Kitchen Stories – Chris Maggacis at Cucina by Toscani’s
The year was 1998, and Cucina creator Chris Maggacis had just opened the first in what is today a chain of thirteen Toscani’s restaurants. His father George, however, was unsure whether to celebrate or lament his son’s achievement. “I was having a cup of tea with Dad, and he said, ‘I don’t get it. A boy with Greek heritage, born in Australia, opening an Italian restaurant – where did we go wrong?’”
To hear more about Chris’ upbringing, though, is to understand that George Maggacis had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek that day. The short leap from Greek to Italian cuisine was even more so in the Maggacis household, where Chris’ mother specialised in making pasta from scratch. “The fresh pasta is what I really have fond memories of,” Chris recalls. “The flavours you get through that are really different, just divine.”
The culinary traditions that the Maggacis women brought from the island of Rhodes to the farming country of central Queensland 75 years ago were intended to nourish the soul as well as the body, says Chris. “My parents always taught me that food is a way to create the right kind of atmosphere about the home. How welcoming a home was, depended on the way you offered people food.”
This approach to hospitality is as central to the Cucina concept as the fresh-made pasta and time-honoured Mediterranean recipes. As Chris says, “With my Greek heritage, the time when a lot of cooking was done, that’s the time when a lot of talking was done. The whole idea of the Cucina layout is to allow people to interact with the kitchen. We want people to see what we do – we want to create that kitchen experience like you have at home.”
My parents always taught me that food is a way to create the right kind of atmosphere.
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp virgin olive oil
2 tbsp water
|Mound flour on bench top and make a well in the centre, add eggs, salt, olive oil and half the water. Mix with fork to start, until combined. Knead dough until smooth (around 6 minutes). Make a disc shape and cover with damp tea towel for 30 minutes.
Add the fettuccine to the boiling water and cook to al dente. Approximately 1 minute. Drain immediately and combine with the seafood, adding all chopped herbs. Season with the salt and pepper. Add lemon oil through the pasta and seafood. Place pasta in bowls, garnish with bugs and drizzle each with extra lemon oil.