A Quick Bite With Rocco Agostino

A Quick Bite With Rocco Agostino

If you spend as much time as I do dreaming, making and eventually devouring pizza, you’ve likely heard about or sampled the beautiful blistered baked pies from Toronto’s Pizzeria Libretto. As the only certified Vera Pizza Napolenta in Toronto, Libretto is religious about their method of using local and natural ingredients and baking pizzas in a wood-fired, 900 degree oven. San Marzano tomatoes and Fiore di Latte Mozzarella are delivered fresh daily, and the dough is a constructed from a naturally leavened Italian Caputo dopio zero flour. One of the wildly talented people behind the aforementioned deliciousness is Executive Chef and Partner Rocco Agostino, who boasts an impressive resume and is also at the helm of Enoteco Sociale, a Roman Wine Bar which also happens to house a cheese cave. Oh, you read that correctly. Rocco has studied in Rome, Italy and the Stratford Chef School, and logged more than 16 years working in hot kitchens, including Ferro Bar Cafe and the much-lauded Silver Spoon. His cooking mantra is simple: he prefers keeping it down to earth, bursting with passion and focusing on the symphony of a few ingredients. Inspired by watching his mother cook as a young child, Rocco imparts his love of cooking to his two-year-old son Sebastian (his “pizzaiolo in training”) and continues to share his joy of food, including supporting local organic farmers and using the best in seasonal ingredients. Writer’s disclaimer: do not read on an empty stomach—unless you’re a stone’s throw from to one of Rocco’s restaurants.

SPC: What’s your earliest food memory?
Rocco Agostino: My earliest food memory would have to be about four or five in my parent’s garden. I picked a hot pepper and ate it whole—that left me crying. That being said, spicy food is something that I enjoy today.

SPC: Do you cook with your son regularly? If so, what sorts of dishes have you cooked together?
RA: We do cook with our son. As the photo shows, we make pizza, as well as cookies and pancakes.  He is the stirrer and the button pusher in the family.

SPC: Salty or sweet?
RA: Both—they work very well together.

SPC: What is one Italian dish people assume is far too complicated to prepare, but is actually fairly simple?
RA: Sometimes the simple dishes are the hardest ones.  I think the more you become familiar with items the less complicated they seem. For example, the first time you make pizza it will seem difficult, (maybe the dough will not come together), but after a few attempts, you’ll start to get a feel for the proper texture of the dough.

SPC: As you were developing your skills as a chef, was there a dish that constantly stumped you? If so, what was it, and why?
RA: Mayonnaise—it kept on splitting on me.  I have learned to listen when making mayo, you can hear it come together.

SPC: What’s one of your signature dishes that Sebastian (2) requests regularly?
RA: Pasta. One that he really enjoys at the Enoteca is the Bucatini All’amatriciana (spicy tomato & guanciale)

SPC: If you could have any one per­son over for din­ner (the sky’s the limit) who would it be?
RA: Lidia Bastianich, Macella Hazan or Mario Batali.

SPC: You need to whip up a show-stopping dinner for six in less than an hour. What’s your default meal?
RA: I’d start with grilled garlic crostini with warm ricotta and oregano followed by grilled lamb chops with spicy gremolata and olive oil potatoes. For dessert, a warm fruit with lemon zest (apple, pear or berries depending on the season) and ice cream.

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