Chef Roberto Leoci

The Chef's Journey

Chef Leoci’s passion for food developed at an early age while spending summers in Sicily with his family. What began as a profound love for food, soon guided him closer towards his culinary beginning. His journey began as he worked and studied in Florence, Italy. After mastering his talents, he made a trip across the Atlantic to further his culinary career at the Ritz-Carlton on Key Biscayne, Florida. Eagar to take on new endeavors, Chef Leoci soon began to offer his services as a Private Chef, beginning with exclusive families on Fisher Island and Indian Creek Island. He quickly learned how to use the best seasonal ingredients while preparing healthy meals and traveling globally, this international family pushed the chef’s skills on to a higher level.

Next, Chef Leoci worked for many high-profile clients. From upscale New Year’s bashes to private dinners with the likes of author Tom Wolfe, providing the chef with the opportunity to meet and cook for many celebrities.

After years as a private chef and running hotel kitchens and restaurants, Leoci brought his talents to bear on the Savannah restaurant scene. Since the opening of Leoci’s Trattoria in 2009, he has become a part of Savannah’s culinary culture, philanthropic to numerous local charities and travels with Visit Savannah to promote tourism, indeed a true inspiration.

The cultural affinities between Italy and the South may be many, but until recently, the opportunities for Savannahians to taste Italy’s culinary treasures and traditions have come few and far between. Enter Chef Roberto Leoci, recently named the city’s “Best Chef” by Connect Savannah. His eponymous restaurant has brought to Savannah something lovers of great food could hardly find in New York’s Little Italy: the spark and inspiration of true Southern Italian cuisine, sharpened by classical Northern and French culinary training and untouched by the hand of assimilation. For many years Roberto had the opportunity to work for high-end clientele, Chef Roberto would have to source unique and rare ingredients from around the World.

Leoci’s Mercato Italiano offers back-to-basics Italian cuisine boasting fresh ingredients, homemade pastas, brick-oven pizzas, enticing entrees and an extensive wine list. The menu also represents a major effort to keep the ingredients as local as possible. “Importing food from Italy defeats the whole purpose of Italian food as I was raised and trained to understand it,” Leoci explains. “The true basis of Italian food is local ingredients, no matter where you’re cooking it.”

The menu at Leoci’s is born of the chef’s boyhood memories. With a Barese father and a Sicilian mother, and with a family of shopkeepers, cheese mongers and cooks, Chef Leoci had a firmer background in his region’s food culture as a child than most chefs ever get.

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