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Chef cooks the foods he loves

His dream has finally come true. Filippo Rocca is the proud owner and chef of Bella Vita Cucina, a new Italian restaurant on Kathleen St. in Sudbury.Fall 2008His dream has finally come true. Filippo Rocca is the proud owner and chef of Bella Vita Cucina, a new Italian restaurant on Kathleen St. in Sudbury.

It’s been a long journey for Rocca, who has dreamed of opening his own restaurant since he was a teenager living in Calabria, in southern Italy. There, he studied hotel, kitchen and restaurant management in trade school and worked every summer at beachfront restaurants.

“When I finished school, I wanted to come here (Sudbury) to visit my uncle,” says Rocca. “I liked it right away. This is a beautiful place…I love the houses, the trees and the lakes.”

He wanted to stay. The immigration process was long and difficult, but Rocca was determined to see it through.

He was 19 years old and couldn’t speak, read or write a word of English. With the help of his family, he landed a job at Ristorante Verdicchio’ s and began to learn English. He obtained a one-year visa, conditional to remaining employed at the restaurant, which he renewed each year for three years until finally he was granted Landed Immigrant status.

Rocca continued to work at Verdicchio’s for another five years where he developed a passion for making fresh pastas, gnocchi and seafood dishes. All the while, Rocca was saving money to open his own restaurant.

Bella Vita Cucina, which translates to Good Life Kitchen, opened in March of this year and business has been better than Rocco expected.

“We did our statistics on 35 to 50 people a day and we’ve been doing about double that – an average of 100 a day,” says Rocca.

Originally a Cortina Pizza and more recently a Swiss restaurant, Rocca spent three months renovating the building’s interior to make it more comfortable for his guests. The brightly coloured walls and modern lighting create an atmosphere that matches the slogan on the menu,
“Urban Feel—Traditional Fare!”

The restaurant specializes in pasta, seafood and Italian-style pizzas.

“I like to make my food fresh and serve it at the moment when I cook it,” says Rocca. “I like to cook with fresh vegetables and fresh ingredients.”

He grows some of his own Italian herbs in a little garden behind his house.

“These are all my favourite dishes,” says Rocca, pointing to the menu. “Even the pizzas and paninis, (grilled sandwiches). They are all food I love to eat. A lot of them are pretty common dishes that you will find in Italy.”

His favourites include rigatoni agli scampi (rigatoni tossed with scampi tails, flambéed with brandy and finished in a fresh tomato cream sauce) and grigliata mista di pesce (fresh swordfish, scallops, jumbo tiger shrimps and lobster tails grilled to perfection, drizzled with a salmoriglio sauce).

Bella Vita Cucina is a family business. Rocca owns the restaurant with his cousin, Antonio Rocca, who takes care of the business end of things. This allows him to focus on the cooking.

Rocco’s aunt can be found in the kitchen helping to make the ravioli, gnocchi and other fresh pastas. The mural of the Italian coast on the back wall of the restaurant was painted by a family member.

Bella Vita Cucina is open from Tuesday to Friday for lunch and supper, and Saturday and Sunday for supper at 493 Kathleen St. (670-8482) Reservations are required.

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