Our Story

 

Bringing italy back to little italy…

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Here's our story

Born and raised Ottawa kids looking to bring what they learned in Italy back to their city…


 

Both Nina and Cesare have been a part of the hospitality industry in Ottawa. From a very young age Cesare has been involved with the restaurant community. A classic story starting from the bottom ranks from bussing, dish washing, valet parking, serving, cooking and baking. Before working in Europe, Cesare had worked in a variety of Ottawa establishments from fine dining to wood fired pizza. Nina received her introduction to the food service world in a very similar way. Spending many years at a local Italian grocery store refining her customer service skills. Prior to her moving to Italy she had spent time in various pastry and bake shops. The brother and sister team have decided to turn their lifelong dream of owning a restaurant together into a reality.

 
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Cesare Agostini

“My start in the restaurant industry was in the summer of 2000 at the age of 8. While my friends were away at hockey camps aspiring to be the next Sidney Crosby I was polishing cutlery and refilling water glasses at Fratelli restaurant.”

The concept of cooking for people and making them happy was what attracted me most to the kitchen. Being the third generation of Agostini to work in the food and hospitality industry it is safe to say that my interest in cooking started at home. I grew up in an Italian household with all of my grandparents moving to canada during the second world war era. I understood from a young age that eating together was very important to my family. My grandparents always had people over and were known on occasion to feed even door-to-door salesmen passing through the neighborhood. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and if I wasn’t watching her cook I was in front of the TV watching VHS recordings of “molto Mario”. My father who was a professional waiter always had me around his friends who were either cooks, servers or other restaurant owners. Seeing how hard these people worked to keep their customers happy I knew this world was for me.

My start in the restaurant industry was in the summer of 2000 at the age of 8. While my friends were away at hockey camps aspiring to be the next Sidney Crosby I was polishing cutlery and refilling water glasses at Fratelli restaurant. Obviously I only worked weekend lunches but this built a very solid base for me. I loved to interact with customers, the frenzy of a busy shift, being calm and cool in the dining room while knowing cooks were yelling at each other to get orders up in a hot tiny kitchen. I wasn’t attracted to the ridiculous tips I would make as a little boy but more to see a customers face when they saw that I remembered their name or what they ordered the last time they were in. After spending 6 years in this local ottawa trattoria I moved on to work at Giovanni’s. There I spent another 6 years working everywhere from dining room, dishpit, kitchen line and even taking care of all the valet parking at one point. While in high school I decided to do my co-op placement at Domus Cafe. I was the youngest person in the kitchen and the restaurant was then one of the best in the city. Following co-op I was asked by John Taylor to stay at the restaurant as a paid cook. For a few years I bounced around cooking at Domus, Giovanni’s, Black Cat Bistro and Anthony’s wood fired pizza. At 21, I decided to quit my job and sold my worthless car to buy a one way ticket to Rome, Italy.


Growing up I spent most of my summers in Italy. Often staying with relatives just south of Rome for months at a time. I quickly fell in love with the Italian mentality towards food and had set my heart on one day moving to Italy to learn as much as I could. When that day had come, I signed up for a 5 day pizza training course with world renowned baker Gabriele Bonci. Being young and naive I figured after the course Bonci would take me on as an apprentice and my experience in Italy would be set. This was very much not the case. I spent 9 months looking for an apprenticeship in any restaurant, bakery, cheese making factory, butcher shop and even a farm. Being the ‘American’ not one single person would take me. On the verge of completely giving up I made one last phone call to a friend of a friend of a friend, Armando Manni. He put me in touch with Antico Forno Roscioli in downtown Rome and from that point on my life changed.

October of 2013 I showed up at the bakery with no place to live and virtually no money. I was given a maximum of 2 weeks to shadow in the pizzeria department. It turned into a 2 month stay, working 16 hour days with zero pay. I ended up learning at such a fast speed that I went from opening cans of tomatoes to being part of the very busy lunch rush serving hundreds upon hundreds of customers. Making such a big impression I was offered a full time job in the bakery but I refused because I had already promised Ottawa restaurant North and Navy that I would come back home to help open as a sous chef. Chris and Adam were the first people to let me have a voice in the kitchen. They trusted me to set up the bread program and they listened to my input when it came to the menu. After spending a few months with them and their restaurant opening I decided to move back to Rome.

