It was a beautiful fall day in Toronto, leaves were still flirting with the wind, and the sun shining through branches of half barren trees as I made my way downtown to my next interview. Once parked, I walked across to the Four Seasons Hotel. Travellers were going in and out of taxis and as I approached the entrance, the valet attendant opened the door for me. I made my way to D-Bar and waited for my guest of honour; David Rocco. He arrived with bags in hand stuffed with his new cookbook; Dolce Famiglia.
While he’s been chasing the Dolce Vita for years now, David Rocco seems more grounded than ever before. As envious as some of us are of his travels to Italy, people can’t seem to resist his culinary charm and follow him on his next adventure. David Rocco has really come a long way since his first TV show, Avventura. As Executive Producer, best-selling author, celebrity chef and host of two internationally syndicated television series, Rocco is busier now than when we interviewed him way back in 2007. His series, Dolce Vita airs in multiple languages in over 150 countries world-wide on the National Geographic Channel International as well as Television’s Food Network, the Cooking Channel and TLN to mention a few. People around the world share his passion for his beloved Italy, and all things Italian. As a self-made celebrity chef and foodie, the sweet life seems to follow him in return. The Dolce Vita is not about material wealth but rather he says, “For me it’s enjoying the moment, whether it’s with my children, my wife or eating raw octopus with a fisherman in a tiny village in Italy.” Those “sweet” moments are ones he wouldn’t trade in for the world. The Dolce Vita is a way of life for Rocco, to enjoy a moment with a loved one or a kindred spirit he might meet along his many travels.
Since our 2007 interview, Rocco’s life has changed, and for the better. His life has been enriched by his three children, twin daughters, Giorgia and Emma and a son, Dante. Most recently, Rocco’s travels took him to Mother India. After shooting two seasons of Dolce India, David Rocco, without hesitation says, “India was amazing, it changed my life.” After bantering back and forth about some common interests we got caught up. He can still ham up a conversation injected with a few jabs in Italian, waving his hands around making his point all the more dramatic. It’s not difficult to smile and laugh in his presence while he breaks his contagious smile. All the while I noticed a thread
of maturity and soulfulness being carried throughout our conversation. In two hours of casual conversation, David Rocco reminisced of his recent travels to Naples, Italy and India. The burning question for me was, why India?
“I’m actually really proud of my book Dolce Famiglia because it’s different.”
– David Rocco
For the next half hour, we talked about India, his spiritual growth, his expanded palette for all things Indian, and how important it was to share this experience with his wife Nina and their three children. “I like that my kids can remember the markets and the people we met,” says Rocco. “These memories will last a lifetime for them. India is full of colour, spices, amazing people and I was immersed in their culture.” There was a little more to the story explaining how it all began. “Because Dolce Vita airs in India, I was asked by one of the broadcasters there to consider doing a series,” says Rocco. After much deliberation and investment on his part, he accepted. He tells fredi Magazine that he had to do something different. Not that he didn’t love going to Italy, but it was time to think outside the box. While he was apprehensive and almost afraid of going, when he got there, he almost came to regret his decision. After several painful hours doubting his decision, the Universe aligned. He was recognized and welcomed by people in his hotel making him feel at home. In that moment he knew this was meant to be and all his fears and doubt dissipated. Dolce India is currently in its second season.
I asked David Rocco what was the most profound lesson that he has learned while travelling. “Geez, that’s a deep question.” He paused. “You know; we are all the same. It’s interesting because I went to India with an open mind and heart and I was there almost very raw. But I saw how similar Indians are to Italians – on a lot of levels, from food, family to the matriarchy of the family to a lot of their customs; India is a magical place. Literally, it was the easiest, smoothest, most enjoyable experience of my life. Powerful.”
Equally as exciting is Rocco’s new book Dolce Famiglia. His approach to this book is not quite what it appears to be at first glance. It transcends the traditional definition of family and goes beyond it. He de ned family to include work family, people in your community and the many families he has met during his travels. Aside from some traditional recipes, there are some introductions to families in Italy who have been sharing their passions for generations. This part of the book really added traditional and historical nuances that otherwise would have made the book just another recipe book.
“I’m actually really proud of my book Dolce Famiglia because it’s different. If I don’t do things I love, I don’t want to do them. This book is about family cooking,” says Rocco. Dolce Famiglia includes many of his family-friendly recipes, running the gamut from essential sauces to snacks and salads. But more important, the book pays tribute to the people who have inspired him by telling their stories and sharing their recipes. It explores family cooking and heritage foods from across Italy focusing on the families who have worked as food purveyors over generations. Stories behind such iconic and delicious Italian exports such as parmiggiano reggiano, gelato and balsamic vinegar, items that are always in family recipes and the hallmark of Italian cuisine.
“What is today’s family? It’s the family of fishermen that go out every day and every morning and come back and they spend more time with themselves than they do with their families,” says Rocco. “I’m talking all sorts of families, I’m talking communities. Really it was about celebrating all the families, celebrating them and their contributions. For example, parmigianno, Italy’s most famous cheese export. There are families that make that cheese. These are families that have been making it for the past four or 500 years.
“For me it’s enjoying the moment, whether it’s with my children, my wife or eating raw octopus with a fisherman in a tiny village in Italy.”
– David Rocco
To me, it was celebrating all that. If we don’t pass it on, it’s going to disappear. For me, a) I want to give a tribute to all the families I met, but b) it’s celebrating the Italian products. These are people who are gatekeepers of Italian tradition and their family tradition, and they will not veer off.”
David Rocco has been blessed with a family who is passionate about food, he shares time in the kitchen with his Mother and Father and with his own family. He involves his children as much as possible, setting the table and being hands on making the kitchen a sacred place for sharing and enjoying quality family time. “I travel a lot, my kids, my wife, they miss me and I miss them. When he is not travelling, the kitchen becomes the room in which they come together. “It’s kind of important to be a mentor, for lack of a better word, for your kids. To illustrate that you can actually love what you do for work.”
What’s next for David Rocco? Dolce Vita took David to Naples at the beginning of 2016 and the sixth season will be airing internationally in early 2017. He told me that next year he has decided to travel to Africa to film a new series, Dolce Africa. He will be exploring the sights, sounds and tastes of the world’s oldest continent. It sounds intriguing doesn’t it? Stay tuned!
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