We first got to know our good friend Peter Ciuffa, or 'Pasta Boy Peter' as he is affectionately called, while frequenting the bar at one of our favourite Vancouver restaurants, the warm and inviting Osteria Savio Volpe in the Fraserhood neighbourhood. Peter brings a charismatic, knowledgable, and charming old world twist to everything he does, and we're so excited to collaborate with him on this Italian meal that's perfect for every occasion, whether it's your next dinner party or casual weeknight in. This meal using our GRAIN French lentils would also make a fine choice for Valentine's Day which is right around the corner. Nothing says love like cooking for your beau, because as Peter himself says, eat with those you love.
Q&A WITH VANCOUVER'S PETER CIUFFA
What is your day job?
I run the Salumi counter at Savio Volpe full time, teach Italian cooking & pasta making on weekends and act whenever anyone will let me.
At what age did you first start cooking?
I always hung around in family kitchens over the years helping to cook certain dishes or prep things for my Ma as well as serving in restaurants. I didn’t really start cooking on a daily basis until I moved to New York City to act when I was 29. At 36 I started my own artisan pasta company which morphed into me teaching people how to make pasta and in 2015 I joined my first professional kitchen at Savio Volpe.
How would you describe your approach to food?
The greatest compliment I’ve ever been given is that my recipes and food make people think of how their Nonna’s cook. I cook rustic family style food but add in a few chef’s tricks I’ve learned from my years in restaurants.
What is the kitchen tool you can’t live without?
My 8 inch chef’s knife.
Who is your biggest influencer/hero?
My parents both in cooking and in life.
What are you most proud of this past year?
Having been part of the opening kitchen team of Savio Volpe which was named to EnRoute magazines Top Ten Best New Restaurants in Canada and doubling the number of cooking classes I’ve taught over the last year.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never stop getting up and moving forward, regardless of how many times you fall down.
How do you relax?
Take long walks and cook.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
Just fill a long table with artists, cooks, actors, directors, inventors, entrepreneurs, journalists and a bunch of normal everyday people like me and I’d be really happy.
What music are you listening to these days?
Lots of Motown & Soul.
Have you always cooked with grains and legumes like you do now?
I grew up eating legumes. As the child of Italian Immigrants it was part of our diet. Chickpeas, lentils, beans etc… my recipe is inspired by the lentils and Cotechino Sausage dish that my pop always told me about as a kid.
The dish is lentils with a type of rich home-made sausage. It was eaten at the start of the New Year for good luck. My dad always said it was a dish for the rich. I never made it until I started cooking at Savio. Chef Mark Perrier was kind enough to send some Cotecchino Sausage we had made home to my dad for his birthday and we had it with, of course, lentils! Dad was over the moon. My dad’s stories, my mom’s home cooking, and Chef Mark’s techniques are all the inspirations for this dish. The Salsa Verde recipe I used to finish the dish came from a conversation I had with Chef De Cuisine Derek Gray & Sous Chef Jian Hui Cheng. I wanted to brighten the flavours of the dish and they threw out a variety of ideas after which I went away, thought about it and after playing around a bit I came up with the pairing of Salsa Verde. I love how collaboration sparks answers.
We feel grateful to have the support of so many amazing chefs and foodies. What are some other noteworthy local food brands making a difference in the way you cook?
I’m not going to name all the people I support in this town because I would miss someone, but I will leave you all with this thought. If we all tried to buy one thing that is made, cooked, or sold locally in small shops instead of always buying mass grown, mass produced or on-line discount items our community and economy would be a lot healthier.
I want to leave you all with a little poem I have written and published. It is the motto I try to live by and I hope it inspires you in some small way when you read it:
You may not have an Italian Mamma, but now you can learn to cook like one! Professional Cook, Artisan Pasta Maker & sometime Actor PastaBoyPeter Ciuffa brings his Italian recipes, classes and stories to you and your loved ones. Get info on his classes here and follow his journey from Actor to Cook on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook. #eatwiththoseyoulove