Kitchen Inquisition: Oscar Bonelli

This authentic Italian pastry chef brings the his pastry past to South Florida, giving sweets lovers yet another reason to check out Cecconi's in Soho House Miami Beach.

By Lourdes Reigosa
|  Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012  |  Updated 4:52 PM EDT
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Kitchen Inquisition: Oscar Bonelli

Gesi Schilling

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If you’re looking for international cuisine, look no further than Cecconi’s in Soho House Miami Beach. A Venetian restaurant with its original location in London, it’s enticing the discerning tastes of Miami denizens and savvy visitors alike. The restaurant’s Pastry Chef, Oscar Bonelli, has always been a fan of tradition-- but that doesn’t mean he’ll shy away from giving any dish his own twist. Bonelli is a bonified sweets maker, having been around pastries since childhood in his family’s pastry shop in Fassa Valley, Italy. He tells us here his secret to making the perfect pastry and what you need to do make it in the culinary world.
  
I'm sure all the desserts on your menu are like your children, but if you had to choose only one dish from the menu, which one are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the Chocolate Delizia for a number of reasons. First, I love the combination of crunchy, crispy and creamy textures provided by the nuts, chocolate and wafer. It also gives me a professional satisfaction because it’s the hardest dish on my menu to make. The main reason I’m most proud of it though is because the recipe was handed down to me by my father and has been in my family for generations. I recommend it to all sweets lovers.
  
What is the most popular dessert on the menu? 
The most popular dessert on our menu is the Key Lime pie, which I serve with pineapple sorbet.

How would you describe Miami's dining scene? 
I would say that it has become very international over the years. Diners are becoming much more adventurous and are curious to experiment with new flavors outside of their comfort zones.


What’s your secret to baking the perfect pastry? 

The secret comes from loving what you’re doing, of course, in addition to having a thorough knowledgeable of the ingredients you use. Ultimately, the final product should have balance between a harmonious pairing of flavors and the right combination of consistencies.
  
At what point did you realize that you were destined to be a chef? 
It was not one specific moment – I would say it was more of a gradual realization. I grew up in a pastry shop in Italy with a pastry chef as a father, so inherited much of my appreciation of the art from those childhood experiences.
 
Name the 5 ingredients every pastry kitchen should have?
Sugar, flour, eggs, butter, chocolate!

 

Tell us the 5 utensils every kitchen should have?
A stove, an oven, a spacious working table, a refrigerator and a freezer. On top of having the right utensils, all of these items must be installed in a carefully designed space to maximize production.

What is the first dish you learned to make?

I started with the basics: a pastry cream custard. It’s one of the most essential components of all pastries.

 

What is your favorite dish to make at home?  

When I’m at home I love to create comfort dishes. Right now I’m a big fan of Saffron risotto with osso bucco, polenta with wild mushrooms and rabbit stew.

What's your favorite food to eat? In other words, what could you live off of for the rest of your life if you had to?
Ice cream. Is there anything better?
 
Tell us a little more about your restaurant.
Cecconi’s is an intimate garden-style restaurant on the ground floor of Soho Beach House. It is inspired by the original London location, which was founded in 1978 and modeled after Cipriani in Venice, Italy. All of our food is homemade, classic Italian and made by Italians. It is high-quality simplicity served in an especially cozy, unique and romantic atmosphere.
 
If there’s one tip or piece of advice you could give to all aspiring chefs out there, what would it be?
Don't skip steps. Master the basics, then work your way up. Don’t concentrate on making money at the beginning, it’s much better to work in places where you can learn others’ techniques until you are able to develop your own.
 
 

 
 

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