"I am a chef of Toscana," says Gabriele Bertaccini, with as much gusto as one would expect from an Italian-born foodie. The twentysomething may be new to the local culinary scene, but he says cooking plays a huge part in his oldest memories.

Growing up smelling his mother's lasagna every Sunday and watching his family bond around food (like Italians do), he says he knew his fascination with food was going to be something bigger. He attended culinary school in Florence and worked in restaurants and hotels across Italy before moving to the US.

Bertaccini says he began il Tocco to cater to private boutique parties, which include his latest venture -- the underground food event, Culinary Mischief.

Bertaccini hosted his second Culinary Mischief event this past weekend and is already planning for his third in April.

"I grew up in Italy, where the most important parts of the day are lunch and dinner. Old and new friends come together everyday around a table to share their stories, to create memories. I wanted to re-create that in the Valley."

The chef stops in this week to talk authentic Italian, his love of pork and his aversion to cheap knives.

Six words to describe yourself:
I let pleasure control my life (this is how I find great passion).

Six words to describe your food:
Pristine Italian products, simply prepared (a.k.a authentic comfort Italian food).

Chef Chat: Gabriele Bertaccini of il Tocco and Culinary Mischief

Favorite ingredient to work with right now: 
I am obsessed with pork. It is very affordable and you can make some very good hearty dishes with it presented simply and stripped of adornment. It is a democratic ingredient; Pork is always pork.

Overrated ingredient: 
Chicken. There are so many more meats out there that people should try such as rabbit, which is the healthiest meat you can ever eat ... and wild boar is just stellar -- it's a staple ingredient for Tuscan cuisine.

Always in the kitchen:
A gas stove.

Never in the kitchen:
Cheap knives.

Hardest Lesson learned in the kitchen:
You cannot make food for everybody and you can't pretend that everybody likes it.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's part two of Chef Chat with Gabriele Bertaccini and his Italian Panna Cotta recipe...

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