May 2014 I found myself back at Antico Forno Roscioli. This time as a member of the staff. I would go on to spend over 3 years at one of the oldest bakeries in the city and possibly one of the best in the world. I started as a “pizzaiolo assistant” and by the time I left I was running the whole bakery. Taking care of orders, deliveries, schedules, suppliers, baking a ridiculous amount of bread, taking care of all international interviews (TV, magazines, books) and tours. Working at roscioli I got to rub elbows with some of the greatest chefs and bakers in the world. Giving tours around the bakery to the likes of Marc Vetri, Olivier Roellinger, Fulvietto Pierangelini, Katie Parla, Chad Robertson, Dan Richer, Jonathan Waxman and even Giada deLaurentis. Roscioli sent me to numerous galas and trade shows. He let me spend 3 weeks in Naples with master pizza makers the Salvo brothers. I was also able to spend a few days in Modena at Osteria Francescana which at the time was the number one restaurant in the world. Pierluigi Roscioli offered me multiple business opportunities in Rome, Modena, London and even New York. I turned it all down to return to ottawa.ncept of cooking for people and making them happy was what attracted me most to the kitchen. Being the third generation of Agostini to work in the food and hospitality industry it is safe to say that my interest in cooking started at home. I grew up in an Italian household with all of my grandparents moving to canada during the second world war era. I understood from a young age that eating together was very important to my family. My grandparents always had people over and were known on occasion to feed even door-to-door salesmen passing through the neighborhood. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and if I wasn’t watching her cook I was in front of the TV watching VHS recordings of “molto Mario”. My father who was a professional waiter always had me around his friends who were either cooks, servers or other restaurant owners. Seeing how hard these people worked to keep their customers happy I knew this world was for me.

 
 
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Nina Agostini

“I have always known that Ottawa was were I wanted to build my future. All I want to do is establish a place where the food is always fresh, made with pride and affordable . “

I was about eight years old when I first dreamt of one day owning my own business. At the age of 14, I got my first job at a local Italian grocery institution Nicastro’s. Being in that work environment was something I became immediately passionate about. The competitive, tough and fast paced work environment left me feeling accomplished at the end of each and every day. While in high school I worked two jobs. The weekends were reserved for baking at Life of Pie, a neighborhood pie shop in the Glebe. Weekdays on the other hand, were spent making coffees at Simply Biscotti in Ottawa’s little Italy

One month after graduating from high school, I found myself boarding a plane to Italy on the account of being accepted to a premiere gelato making course in Perugia Italy. Universita dei Sapori is located in the heart of Umbria, and is where I received my professional qualification by the board of Maestri della Gelateria Italiana. The program is designed to teach its students everything there is to know about gelato, from the marketing and design of a location, to balancing the percentages of fats, sugars and solids needed to create your own personalized recipe. Upon completion of my final exams it was time to begin establishing myself in the gelato making industry. Due to the economic crisis at the time, Italy was not an easy place to find work.. Every day I would drop off an endless amount of resumes stretching from Perugia to Spoleto. I finally received my first call 9 days into my job hunt from the cities most popular establishment.

Menchetti was not only a gelateria but also a pizzeria, coffee shop, restaurant, bakery and bar. They took me on as a Gelatiera, working 6 days a week 12 hour days for the first three months. I was so eager to learn from my mentor Marco Sogetti that I would even go in on my days off to learn. At 19, after six months of working for Menchetti I was promoted to head gelatiera and general manager. As manager I was in charge of scheduling, placing and reviewing orders as well as directing staff. In 2015 the Menchetti family consulted me in the opening of a second location and a seasonal gelato truck. Gelato for all three locations was made by me in the primary location.

After working at Menchetti for three years, I decided I had enough experience to head back home. I have always known that Ottawa was were I wanted to build my future. All I want to do is establish a place where the food is always fresh, made with pride and affordable.