“I’ll meet you at the top of the stairs …..” is the catch phrase on its website.
Located above the iconic Light Brigade Hotel on the trendy stretch of Oxford street, La Scala on Jersey has seen a few make-overs in its past where celebrity chef Darren Simpson and Ruben Martinez were behind the kitchen burners.
As you negotiate the flight of stairs, you’ll be greeted at the top by an intimate cocktail bar headed by Julian Serna (ex-The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room). Andrew Carson takes on front-of-house duties over a casual dining room which has gone through a re-design by Annie Snell.
But more importantly, the helm of the kitchen is now headed by Tasmanian-born and Naples-raised Massimo Mele (Cover image above), who was executive chef at Hugos Bar and Pizza not too long ago.
Courtesy of an invitation from PR company Agency G, we are here this evening to sample some of chef Mele’s new menu creations. From his mother’s pickled carrots with goat’s curd, oregano and mint to a slow-cooked Suffolk lamb shoulder chops which are falling off the bone, the food is simple Italian with fresh seasonal ingredients.
A brief interview with chef Mele gives us an insight into his food philosophy and inspiration for using fresh seasonal produce in his creations.
Chef interview: Missomo Mele ~ Executive Chef, La Scala on Jersey
CMSP: What is the food philosophy behind La Scala and how would you describe your cooking style?
MM: My philosophy is simple – keep it fresh by cooking with ingredients which are in season and half the good work is already done for you. My cooking style is rustic but with a twist of refinement.
CMSP: Is there a chef or person that inspires you or influences your thoughts about food and why?
MM: I know it sounds very cliché but my family inspires me all the time especially my mother when it comes to cooking. She has such a calming nature to her cooking and you can taste the subtleness of it in her food. I also have many peers in the industry from different backgrounds that inspire me.
CMSP: There are so many Italian restaurants in Sydney and new ones opening recently. What would you say is your point of difference for the Italian food at La Scala?
MM: Me of course!! Every Italian chef draws inspiration from his region and sticks to the rules. I am a rule breaker. I serve cheese with fish, I put banana with nutella and ricotta in a calzone. I don’t concern myself with what people think because I know my customers enjoy it and that’s all that matters. I guess it is modern Italian which for years I did not understand until now.
CMSP: What are your favourite ingredients to cook with and why?
MM: I think eggplant, peppers and tomatoes are the most amazing vegetables and for me all I can think about when I’m cooking these ingredients is growing up at the foothills of Mount Vesuviana with that volcanic soil. It’s all about food memories for me and that’s something I will never forget.
CMSP: You were born in Tasmania and raised in Naples in Italy. How has this background influenced your cooking?
MM: Well they say two heads are better than one so I guess it has worked out well. You could say I am a true blue Italian.
CMSP: You have cooked for former prime minister John Howard. Tell us about this experience.
MM: It was very cool to be there. I guess my life changed for the better from that experience.
CMSP: There has been a trend towards casual style food and smaller portions at new restaurants recently. What food trends do you foresee in the coming years for Sydney?
MM: If I could predict the future I’d have won Powerball by now but what I will say is consumers are becoming more conscious when it comes to dining out. They understand what is value for money and are also starting to really care a lot more about sustainability. Soon it won’t be trendy to be sustainable. It will be the way of the future.
CMSP: What are your favourite meals to cook at home for your family and friends?
MM: It may sound boring but I love a good roast! Belly of pork, whole chicken and I am sucker for baked potatoes and gravy …. all home made of course.
CMSP: Many chefs like to take a break from cooking on their days off. Do you have a favourite restaurant that you go to on days when you are not cooking at La Scala?
MM: Via Napoli in Lane Cove. It’s not only my favourite but also mamma Maria’s!! She misses Naples and when you walk in the door, Luigi and his team bring a touch of Napoli to Lane Cove and let me say the pizza is as good as anywhere in Napoli!!
ChopinandMysaucepan dined as guests courtesy of La Scala and Agency G. Prices are for readers’ information. All views and opinions are our own.
La Scala on Jersey
Corner of Jersey road and Melrose Lane
Woollahra, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9357 0815
Opening hours: Dinner Monday to Saturday from 6pm. BYO Monday nights only at $10 corkage per bottle.