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Q&A with Lello Pasta Bar head chef, Leo Gelsomino

09 May 2018

We met Leo Gelsomino, part-owner and head chef at Lello Pasta Bar located on the ground floor of the T&G Building – to talk all things pasta, family nicknames and the ingredients of his favourite dish ‘Arso Maccheroni Cacio E Pepe’.

1. How long have you been a chef?

I became a chef in 1998. I originally trained for a front-of-house career at the William Angliss Institute in Melbourne. However, I then became intrigued with what was going on behind the scenes in the kitchen.

I started my chef apprenticeship quite late and was tutored by one of Melbourne’s best Italian chefs, Valerio Nucci, at The Boulevard in Kew.

2. What was your inspiration to become a chef?

My inspiration came from my Italian heritage. I grew up in Coburg as the son of Italian parents who left Italy – but didn’t really leave Italy. Each year, my parents would make our own salami, grow tomatoes and cook passata. With such a background, you can’t help but respect what you eat and appreciate the art of cooking.

3. When did Lello Pasta Bar open?

Lello was originally called Yak Bar and only last year we revamped and renamed. In 2011, myself and our front of house manager, Chris McIntyre, became partners with Mark and Linda Durnan, the original owners of Yak. Last September, we carried out some renovations and rebranded as Lello Pasta Bar.

When I was young my family would call me Lello – the inspiration behind the new name.

4. What sort of clientele do you serve at the restaurant?

Our clientele can be quite mixed! Generally breakfast and lunch are corporate clientele and in the evening we get a variety of diners that are heading to a show nearby at the Regent Theatre or simply looking for a great dining experience.

5. What is special about the location of the restaurant?

We are situated on the prime corner location of Flinders Lane and Russell Street benefiting from close proximity to Flinders Lane restaurants and bars. The area is always bustling and there is always something to do or see!

6. What’s your favourite menu item?

I have a special place for a dish I made called ‘Arso Maccheroni Cacio E Pepe’. Its base is hand-rolled burnt flour maccheroni tossed with pecorino Romano tomatoes, Parmesan and finished with cracked pepper. I adore simple food crafted from the best and freshest ingredients.

7. What’s the most popular item on the menu?

The Vincigrassi; a rich offal Lasagna, and the Scialeteli Frutti Di Mare; Camanian style short pasta with prawns, vongole, mussels, fish, white wine, parsley, garlic and chilli. It is the perfect dish during a chilly Melbourne winter.

8. If you could open one restaurant overseas, where would it be and why?

I would love to own a restaurant in Lugiria in Central Italy. The views are spectacular and you have access to such incredible produce. I enjoy researching authentic regional concoctions, so it would be a great experience to learn more about Italian cuisine.

9. What is the most unique dish you’ve created in your career?

My cooking revolves around making fresh pasta daily from stone-ground flour and using fresh, simple ingredients to build the dish. I am very proud of the expertise I have gained to be able to create such wonderful handmade pasta and develop special flavours in my sauces, and it’s wonderful to be able to share these dishes with our diners.