Waikato Farmers Markets Newsletter Spring 2013  

Da Italia con amore

Roberto Di Denia of Roberto's Kitchen explains how the Italians like to eat their food as individual courses. Unlike the Kiwi habit of piling up one plate with everything on offer, Italians enjoy each food separately, savouring the flavour and texture. For example an Italian meal could start with a small helping of mushroom risotto. This is followed by a green salad. Then comes the pasta dish or perhaps some grilled fish. After that maybe a dish of vegetables and then, if you have any room, a Tiramisu (meaning "pick me up").

Finally a coffee and some biscotti...a then a good sleep. Roberto has most of what you need to recreate such a wonderful feast. Meraviglioso!

Kitchen Things Local Chefs Series - Roberto Di Denia

Waikato Times, 14 July 2012


Convenient meals from an Italian pasta master

Artisans by Alexia Santamaria

Weekend Herald 8 June 2012

Ready to eat meals are a tricky thing. The convenience is fabulous but you usually have to compromise by eating something loaded with chemicals to extend its shelf life.

Not in this case. Roberto's Kitchen pastas only require heating, or in some cases boiling, and are simply made from flour, free range eggs and semolina. A rarity.

Roberto Di Denia has been cooking since he was 5 and is now bringing the tastes of his childhood in Southern Italy to New Zealand homes with his retail line.

Roberto and his wife came here in 2005 and for three years ran a cafe in Kawerau before moving to Hamilton. When they came to Hamilton, he was able to follow his true passion-cooking- (rather than serving, manning a till and managing staff) and so he started making home made pasta and selling it to the markets.

Needless to say, they were a hit and now he has decided to start an online business so people outside of Hamilton can taste it too (www.robertoskitchen.co.nz)

The pasta is soft, fresh and very addictive. I particularly liked the mushroom sauce and the kalamata olive flavoured pasta. The sauce had that gorgeous home-made warming, creamy taste, making it perfect comfort food. The blue cheese and spinach sauce was a little strong for my taste, despite being a blue cheese fan, but it's the kind of thing you'd have to try yourself to decide.

What stood out for me is that it is an artisan product, but packed for convenience. I could totally picture myself heating one of the ready meals or boiling up some pasta, a particularly appealing option on a busy work night where you need something fast. It's also nice to see someone catering for vegetarians, who often have limited options for ready-made food.

A couple of other products in the range do contain minimal preservatives, as Roberto has had trouble finding the right cheese without preservatives. For that reason they are not part of this review, but Claire Turnbull, nutritionist from Mission Nutrition, says they are perfectly safe and that consumption of those extras is all about personal choice. Definitely worth keeping this product in the freezer for a tasty stress-free meal when time is tight.


Waikato Times, 6 December 2010, by Nicola Boyes

                                                                                      FASTER PASTA

Friday is chaotic for Roberto Di Denia.
Flour dusts the surfaces of his tiny commercial kitchen and stainless steel pots sit at the ready. It's evidence of a marathon pasta-making effort which will see him crank nearly 10 kilograms of tagliatelle, fettuccine and spaghetti from his hand-wound machine.

Italian herbs, tomato, olive and natural, just like his mother Grace was still making in her 80s at their Taranto home in Italy's southeast.

Huntly is now home, however, and the brick villa he shares with his wife Graciela is the headquarters of Mr Di Denia's kitchen supplying the weekend farmers' markets from Howick Village to Pine Harbour, north of Auckland and Hamilton.
He admits it's not the obvious place for an Italian kitchen, but the couple fell in love with the villa. Mrs Di Denia believes was made by an Italian family working on the railway lines in the 1920s.

The couple plan to extend the house eventually, to give Mr Di Denia's kitchen more room, but for now they are focused on growing the brand, the next step - stocking delicatessens around New Zealand.

"We have got the packaging sorted but we need to work on barcodes and transportation because it is all fresh ingredients. It would be frozen and it's fine to freeze," she says.

