Elyse Barton, Wine Club Coordinator interviews Chef Roberto Carboni
The Restaurant at Ponte has found a true gem in the culinary realm-Chef Roberto Carboni. Hailing from the city of Arezzo in Tuscany, Italy, he’s been charming us and our guests since June 2011 as a chef and server. As he prepares to host two Members-only Tuscan cooking classes in our Reserve Room this month, chef Roberto sat down with me to share his roots, favorite dishes and the items in the kitchen he can’t live without.
Elyse Barton: You have owned several successful restaurants in Italy and the US and have traveled the world with your skills. What brought you to Temecula Wine Country?
Roberto Carboni: I lived in Los Angeles for many years and few years ago I learned about Temecula. As soon as I drove into wine country, I immediately noticed the similarity to Tuscany, with the vineyards, and the cypresses on the hills and valley. I felt the caring and appreciation of the growers and the visitors for the local food and wine. Temecula, it’s a beautiful place to come and relax from the crowded cities around, without going too far. It’s also a safe area with great schools and a much better place to raise a family with my two kids.
EB: Why did you want to teach a members-only cooking class at Ponte?
RC: Wine Club Members are very important at Ponte and I believe they will appreciate and will love to participate in these cooking classes of original Tuscan recipes paired with Ponte wines. It would be another Member-exclusive attraction for them to make their Wine Country stay more exiting, fun and enjoyable. They will also take home the recipe booklet with the menu and shopping list so they can cook those recipes themselves and look forward to the next cooking class.
EB: Every chef seems to have a food philosophy; some use butter in everything, others swear by mom’s secret ingredient. What is your cooking philosophy?
RC: I rather use a good quality extra virgin olive oil instead [of] butter… My philosophy is: fresh ingredients that are in season, freshly made in a way that each ingredient can still be tasted, good quality preparation and presentation to make them great recipes!
EB: If you could plan your very last meal, what would it be?
RC: I would make myself a lobster salad called catalana that I used to make in my restaurant in Italy, served it with a fornarina (freshly baked, thin crust, rosemary focaccia) then a seafood risotto, fresh Dover Sole and Turbot fish, roasted in the wood-burning oven and some grilled langoustines, grilled heirloom tomatoes, zucchini and porcini mushrooms, a Parmesan cheese gelato with a sprinkle of 25-years-aged (extra vecchio) Modena Balsamic vinegar and wild strawberries, etc. And of course an espresso coffee to finish!
EB: What is your favorite meal to cook?
RC: I love to cook all kinds of foods, but seafood is my favorite. Also baking and roasting in a wood burning oven and grilling in wood or charcoal grill.
EB: Where did you learn to cook so well? Who or what inspired your love for being in the kitchen?
RC: Since a young age I was always fascinated with food made from scratch, from my mother, my chef sister, Antonietta, and every time I would taste something amazing in a restaurant I would want to find out how was it done…became kind of second nature for me to cook. My sister, Antonietta, is a great inspiration and I learned a lot from her.
EB: What do you enjoy doing outside of Ponte?
RC: When I have some time after the priority of raising my boy and my girl along with my wife, I always like to learn more and more about food. Lately I’m learning more about molecular gastronomy. Besides cooking, my second passion is in graphic design that I do for about 12 years now. I use that for printing menus and all kinds of marketing material for restaurants. I also enjoy planning my dream of my lifetime in culinary arts.
EB: What are five essential kitchen tools and/or ingredients you think every home should have?
RC: Ingredients: EVOO [extra virgin olive oil], Parmigiano Reggiano, 25-years-aged Modena Balsamic vinegar, risotto rice (Vialone Nano or Carnaroli variety) and freshly made pizza dough.
Tools: Shun Santoku knife, multi-face Microplane, stainless steel chef-pan, Kitchen Aid Stand-Up mixer and an immersion blender.
EB: What is your favorite Ponte wine and what dish would you pair it with?
RC: Super T! I will pair that with a Tagliata Toscana (oven roasted rib-eye, sliced over arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and 15-years-aged Modena Balsamic vinegar (Vecchio).