Feature Story – Sorriso Restaurant & Pizzeria

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Photography by Greg Chin & Riley Khoo

Charismatic, confident and contented – Chef Salvatore Pio Giuseppe Intrigilia or Chef Salvo as he’s fondly called, is the owner and Head Chef at the popular Italian restaurant Sorriso Restaurant and Pizzeria located at Regent Square, Kiulap. Since opening Sorriso in 2010, he’s been getting more people in Brunei to appreciate the many delicious flavours of ‘authentic’ Italian food. Anyone who’s ever dined at Sorriso knows that the Italian food he prepares there is characterised by freshness and the intensity of flavour—and when people talk about meals that they’ve enjoyed such as the Lobster Ravioli and Lombada of Lamb, they usually use words like “excellent” and “best ever”!

In 2015, Sorriso received a coveted award from The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, “the world’s oldest international gastronomic society, founded in Paris in 1248. It has over 25,000 members and is now established in over 80 countries bringing together enthusiasts who share the same values of quality, fine dining, the encouragement of the culinary arts and the pleasures of the table.” But this should come as no surprise, as Chef Salvo has been in the industry for over 30 years and has worked internationally with world renowned chefs. His vast culinary experience means that he’s also had many opportunities throughout his career to prepare meals for royalty, dignitaries and celebrities. This is a man who has mastered culinary techniques; clearly understands the virtues of presentation; and genuinely values authentic cooking.

“My cooking is Italian, but it is also very personal – fired by my imagination and also based on fresh, local ingredients.”

Chef Salvo believes that the secret to great Italian cooking is simple – less fuss and more flavour. He explained, “The produce should speak for itself. Very fresh ingredients that are simply prepared is what good food is all about.” Having said that, Chef Salvo proudly admitted that his work is always evolving and his dynamic menu reflects this commitment to continual innovation. He believes that the creativity of the dishes served at Sorriso combined with a high level of personalised service extended to his customers, are both factors which help the restaurant to attract and secure a loyal following of foodies in Brunei.

Ognuno ha il suo destino. (Everyone has his destiny)

Salvatore Pio Giuseppe Intrigilia grew up in a close knit italian family. His mother who was from the South of Italy was a chef, his father who was from Sicily was an electronic engineer and they had three boys, including Salvatore. As a young boy he learnt a lot about cooking from his mother as he had to help her with chores in the kitchen, like picking herbs and cutting up vegetables. He quickly grasped the basics skills, and by the age of nine he’d already started working small jobs. He fondly recalled having to carry trays laden with drinks through the streets to customers, he said, “In those days, it was fun almost like an adventure!” By the time he was 12 years old, he started working in an Italian kitchen and eventually he became chef de rang and was in charge of grilling meat. He said that this was a tough job as it meant working in a very hot environment for many hours. When he was 14 years old, he went to college and decided to study electronics, but realised he was more interested in pursuing a career in cooking. By the age of 16, he’d left Italy to seek his fortune. To support himself financially he worked in kitchens throughout the UK and in various European countries – he learnt all of the cooking skills and techniques he knows so well in the school of life and had the good fortune to be taught by some of the best cooks and chefs in the industry. Having survived years of hard graft in many kitchens, today, cooking is more than just a business for Chef Salvo, it is definitely an act of love!

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Chef Salvo cooking

Molto più fanno gli anni che i libri. (Years teach more than books)

