Italian realm goes to waste, Guy then demonstrates a delicious bread-based salad called Panzanella. Maeve learns about the Italian passion for veal and meets passionate Western Australian butcher Vince Garreffa on the farm that raises his veal – White Rocks, south of Perth. Celebrated Sydney chef Nino Zoccali from restaurant Pendolino explains the joys of using secondary cuts of meat and shows how easy it is to make a beautiful osso buco, rich and full of flavour. Guy takes us to the beautiful pine forests of Mount Macedon with chef Aron Michielli to forage for pine forest mushrooms and slippery jacks. Aron takes Guy to his Melbourne restaurant Biricchino to whip up magnificent pappardelle pasta with wild mushrooms.
Italian Food Safari goes to the far western end of Australia to visit the crayfishermen of the stunning Abrolhos Islands off Geraldton and Maeve spends time with Justin Pirrottina to learn how his father and other Italian fishermen came to fish the area and tastes how good a ‘cray on the barbie' can be. Guy pops in on Melbourne chef Maurizio Esposito to learn the secrets of his delicious crayfish gnocchi recipe.
Maeve seeks out the best pizza and visits Melbourne pizzaiolo Alessandro D’Auria of Pizza e Fichi who has made thousands of pizzas in his years perfecting the art of pizza.
Artichokes are loved throughout Italy and were brought to Australia by growers like the Faranda family in Werribee South on the flat plains outside Melbourne. Joe Faranda shows Guy what to look for to get the best and Guy then makes delicious stuffed artichokes using a recipe passed on to him by his father.
Italian gelato has colonized the world’s taste buds and Sicilian gelato-making brothers Ciccio and Salvatore La Rosa from Gelatomassi in Sydney explain why it’s so good.
Italian Food Safari presenter Guy Grossi meets passionate gardeners Lina and Antonio Siciliano who have created a huge vegetable and herb garden in Melbourne’s suburbs that provides them with most of their meals and even the wine to drink with it.
Maeve visits her friends the Marino family in Adelaide who shows how they cure prosciutto on a large scale at San Marino Smallgoods. Legendary chef Armando Percuoco from Buon Ricordo restaurant invites Maeve to his country estate and cooks up the simplest dish of pasta with beans, demonstrating how exceptional ‘cucina povera’ can be. In Melbourne, cheesemaker Giorgio Linguanti takes Guy back to his childhood with the delicious fresh cheeses he makes including luscious burrata, mozzarella and ricotta. Loretta Sartori who once ran her own sweets palace in Melbourne but now spends her time educating troubled youth cooks a spectacular ricotta cake.
Italian Food Safari joins professional rock fisherman Alex Bellissimo from Rock and Beach Charters at dawn to learn why so many Italians are drawn to the sea to fish for dinner. Respected Melbourne chef Robert Castellani from Donovan’s Restaurant shows Guy an ingenious way of baking snapper and explains why Sicilians put a coin in the mouth of the fish.
Italian cooking teacher Luciana Sampogna from Cucina Italiana demonstrates the lovely little pretzel-like snacks called taralli that are popular right throughout the south of Italy.
Guy meets Italian Australian family, the Pizzini, who come from Italy’s alpine regions and who settled in Victoria’s King Valley and grow exceptional Italian grape varieties. Fred Pizzini, who came to Australia as a small child, shares his standout recipe for duck ragu which the whole family enjoys alfresco with some of their wines.
Italian Food safari visits Mario Mammone and his family who own large citrus orchards in the fruit bowl of Australia outside Mildura – they came to pick oranges and now own the farm, growing some varieties adored by Italians, including blood oranges.
Presenter Guy Grossi visits the fennel growing Mason family on the fertile plains outside Melbourne and Amedeo Mason explains just how versatile the winter vegetable can be. Mildura chef Stefano Di Pieri from Stefano’s restaurant, who helped to put the area on the culinary map, then shows Guy how he uses the best blood oranges and fennel in the season to make a kingfish carpaccio with shaved fennel, a dish that sings with freshness and flavour.
In Adelaide, one of the Central Market’s favourite characters, butcher Tony Marino invites us to join his family to cook up an exceptional Abruzzese banquet including the classic porchetta on a spit and the most unusual way of serving polenta - spread on a laminex table and served with a rich ragu.
Young pastry chef Alexandra Rispoli from Buon Ricordo restaurant then shows how to mix and cook fragrant pistachio biscotti.
This episode of Italian Food Safari celebrates the tradition of preserving the best in season. Maeve meets the effervescent Italian Australian GP Pietro Demaio whose self-published book “Preserving the Italian Way” has been a bestseller and inspired thousands – after a taste of home-cured tuna, Maeve is a convert.
