Alessandro Pavoni fell in love with food while spending Sundays in the kitchen with his nonna.
“Her specialty was a whole hen – still my favourite meal of all time. She used to cook one for the family and one for me!” he told McConnell Bourn, of growing up in his northern Italian home town of Brescia.
Since then, the chef has spent years cultivating his culinary skills in Michelin-starred kitchens across Europe to bring his so-called “Italian-esque something” to Australia.
Moving to Sydney in 2003, the highly-coveted Ormeggio at The Spit was his first venture, followed by Via Alta in 2014.
Sitting on Willoughby’s bustling High Street, the restaurant showcases the “tasty” flavours and recipes from his beloved hometown.
“Being a mountainous area, our food is rich and full-flavoured with lots of game meats, polenta and rice,” he explained, noting the sheer variety across the region.
“The mountains bring heavy foods and the plains bring grains and rice. But then 20 minutes down the road is Lake Garda, which has an almost Mediterranean climate and is famous for its fish, olives, lemons and white wines.”
From risotto made with carnaroli grains and topped with cured Italian fish roe, to homemade ricotta and – Pavoni’s current favourite – tagliolino pasta with asparagus, saffron, spicy sausage and porcini butter, the menu is clean, seasonal and ever-changing.
“These days our menu has evolved with our team to now embrace other regions of Italy,” he said, noting the monthly regional dinners introduced to diners last year.
“The dinners teach us all more – and have also caused many a friendly debate between our staff as to whose region is best!”
And the celebrated chef hasn’t stopped there. Sotto Sopra is Pavoni’s latest offering in 2017 – a rustic trattoria on Sydney’s northern beaches, adding to his ever-growing repertoire.
“I have a few ideas and concepts that I want to explore so I have my eyes out for the perfect site for the next venue, plus a couple of big changes for Ormeggio at The Spit,” he said.
“And my mum and dad are coming to visit this summer!”
Via Alta is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday to Sunday from 7am, and dinner 7 nights a week.
197 High Street North Willoughby
ViaAlta.com.au | 02 9958 1110