Food & Drink

Chef Roberto Leoci of Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar: 'Food brings happiness to everyone's hearts'

Roberto Leoci is the chef-owner of Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar and Leoci's Trattoria in Savannah.
Roberto Leoci is the chef-owner of Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar and Leoci's Trattoria in Savannah. Submitted photo

Chef: Roberto Leoci

Restaurant: Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar and Leoci's Trattoria

Town: Savannah

Do you enjoy cooking off the clock?

I do, especially when it's entertaining for a group of friends. Food brings happiness to everyone's hearts, and I love that. Whenever I visit my family in Montreal, I always end up getting lured to some family function where I'm expected to cook, and all ingredients magically appear in the kitchen.

What is your easy, go-to meal at home?

Grilled cheese is quick and delicious, especially when I have imported Taleggio cheese and fresh Brioche on hand. A panini press definitely helps too.

If we looked in your fridge right now, what would we find?

Lots of cold coconut water. It's so refreshing! It really takes me away to the Islands. The British Virgin Islands are my favorite vacation spot.

What ingredient should chefs always have on hand?

Onions -- Vidalia to be more precise, which are unusually sweet and delicious. Vidalia onions are versatile, and they caramelize beautifully. I use them in my Bolognese, Carbonara and in my Leoci's Vidalia Onion Relish. They remind me of the prized Cipollini onion imported from Italy.

Is there a current food trend that you think is overhyped?

Kale. There are so many other wonderful leafy greens in the world. I prefer Swiss chard, which is highly nutritious and guaranteed to make any dish pretty and delicious. I have many memories of my father growing Swiss chard in our family garden, where we would pick it fresh, rinse and saute with garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Bellissimo!

Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.

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