Benvenuti !!!

I’m Niv Zilli, Private Cook, Menu Developer, and Food Writer with a great love for food and entertaining. This love has made me very curious about food and over time that curiosity has grown into a serious fixation. What I have is certainly more than a crush as I’ve been in love with food since I can remember. I’m always thinking about food, experimenting with it, talking about it, reading about it, and writing about it.

Here, I make cooking, baking and home-making a celebration! For me it’s not just a contemporary statement to want to eat better to live better, I knew from before it became fashionable, that I love to cook good food and create things “home-made”. If I’m not in the kitchen feeding my huge appetite, I’ll be in the “ugly room” feeding my soul. Most likely I’ll be messed with paint, hair disheveled, suffering from glue gun burns or smelling of iron vinegar trying to update an old piece of furniture. Between that, you can find me at vintage shops, markets, fairs and fests in support of the little man, or driving through the countryside in search of fruit, or wild herbs and foliage for my teapots, or else I’ll simply be sitting in the Piazza with my nose in a book and my fork in a bento box, close to the coolness of the big fountain. When I have more time I roam the Old Town, visiting century old artisanal butcheries, sweet shops, pastry shops, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells with my camera for companionship. I love the Old Town’s old world charm, it’s a maze of cobbled streets, ancient cathedrals, street musicians, side walk cafes and century old buildings. It’s a wonderful mix of culture there, one minute you’re in Italy then suddenly one turn into another cobbled path and you might think you’re strolling through a Souk in Morocco. I’m always drawn to that part of the town when I find myself there. From hand painted tagines and handmade lamps to exotic meats and spice blends, it’s all there. It’s perfect for a food lover! Searching for the freshest ingredients, whether it’s for my clients, my guests or a meal for two at home, is my favourite way to show Love.

If you’re here for a taste of La dolce vita, I must impress that the Italians have their culinary culture down to an art. It feels satisfying to live in a country revered for its gorgeous appetite. Living here, I’ve learned so much and I’m always in the learning process. An average street in Italy has no less than three fruit and vegetable markets because people here are mad for fresh produce, as they should be. I did a quick count of the number of markets found 500 metres from the street where I live and this is what I discovered. Six fruit and vegetable markets, (giant corporations not included), three pastry shops, two butcheries, one fishery, one wine, olive oil and cheese market, and one little shop dedicated to selling planted herbs. Bear in mind if you can that none of them have that boutique type ambience going on, because actually they’re not considered speciality shops, this is simply the norm. I think that’s the aspect I love most about this concept, the fact that this passion for quality food is considered normal. Its a constant food fest and everyone’s invited, even those with little money. It’s the very reason why Italian food has gained so much popularity. Every day eating and drinking in this little part of the world would be considered a celebration in most other countries, which saddens me because I think that every person should have access to ample markets that sell non GMO produce from meat to eggs to cheese to fruit and veg, as well good wine and good oil without leaving a hole in one’s pocket. The average bottle of extra virgin olive oil in Italy costs about 3 times more abroad (even when it’s not “made in Italy”) and only affordable to a privileged handful, while the Italians have olive oil running through their veins. It’s no wonder then that the average lifespan of Italians , is about 83 years and many still take a stroll to the markets. When I thought about food writing, my first intention was to share my passion for eating well and living here has granted me this opportunity. I love all the flavours of the world and I’m always experimenting with various food cultures in my dishes so of course this is not strictly an Italian food blog. But Italy is absolutely a food lover’s paradise putting me in the best place to be able to share its culinary lifestyle with you. Italian food has taught me simplicity, so we’re off to a good start.

As I started saying, I love to cook, mainly because I love to eat, but scathingly close to that obvious reason is the truth that I do love to entertain. When there’s friends, family and laughter around the table, all is well with the world, or so it seems. My dream is to one day have a table big enough to be able to share my food with those who have nothing to eat. The best way I can describe how much I enjoy what I do, is to liken it to the nourishing, natural goodness of cream found at the top of a farm fresh bottle of milk. That anticipated moment of licking the spoon when enjoying the best of nature’s gifts is kind of how I feel when I cook and bake – sheer joy. Cooking, sharing and feeling the enjoyment that comes from a delicious meal is for me, one of life’s greatest rewards. Being able to expand my love for food as a Private Cook at exclusive dinner parties and luncheons, to a myriad of guests, I’ve come to realise that good food is always the true “guest of honour” in any celebration no matter the culture!