Blending his love of life with the best it has to offer, David Rocco’s champagne flute is not just half full – it’s overflowing.
Dressed in a tailored Zegna suit and crisp white dress shirt, the host/producer of the Food Network’s David Rocco’s Dolce Vita and his wife, Nina, open the door wide to welcome me into their suite at The St. Thomas Minto.
With her flowing dark hair and stunning Mediterranean looks, Nina, who is the show’s co-producer, is tucking their children into bed, as Rocco gives me a tour. The duo met in high school, he says, and has enjoyed its success accumulated over many years together.
“We’re business partners and we’re married – there’s an advantage because we both love what we do, but we also have to take a day to talk and do other things. We try to have our own time.”
Whether it’s in a romantic restaurant off the coast of Amalfi, or a dimly lit Toronto resto-lounge, the Roccos know how to enjoy themselves. After a glamorous night on the town, the couple has retreated to The St. Thomas Minto in esteemed Yorkville. They invite me in their luxurious suite – complete with a full kitchen, of course – for a late-night dish of pasta.
As Rocco tools around the kitchen deftly, a genuine smile begins to spread across his face as he begins to talk about the magical experiences that have shaped his life. From his Italian lifestyle in Toronto and burgeoning family, to his successful television series based in Italy, Rocco takes viewers on a gastronomic journey. “The show has brought us tremendous joy and opportunities,” says Rocco. “Nina and I have made friends from around the world, and we’re fortunate,” he adds.
While past seasons of Dolce Vita were focused more on location and experiences, Rocco is adding spice to upcoming episodes by adding an ordinary ingredient: simplicity.
“The change of economy is making people seek out a simpler way of life,” explains Rocco, who hopes to reveal the human connection to nature by shooting in Chianti, a prestigious agricultural region in Tuscany.
With his frequent work-related trips to Italy, Rocco has gained an appreciation for the finer things in life. “The neat thing about Italy is that 70 per cent of the world’s art is there, so you’re constantly stimulated wherever you go,” says Rocco. Yet, Toronto is his pick when it comes to choosing his home base.
“Toronto doesn’t have the sea, the sun, and the winters are very long. But socially, we have a very active life. We’re out all the time. We’re a two-minute walk from restaurants and movie theatres. Both Nina and I bring an Italian lifestyle to Toronto,” says Rocco, who is always dressed to impress. In fact, the celebrity chef admits that he doesn’t even own a pair of jogging pants.
While basking in the beauty and culture of Italy, the Roccos are embracing the joys of parenthood. “We work in a very creative environment … there’s so much going on. But my kids come first. I cancel meetings. I waited a long time to be a parent,” says Rocco about their twin baby girls, Emma and Giorgia.
“I’ll spend an hour with them before I go to work. Then I’ll come back two or three times a day and talk to them, since my office is about five minutes away,” says Rocco. That’s probably a good thing, since he prefers to walk, while his luxe automobiles and two vespas rest in the garage of his Toronto home.
Known internationally for his uncomplicated recipes and love of life, Rocco delivers a profound message to his audience: You don’t have to be an expert to quickly prepare a delicious gourmet meal with your family. “Now, the days are so busy. Between e-mails, Blackberrys, television … if you can bring your children into the kitchen to prepare a family meal, they’ll want to engage in conversation and not watch television. That’s part of connecting with your children.”
Growing up in an Italian family, Rocco honed his culinary skills by closely watching his mother and grandmothers whip up quick and delectable homemade meals. He divulges his secret recipes in his upcoming book, David Rocco’s Dolce Vita (HarperCollins Publishers).
Although every region in Italy boasts a trademark recipe full of luscious ingredients, Italians never over-indulge in eating, says Rocco. “There’s no all-you-can-eat buffets in Italy. Everything is in moderation … There’s a real respect in balance.”
This way of life ties in with the number 1 recipe instruction he writes of, which is based on moderation and balance. His Quanto Basta theory, which translates to “as much you need,” permeates through all of his preparations. “If you ask an Italian grandmother how to make something, they don’t know … they just feel it.”
Rocco takes on the same intuitive approach to cooking and life, and so far, it has worked. “I believe we create our fate. There are no accidents – there are appointments.”
And when it comes to the sweet life, Rocco boils it down to the enjoyment of daily routines. “It’s the simple pleasures of life … like buying a coffee for yourself or for a friend, or connecting with people. Saying hello to people. Breaking bread with family and friends,” he says.