On the outskirts of Adelaide, Pat D’Onofrio and Lina Verrilli grow and cure their own olives to sell in local markets and Maeve is introduced to the women’s olive.
Guy spends a few cold winter days with the Momesso family making their own salami, as many Italian families do during winter. His friend, chef Riccardo Momesso explains why it's so important to keep the old traditions going – and how the delicious the results are.
Maeve joins Sydney restaurateur Lucio Galletto at home as his picks basil from his garden to make a regional favourite from his home region of Liguria – a classic pesto.
In Adelaide, one of the “Cibo boys”, Claudio Ferraro who is a partner in the city’s Italian café chain Cibo, shows how intricate and delicious the pastry sfogliatelle are to make – they’re shaped like a lobster tail with fine layers of pastry and filled with creamy lemony ricotta.
Italian Food Safari discovers an Italian breed of cattle called Chianina now being reared in Australia by Daniela Mollica, who co-founded Slow Food in Melbourne – they’re large, white and long-legged and their meat is prized for the classic dish Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, which calls for high quality aged meat cut thick. In a beautiful house in the Adelaide Hills, Adelaide chef Salvatore Pepe, a partner in the Cibo café chain, cooks perfect bistecca served with white beans.
Presenter Guy Grossi shares his recipe for fresh pasta and Andrew Cibej from Sydney restaurant Vini makes a wonderful spinach, ricotta and potato-filled ravioli.
Maeve is surrounded by almond blossom in South Australia, visiting Munno Parra Downs and grower Phillip Costa. Guy then joins by Melbourne sweets queen Marianna Di Bartolo from Dolcetti as she folds resh almonds into her luscious soft nougat.
Presenter Guy Grossi goes hunting game with his chef friend Daniel Airo-Farula in the wintry hills of Bulla, then makes rabbit in a Sicilian style sweet and sour sauce- Coniglio in agrodolce.
In Sydney, well-known chef Danny Russo shows off a delicious family recipe from Calabria for quail involtini.
Maeve visits her friend Stefano Manfredi from Bells at Killcare on the NSW Central Coast where he has planted a vegetable garden full of Italian produce – the freshest ingredients ready for a classic minestrone from his home region of Lombardy.
In Melbourne Adelina Pulford from Enoteca Vino Bar shows Guy how to make the silkiest creamy panna cotta with prosecco.
Coffee punctuates Italian life from morning until evening – Italian expatriate Aldo Cozzi from Di Lorenzo and his coffee roaster Geroge Sabados explain why coffee is so important and the rules of enjoying good Italian coffee.
Italian Food Safari savours the seafood introduced to us by Italians – the squid that was once used as bait and is now a delicacy. Maeve joins Claude Basile whose grandfather was one of the pioneers of the Italian fishing fleets off the western Australian coast and he shares the recipe for his adored black ink pasta using squid ink sacs.
Pioneering Sydney restaurateur Beppi Polese has been responsible for introducing many Australians to new flavours in his East Sydney institution Beppi’s – he shows Maeve how his famous baccala mantecato is made using the salted dried cod called baccala.
Melbourne specialist butcher Roger Ongarato from Largo butchery explains what makes pork and fennel sausages such a favourite in Italian households.
The rice growing area of Italy’s north is where its said the best risotto comes from and Brescian-born chef Alessandro Pavoni from Ormeggio restaurant in Sydney demonstrates the techniques and tips to make the perfect risotto.
Rising star Vanessa Martin from Sydney’s Il Piave shows Maeve how easy and delicious crostoli are to make – they’re the deceptively light fragrant pastries that are fried and dusted with icing sugar.
In this final episode, Italian Food Safari visits Far North Queensland and presenter Guy Grossi learns how buffalo mozzarella is made and the secret of its great taste and texture. He then shares his recipe for a simple but exquisite classic Caprese salad with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
Suckling lamb is a dish of celebration in Italy and Robert Marchetti, executive chef of Sydney’s Icebergs Dining Room shares his recipe for this tender flavoursome dish.
The episode builds to a crescendo with a huge Calabrese lunch hosted by Perth butcher Vince Garreffa from Mondo Di Carne butchery, a man who never does anything by halves, firing up his woodfired oven, cooking up a delicious veal shoulder on the spit, served with homemade pasta. Vince and his wife Anne also show the secrets of delicious cotoletta with a capsicum and tomato sauce.
We finish at the home of presenter Guy Grossi who keeps Sundays sacred for the event of the day – lunch - the epitome of the Italian philosophy of “La Dolce Vita” – life is sweet! Ciao!