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Caffè Toscanini, Amsterdam

Leonardo Pacentic


Leonardo Pacenti, chef and co-owner of well-known Amsterdam restaurant Caffè Toscanini, is of Dutch and Italian origins, but was born and raised in South Africa until he was eleven-years-old. After moving to the Netherlands in the 1970s, Leonardo moved to Rome in the 80s where he worked in restaurants to pay his way through a degree in mechanical engineering. But, it turns out his passion for cooking was stronger. In 1985, a friend opened Caffè Toscanini in Goudsbloemstraat in the Jordaan, a quaint neighborhood in central Amsterdam, and invited him to run the bar. Following this opportunity he traveled around the world to complete several internships and cook on ships for four years. In 1999, his friend invited him back to Toscanini, this time as part of the kitchen team, and Leonardo has never looked back. The cuisine is Italian, drawing inspiration from the traditions of the country's regions. Fresh bread and pasta is made daily. The menu uses many of the Dutch Presidia products as well as several from Italy, including Ustica lentils, Tuscan Sea Palamita, traditional stracchino from the Orobiche Valleys and Roccaverano Robiola.

 

Leonardo says he still remembers the advice given to him by friends who got him started in the restaurant business: "Two things are important to understand if you want to do this job. First, it is a craft that affects your private life; second, it is not difficult to cook well, it is difficult to cook well every day, for twenty years." Cooking with love and attention is what Leonardo and his colleagues still do every day at Caffè Toscanini, starting with their careful selection of raw ingredients and local suppliers.

 

However, Leonardo explains that it is not easy to find high quality raw materials in Amsterdam. While they source fresh local vegetables, most of the fish comes from Spain and Italy and the pork meat is not of great quality in the Netherlands. One of the most exciting products on the menu is lamb from the Kempen Heath Sheep Presidium, a native breed that grazes on the moor in the country's southeast for most of the year. The lamb commonly sold on the market is tender and lighter, but is far less tasty than the Presidium lamb. Leonardo discovered Slow Food thanks to his Italian product suppliers, Jessica and Gianni di Casa del Gusto. "The first time we identified Slow Food Presidia products on the menu customers asked if we were referring to dishes prepared using meat from animals that move slowly (snails, turtles)," Leonardo comments. " It was very funny to listen to these bizarre interpretations."

 

Leonardo Pacenti
Caffè Toscanini
Lindengracht, 75
Tel. +31 206232813
info@restauranttoscanini.nl
www.restauranttoscanini.nl

Open from Monday to Saturday, evenings only, from 6pm to 10:30pm

 


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