Dario Manca of Rosmarino chats creative cooking, his culinary career and contemporary Italian cuisine

Dario Manca of Rosmarino chats creative cooking, his culinary career and contemporary Italian cuisine

Before he was helming the kitchen at Fortitude Valley’s beloved Rosmarino, Dario Manca was rubbing shoulders with some of the industry’s elite. From working under Gordon Ramsey to three Michelin Star chef Heinz Beck, Dario’s career has seen many highlights, but none top his more recent culinary pursuits. We chatted to Dario about his career from making pizzas at 13 to his punchy and fun approach to Rosmarino’s mouth-watering menu and everything in between.

We’d love to start by digging into your love for cooking! Where would you say your passion for food first came from?
I always have been into food, even though my family don’t come from the industry. I loved cooking with my nonna, during Sunday feasts and family reunions. I started when I was 13 in a small takeaway pizza shop, but I knew I wanted to become a chef since I was seven (basically for as long as I can remember). 

Who were some of your biggest mentors when starting your culinary career? How did they shape how you approached the art of cooking?
I had the chance to work alongside great Italian and international chef, Antonino Cannavacciuolo, two Michelin Star chef Corrado Fasolato in Venice, three Michelin Star chef Heinz Beck in Rome and London, and many others around the world. I had the amazing opportunity to work with Gordon Ramsay in his first Italian restaurant in Tuscany, where I spent more than five years working, living and embracing the beauty of the area, as well as the award-winning restaurant Pilu at Freshwater. Giovanni Pilu will always remain a true mentor to me, who helped me bloom into the chef and man I am today. 

What would you say is the biggest joy in working in a kitchen environment?
We are chefs, we enjoy the challenge, laugh often and even enjoy the burns and cuts. I love the feeling of the pressure, the infinite list of prep, the pace of the service, the art of plating and finally, the climax of tasting something really good created by yourself or someone from your team. Most importantly I enjoy the team and the family-like atmosphere we have. 

Many chefs develop their own ethos when it comes to cooking. Do you have any personal philosophies that you live by as far as food is concerned?
I believe in dreams, it often happens that I wake up with a new dish idea or a new technique I would like to introduce. It’s an amazing feeling.

Tell us about the current menu you’ve created at Rosmarinio. Was there an initial idea, guiding theme, or creative urge that informed how the offering took shape?
Most definitely a creative urge, I stated to the owners at the very beginning of this adventure that if they really wanted me as their food director I had to be me, and they accepted. For me contemporary Italian cuisine is just like an addition, the way of twisting the traditional recipes is basically unlimited. Keeping the ingredients simple but experimenting with textures and colours, adding a fusion ingredients or creating a dessert out of a classic pasta recipe.

What are some dishes or recipes on the Rosmarino menu that you’re really proud to have developed?
There is so much. Our caprese is very interesting, it offers a great connection between the strawberries and tomatoes, the culurgiones are without a doubt the best culurgiones in town, with a great twist from Northern Italy using chestnuts and truffle. Our wagyu coated, aged and cured in white chocolate offers an unbelievable balance of sweet and salty, plus my macinamisu, dry-aged duck breast, and many more are a must-try.

Rosmarino has been open for almost two years now – what do you think has been key to its success so far?
It’s a great synergy of amazing, elaborate food, unique in its style, combined with very fine service and a beautiful atmosphere. The building itself also adds to the overall experience, which is truly remarkable.

Brisbane’s culinary scene is thriving these days! What other local eateries and bars do you recommend for:
A cheap and cheerful feed? Happy Boy
A celebratory feast? SK Steak & Oyster, Bianca and Greca
Innovative eats? Restaurant Dan Arnold, Exhibition Restaurant and GOMA Restaurant
A good drink? Savile Row 

When cooking at home, what are some recipes that you tend to gravitate towards when cooking for just yourself, or impressing a loved one or a group of friends?
Usually a good carbonara, risotto or steak. For a special occasion I might come up with an intimate five- to seven-course degustation. 

What would you say are three essential pantry items one should always have on hand?
Flour, tinned tuna and truffle oil.

Finally, beyond the realm of cooking, what are some other passions or hobbies that keep you creatively and personally fulfilled?
I enjoy training very much even though it can be quite difficult for this industry. I enjoy reading about business literacy and personal development, but more recently I’ve been  enjoying painting and hiking. 

The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.

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