Mr Di Denia believes New Zealanders' tastebuds need to be introduced to real Italian pasta, not the variety found in supermarkets made with preservatives and presented in an unnatural array of colours. The basis of good pasta he says is 100 grams of flour to one free-range organic egg, per person.

The couple are applying for organic status for their pasta but Mrs Di Denia says the difficulty is finding enough organic eggs and particularly flour.

Meanwhile, their sloping section is being prepared to plant hundreds of tomato and basil seedlings to make their own sauces and pasta flavours.

"His mother can't believe we live in a country where people don't make their own tomato sauce at home. She doesn't understand how people can live like that."

They are also investigating the Malaysian market for pasta.

"It's huge over there, the population is so large," says Mrs Di Denia.

"We have all these ideas, we always have ideas but there are only two of us." says Mr Di Denia.

He is also offering cooking classes either in customers' homes or through Hamilton Boys' High. Students learn by watching him then making their own.

"That is how we learn," he said. "You learn by experience; my mother did just what I am doing now. In Italy, food is an experience. All the big decisions are made while eating."


North Waikato News, 10 November 2010, by Tony Stevens


In east Huntly a brick home perched at the top of a small green pasture evokes an Italian cottage in the Tuscan hills. At the door I am greeted by Roberto and Graciela Di Denia.

Roberto quickly ushers me into his kitchen.

A vegetarian chef who specialises in fresh Italian cuisine Roberto also sells pre-cooked meals at markets under his label Roberto's Kitchen and teaches Italian cooking to students in the comfort of their own home.

"People are more comfortable in their own surroundings," he said. "It's a better environment for them to learn - and it's good to learn to use the ingredients you have available."

"Most of the ingredients you need to make good Italian food are available at the supermarket. You dont have to buy anything fancy. Good Italian food is always simple," he said.

In Roberto's kitchen his passion for cooking is abundantly evident. It's a tiny space but one that is used to the full. All his equipment is stored meticulously to maximise efficiency and everything is in arm's reach of the bench.

All week I had been looking foward to the opportunity to learn from a real Italian master and the lingering aroma of Roberto's cooking before I arrived had my stomach rumbling.

Fresh pasta complimented by Neapolitan sauce and tiramisu dessert are on the menu, much to my delight. Roberto and I share an overwhelming obsession with the dessert of desserts, tiramisu.

This coffee lover's dream has layered sponge cake, coffee and mascarpone (a sweet cream-cheese), garnished with a dash of cocoa.

"I always make my tiramisu in small batches. I can't make too much because when I start eating it I cannot stop," he confessed.

Making fresh pasta is a revelation. I am struck by the simplicity. All that is needed is flour and eggs and with a little practice mixing and kneading the ingredients into a stretchy dough my product is ready for cooking.

The result is "bellissimo ".

The al dente tagliatelle pasta is mouth-watering and complimented exquisitely by Roberto's pungent and very easy-to-make Neapolitan sauce.

Roberto grew up in Massafra in the Puglia region of Southern Italy known as the high heel of the boot.

"I grew up with a Mediterranean diet - lot of vegetables, pasta, meat and fish," Roberto said.

"I loved my mother's delicious vegetarian and pasta meals but hated dishes with meat and fish."

"In my twenties I worked in Milan where the diet was very different, less vegetables, more diary products and meat, so I started making my mother's meals by asking her and recalling what I saw in my childhood."

Roberto emphasises healthy cooking but tiramisu is his Achilles' heel.

Roberto's recipe is elementary and within 15 minutes I am dipping a spoon into an absolutely divine dessert. I feel dangerous armed with this recipe, magically imbued with the ability to charm any dinner date with my culinary excellence. Time will tell.

Roberto has lifted my game 100 per cent.

The man should open up a restaurant here but for now I'll have to settle for the pre-cooked meals he plans to make available to delis around the region.

