Kitchen Things Local Chefs Series - Roberto Di
Waikato Times, 14 July 2012
Convenient meals from an Italian pasta
Artisans by Alexia
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.
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
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
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.
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
Italian herbs, tomato, olive and natural, just like
his mother Grace was still making in her 80s at their Taranto home in Italy's
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
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,"
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
The couple are applying for organic status for their pasta
but Mrs Di Denia says the difficulty is finding enough organic eggs and
Meanwhile, their sloping section is being prepared to
plant hundreds of tomato and basil seedlings to make their own sauces and pasta
"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
"It's huge over there, the population is so large," says Mrs Di
"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
North Waikato News, 10 November 2010, by Tony
BELLISSIMO ROBERTO! BUON
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
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
Italian cooking to students in the comfort of their own home.
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
"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.
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
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.
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
"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."
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
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
ITALIAN COOKING TUTOR SHARES FLAVOURS FROM HIS
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.
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."
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.
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. "MakingmostofmyproductsbyhandallowsmetostaytruetotraditionalhandmakingItaliantechniquesandtoconstantlyimprovemyunderstandingofboththosetechniquesandtheingredientsIuse," saysRoberto. "ItisalsoeasiertomaintainmyqualitystandardsandanywayIloveconstantlybeingintouchwiththefoodIampreparing.Forme,itisbothaverypersonalexperienceandonethatIfeelIamsharingwithallthepeoplewhoeatandenjoywhatImake".
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.
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
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: