By Abby Weingarten, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Chef Cinzia Giulia Zanco of Osteria 7.13 (543 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 552-8657) — a new Italian cafe on the corner of Pineapple and Orange Avenues in downtown Sarasota — brings a worldly culinary past to the table. She was born in Venice to a family of restaurateurs and has lived throughout Germany, Spain and Venezuela. Zanco’s menu reflects the global flavors she experienced during her travels.
Q: What are some of the highlights of your culinary background?
A: Basically, my childhood was my training. My whole family owned restaurants, and I learned from my grandparents, my parents and my aunt. My father gave me the best experience in life, which was traveling to Spain, Germany and Venezuela to open authentic Italian restaurants. I have been working in restaurants for about 14 years and I opened my own restaurant, called Barchessa, at the age of 21.
Q: What are a few of your signature dishes and what makes them special?
A: One is my sliced tuna with sesame seeds on a bed of arugula, diced tomatoes and balsamic reduction. It is a typical dish from the Mediterranean, and the yellow fin tuna is really delicate and flavorful; it reminds me of home. Another is my cuttlefish stew with peas, which is also a typical dish from my hometown, and I learned this dish from my father. The third is Mediterranean sea bass with cherry tomatoes, Taggiasca olives and roasted potatoes. These dishes are special because they are simple, light, heart-healthy and use natural flavors.
Q: How did your family influence your passion for food?
A: I remember coming home from elementary school and wanting to help my parents in the kitchen. They did not want me in the kitchen, of course, because it was dangerous for a child, but I always observed. When I was around 13 or 14, I started helping clean lettuce, dice onions and do whatever needed to be done. I could see my parents’ passion for food, which rubbed off on me. In my family, cooking is like breathing.
Q: How do you stay inspired and ahead of food trends?
A: When I cook at home, I use whatever I have in the refrigerator, inventing new dishes with whatever is available. When I visit home or travel to Europe, I keep up with new food trends by dining out and sampling food at other restaurants.
Q: When you are not working, what are a few of your hobbies?
A: Listening to music, dancing (especially to Latin music), and doing culinary reading and research.