Who is Francesco Balestrieri? I’m executive chef at Agostinis Italian restaurant in Kingston.
Best recent dining experience: It was at Zaab in Braddon, which does Lao-Thai street food. The fried chicken was amazing and we had beef cheek massaman style, which was really tender and sweet. For dessert, we had orange ice cream – the perfect ending.
Most embarrassing pantry item: Two-minute noodles. When I don’t feel like cooking and I have leftover chicken in the fridge it’s the best combo.
Must-buy ingredient: Chilli flakes and pasta.
Next big thing: Anything I put on the menu at Agostinis that is slow-cooked, especially in the colder months, is always a big thing. Nothing new here – it’s just what people crave. One of the most popular dishes is the pappardelle al ragu Toscano.
Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: I’m Italian so we don’t get breakfast – but I do go out for fresh Italian bomba (doughnuts) at Sfoglia patisserie and cafe in Dickson as often as I can.
My Canberra food secret: As I live in Watson I can’t go past the Capital Region Farmers Market to pick up great quality regional produce.
Biggest culinary influence: My mum. Her Sunday gnocchi with slow-cooked pork ribs is my all-time favourite.
Favourite cookbook: The Silver Spoon, which was originally published in 1950. It’s a great reference point for traditional Italian cooking techniques.
Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: I admire the dedication of the team behind Ottoman Turkish restaurant in Barton, who produce consistently good food and service.
What’s on the menu this week: Slow-cooked beef ribs with vino cotto served on polenta.
Where I’m going next: Canberra’s newest restaurant opening, Inka in Bunda Street.
Death row meal: That’s easy – it would be my mum’s gnocchi.
My COVID-19 response: To keep the business (and our loyal customers) going during the pandemic we just made truckloads more takeaway pizza!
My really simple recipe tip: It’s pasta with pork sausage, broccolini and chilli and it’s so easy to make. Boil a pot of water with a pinch of salt. De-skin two pork and fennel Italian sausages and break them up into a frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Brown them and add half a glass of white wine. When the water is boiling, throw in the pasta and simmer for 10 minutes with half a teaspoon of chilli. Chop the broccolini and add it to the sausage – then add 1 cup of hot water from the pasta pot and pop the lid on. Strain the cooked pasta and add it to the sausage sauce. Finish with salt and pepper and top with parmesan cheese. Eat with the rest of the vino bianco!
Agostinis, famous for its pizza and freshly made pasta, is located in the East Hotel on Canberra Avenue in Kingston. It is open daily for lunch and dinner.