Until then you can find his food at the Hamilton Farmers' Market on Sundays and to learn Italian cooking contact him on 07 828 9702 or email:


Hamilton Press, 16 September 2009, by Geoff Lewis

Roberto Di Denia likes to recreate the tastes of his childhood. A native of Taranto in southern Italy, he arrived in New Zealand with wife Grace in 2005, and for three years ran a cafe in Kawerau before moving to Hamilton.  His route to New Zealand has been circuitous, having worked as a civil servant in Italy, sold ice cream and run a bookshop  in Spain, and an art gallery in New Caledonia.

He and Grace came to Hamilton last year when Grace got a job as an interpreter.
But one of Roberto's great enthusiasms is cooking, in particular Italian recipes. His favourites are from his childhood living in Taranto, the port city for the province of Puglia. 

"I cook. I like eating. I left my town and family at the age of 20 for other places, but I have always remembered the flavours of my childhood. My father worked outside.  My mother was always in the kitchen."
A vegetarian, Roberto's aim is to build up his range of foods and sell through farmers markets. "I dont want to set up another cafe or restaurant, Very expensive to establish and I don't like the routine."

His first outing was at the Tamahere Market in December last year. All his food is home made from scratch, with fresh ingredients including flour milled in New Zealand. "I am preparing to be Organic Certified, and in the meantime I use organic ingredients as much as I can, like sugars, olive oil, free-range eggs, apples, raisins and vegetables."

At markets he sells pizza, tiramisu, apple strudel, and fresh pastas (gnocchi, ravioli, tagliatelle), risotto and taralli biscotti to his mother's recipe.

Roberto shares his skills at Italian Vegetarian Cooking and Regional Italian Cooking night classes at Fairfield and Cambridge High School.  He also tutors privately.
Roberto's Kitchen products will be available from October 18 at the Hamilton Farmers' Market, held every Sunday morning at Sonning Carpark, River Rd just north of Claudelands Bridge.



Some of the Waikato's most outstanding Italian food is about to become available in fine food establishments all over New Zealand. Roberto's Kitchen is the brand of Roberto Di Denia, a cook who specialises in the cuisine of the region around the South Italian city of Taranto in which he grew up. Roberto built the brand around the cooking of his mother who, he says, 'was always in the kitchen,' and Roberto's Kitchen dishes have been regular favourites at the Hamilton Farmers' Market since 2008, when Roberto moved to the Waikato after at 3-year stint as a cafe' owner in the Bay of Plenty.
Apart from pasta lovers at the Hamilton Farmers' Market, retailers across NZ are able to stock Roberto's fine products by ordering via his website and distributors. Customers nation wide can find Roberto's products in delicatessen and specialty shops or can order them directly in his website.
Several features distinguish Roberto's Kitchen products from other Italian food brands: For one Roberto is very particular about preparation and the quality of his ingredients, and makes everything himself in the commercial kitchen he has built in his Huntly home. "Making most of my products by hand allows me to stay true to traditional hand making Italian techniques and to constantly improve my understanding of both those techniques and the ingredients I use," says Roberto. "It is also easier to maintain my quality standards and anyway I love constantly being in touch with the food I am preparing. For me, it is both a very personal experience and one that I feel I am sharing with all the people who eat and enjoy what I make".
Roberto only uses free-range eggs and, when possible, NZ-fresh, spray-free and organic ingredients. And so, as Roberto's Kitchen finds its way into the establishments of fine food merchants throughout New Zealand, shoppers can expect to become familiar with Roberto's outstanding lasagna, ravioli, fettuccine, gnocchi, risotto, sauces, tiramisu and taralli biscuits among others.
"Roberto's Kitchen products have sold successfully at the Hamilton Farmers' Market and in Auckland Markets and it is exciting that the brand is now going countrywide," says Roberto.
And for those who want to learn the secrets of his success, Roberto conducts personalised cooking classes in people's homes using ingredients he finds in their fridge and pantry cupboard. The greatest secret according to Roberto is simplicity. "Good Italian food is always simple," he says.
For information about cooking lessons, to order food or for distribution details for Roberto's Kitchen products, please email: info@robertoskitchen.co.nz




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