After having gained years of invaluable experience in the food industry, Chef Salvo went on to teach cooking at Colchester Institute in the UK. During that time he was committed to sharing his knowledge and practical cooking skills with his students.  Later on, he travelled and worked in prestigious restaurants in the Middle East and Asia and this opened up a whole new culinary world to him where he discovered new styles of cooking, new products and new tastes. Eventually he decided to settle down in Brunei and then opened his restaurant. Of course, knowing that Italian cuisine is all about using the choicest ingredients, he’s always been pedantic about sourcing only the best for his dishes. He was keen to stress that the quality of the food is very crucial, “I don’t believe in Molecular Gastronomy, I believe in Mother Nature. That’s why at Sorrriso’s we use only the finest of ingredients together with the most cherished traditions from Italy. My cooking is Italian, but it is also very personal – fired by my imagination and also based on fresh, local ingredients. If a customer chooses steak or fish – that’s what they should taste – it should not be overpowered by sauces or chemicals.” So what’re the favourite dishes on the menu at Sorriso? “The antipasto, Truffle Bruschetta, Scallop Florentine style, pizza and home-made pasta.” And when asked what dish he enjoys making the most, he enthusiastically responded “Pizza with Carpaccio Truffle!”

Besides top notch ingredients, another major factor that has contributed to Sorriso’s success is the staff, both in the kitchen and in the dining room. Chef Salvo explained, “In terms of the kitchen staff it’s all about consistency under pressure. You never know what diners are going to order but you have to be prepared to serve up the best on every occasion, so that they’ll keep coming back. My staff must be disciplined and try to do their best – sometimes if things go wrong I get emotional – but I don’t believe in bullying people.” He further explained that chefs work when everyone else is off, they’re on their feet; sometimes without breaks; in a hot kitchen. The work is intense, fast-paced and demands perfection every time. Therefore, it is very important to have a team who are organised and share a passion for producing great food! With regards to the waiting staff in the dining area, he explained that he takes great pride in properly training them to ensure that customers have a personalised and comfortable dining experience at Sorriso. From the moment they enter the restaurant a waiter is on hand to present their table and a menu with irresistible antipasti and deliciously crafted main courses and deserts. He focuses “on teaching all of his staff to be the best at whatever they do – to have a sense of pride; and to take initiative in their roles.” Chef Salvo was also proud to reveal that he’s had a few employees who’ve stayed with him since the inception of the restaurant, and others who he’s trained who’ve gone on to better positions with restaurants overseas.

A ogni uccello il suo nido è bello (There’s no place like home)

Brunei has now become a second home to Chef Salvo. The country has a special place in his heart because this is where he met his wife Lina, who he admirably described as his “pillar” or main support. This petite, quiet lady is at Sorriso daily, working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that everything runs smoothly and that customers are satisfied. The couple also have four children, ranging in ages from 12 to four – so after working long, demanding days, de-stressing and relaxing is a must for them. As a member of the Silver Hawks Motorcycle Club, Chef Salvo takes his wife on road trips – as they both enjoy the freedom and adventure of seeing new places from the seat of their Suzuki 1250cc.

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Costolette d’agnello Siciliana (Lamb cutlets in Sicilian Sause)

When it comes to the children he said, “We are quite old fashioned parents because we prefer our children to play together outdoors instead of staying indoors with gaming devices. We all lead very hectic lives, so our family meal is still a sacred time. We all sit together to eat at least once a day so that we can talk; listen to each other and sort out any issues.” When asked if any of his kids wanted to follow in his footsteps what advice would he give to them, he replied, “I would advise them to be hard working and determined; and to learn from experienced chefs. Being a chef means that you must have thick skin because some days you are harshly criticised and other days you are loudly applauded. It is also important for a chef to know his or her past – the history and traditions of your food; know your present – the food that is available to you now; and for the future – try to improve on the present, and create food that people want to eat.”

Finally, he said “My wife and I, have built his restaurant on the key values of not only culinary talent, but also on integrity and honesty.  For us and the team at Sorriso, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to produce and serve up authentic food that people enjoy, and we will continue to give customers more new and creative choices on our menu. Next year, my family and I plan to visit Italy and while I’m there I will spend time getting inspiration for new dishes and developing new skills.” Sorriso Restaurant and Pizzeria is a place where Chef Salvo can simply be himself. He is happiest when he is at his restaurant, preparing food and bringing pleasure to others – no matter who you are!

This article was published in the Jan-Feb 2017 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!