Watch our Film with Chef Silvia
Silvia Barban was born and raised in Northern Italy where she learned to combine its cuisine, rich in cheese and olive oil, with the fresh tastes of her mother’s southern Calabrian heritage. From “E.Maggia” Stresa culinary school, Barban began to find her way in the kitchen of the Maestro of Italian cuisine, Gualtiero Marchesi. She worked as a pastry chef, learning to cook modern and traditional dessert for Giancarlo Perbellini, and later moving into the kitchen as chef de partie. In 2012, she made the move to New York for the opening of Giovanni Rana Pastificio e Cucina. She became an Executive Chef at Aita in Brooklyn two years later and is now the owner and Executive Chef of LaRina Pastificio & Vino, a pasta-focused restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. She also competed in Season 14 of Bravo’s TOP CHEF.
Q & A with Chef Silvia
Q: How did your love for cooking begin?
A: My love for cooking started with my grandmother. She was my first mentor, and she made dishes that brought our family together with great joy. I was just ten when she passed, but it was then that I decided that I wanted to follow in her footsteps of creating meals that brought much happiness to my family. By the age of thirteen, I was so passionate about food that I just knew that I would become a chef.
Q: What does it mean to be Italian?
A: It’s my heritage and my everything. Traditions. Pride. Drama. Fights within family. To be myself. I am not afraid to show who I am. Not afraid to correct people when they mispronounce things.
I give my customers real Italian food. Italian cuisine is a celebration of what’s fresh – it’s about respecting flavors and letting the beautiful produce in our surrounding environment shine. People who come to my restaurants say that they feel like they are in Italy and that it’s authentic – it’s a huge compliment.
Cooking is my life. I love cooking. When I cook, the world doesn’t exist anymore and it’s just me, pasta, and my vision.
Q: What role does olive oil play in your cooking?
A: As a true Italian, I use olive oil extensively. Sometimes I even use it on my skin! I meticulously research every ingredient that I choose – none more so than my olive oil. I use Corto because I love the way their oils taste and how they contribute to the uniqueness of my dishes. With Corto, I get the texture – the smoothness and creaminess – I seek in my pastas that I cannot get with other olive oils.
When I used to go to Calabria, my aunt would give me olive oil but by the time I got to Lombardia, the flavors of the oil would be different. So, think about olive oil coming from Italy to America – it would be so easy for the oil to change flavor. However with Corto, the flavors don’t change.
Q: Why is it important to you to be the best?
A: I have enjoyed taking on challenges ever since I was a child. I am now in America, and I have a burning desire to prove myself as a chef. My mom was wary of my decision to make the move. I sacrificed many things to come here, but I want to prove to my mother and my family that I can be the best here in America. I’m sure that my grandmother is watching me from above, and she is certain to be proud that I am cooking in a way that respects her memory.
With Corto, I get the texture – the smoothness and creaminess – I seek in my pastas that I cannot get with other olive oils.