Nicolò Vogliotti’s first job in New Zealand was throwing pizza. Now he runs an award-winning Italian restaurant.
Like many Italians traveling overseas, Nicolò Vogliotti’s first job in New Zealand was baking pizza. Then one day he saw an opportunity to do something more.
Vogliotti’s Toret Cucina Italiana restaurant in Oakura is now considered one of the best in Taranaki, and the northern Italian credits its success to its authenticity.
“The idea at the beginning was that we should create an Italian restaurant that doesn’t work with stereotypes and adulterates the dishes. Let’s do something original,” he said.
You won’t find the Kiwis’ favorite carbonara cooked with runny cream, but rather one Risotto alla pescatora (Seafood risotto). Forget lasagna but you will find it Pappardelle ai funghi (homemade pasta with mushrooms).
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It’s good enough to be named Outstanding Restaurant and Best Regional Eatery at the Taranaki Hospitality Awards earlier this month.
Vogliotti’s path to restaurant chef began a decade ago.
After graduating from high school, he trained as a chef in the northern regions of Italy and then decided to travel.
He came to New Zealand for the second time in 2014 and ended up working in Cambridge, where he got a job as an assistant pizzaiolo, or pizza maker. It was there that he met his wife Katie.
Together they decided to move to Taranaki because she had family connections there and the couple found a home in Okato.
Vogliotti now worked as Pizzaiolo at the Ms. White Restaurant in New Plymouth and one day in 2020, while driving home, he noticed that a restaurant in Ōakura was going to be rented out.
Together with Katie, they decided it was time to open their own restaurant – one that would cook Italian food “the right way”.
“Not to sound cocky, but we are the best Italian restaurant in Taranaki,” said Vogliotti.
The informal restaurant resembles a northern Italian osteria (small family run restaurant) and offers a variety of traditional dishes, such as Gnocchi al ragu di cervo (Gnocchi with deer stew) and bombette al taleggio (savory donuts stuffed with Taleggio cheese).
On the walls, newspaper articles celebrate the four-time world championship title of the Italian national soccer team alongside maps from 1690 of Vogliotti’s hometown of Turin.
The chef takes credit for the success but does not downplay the hard work of the past two years, particularly opening during Covid-19 restrictions.
“We’re confident, the first two years are always tough, but we know that if we persevered and kept serving good food, people would keep coming back,” he said.