Stefano Bonazza has been a familiar face in the Nelson food and restaurant scene since 2005. I first met him when he owned an Italian restaurant on the waterfront and I still remember his grilled steak cooked to perfection and served with lashings of melted mozzarella cheese.
These days you will find him at his latest venture Stefano’s Pizzeria at the State Cinema complex that he opened in September 2006 and where he is the ‘King of Pizza’; and deservedly so I say.
Forget stuffed crusts or thick bread-like pizza bases, Stefano’s pizzas are thin crusted tasty treats that come in three sizes including the extra-super-giant (my description) that takes up the whole table and feeds about four people generously.
According to their website “you will get Real Italian Pizza made by Real Italians. We bake our Pizzas in a traditional stone oven to ensure our pizzas are nice and crispy every time. We use just the right amounts of high quality cheese, spices, and toppings baked to a golden brown, crispy texture to create an unforgettable flavour and taste!” From my experience that is an accurate representation of their food.
One of my pet hates with pizza is a thick, bread-like base followed very closely by toppings that are too thick, pizza should be all about clean, fresh flavours; a crispy base smeared with delicious tomato sauce made from ripe tomatoes and then topped with beautiful ingredients, not dripping with plastic-like oily cheese!
I love classic Mediterranean flavours like anchovies, capers, olives, Parma ham, parmiggiano, pepperoni, artichokes and herbs like oregano and they all feature in Stefano’s pizzas; not all at the same time of course but when combined in the right mix and proportion these ingredients simply sing together.
The Gourmet Pizza range at Stefano’s is more luxurious and come with names that reference Italy like the Godfather, Toni, La Italiana, Siciliana and La Mafiosa. These pizzas all have a tomato base and are topped with mozzarella cheese and include meats like ham, salami, chicken, chorizo as well as blue cheese, sundried tomato, red capsicum and the more intense BBQ sauce.
I also like to add some anchovies to my pizzas, they add a rich saltiness when you bite into a whole one but when used in a sauce they simply melt away and add depth to the flavour.
But what about Stefano Bonazza the person? Even though he only moved to Nelson in 2004 food has always been an important part of his life. I think it is in every Italian’s genes to love food and Bonazza has taken this love and created a life based around feeding people and making them smile with the fresh flavours people in his homeland love.
While he trained as a chef when he left school he took a few years out of the kitchen and worked for L’Oreal for five years before his first passion, food, enticed him back to the kitchen where he did some more training and worked in Venice for about ten years before he made the move to New Zealand and Nelson in 2004.
Bonazza is a very keen fly fisherman and had travelled to New Zealand each year on holiday from about 1993 chasing the elusive brown trout until he decided to settle here in 2004.
During one of his visits he fell in love with a woman he met at St Arnaud, his now partner Gabi and together they decided to make Nelson their new home. New Zealand and Nelson especially “is one of the most beautiful places in the world with wonderful trout fishing rivers.”
Bonazza says “I’m born to fish big brown trout in New Zealand and I can cook food with a lot of love, I live in Nelson for ten years here with my loving partner Gabi, I love her so much and while I am seen as a public guy I am very reserved in private, I like to spend time at home with family, and of course fishing!”
Bonazza has brought his passion for Italian food to Nelson and if you want a true taste of Italy served with passion then a visit to Stefano’s Pizzeria is a must. Check out www.pizzeria.co.nz