Sometimes, simple cooking goes a long way. That was what Chef Tommaso said during our encounter while discussing his latest menu at Osteria Gia. The evening we met, Chef Tommaso was as friendly as ever. The Italian chef arrived in Indonesia in 2005 before returning to Italy to hone his skills by learning from famous chefs and searching for inspiration from his travels. In 2015, he returned to Indonesia with a different mindset and a determination to develop his career. He became more conscious of his abilities – from building Gia in 2015 and developing Osteria Gia as we know it today.
An all-day pasta and pizza bar that fuses nostalgic traditions from the past with a fresh contemporary vibe. Osteria Gia combines the charm of old villages with homemade Italian food, using the freshest and finest ingredients – some imported from Italy. The carefully crafted menu created by Chef Tomaso will take everyone on a culinary journey with the most decadent Italian flavors.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to food?
I’m not into a recipe that makes our life complicated. A lean kind of food with the right type of ingredients. The most important thing is to give the ingredients the respect they deserve.
For example, you can have the best wagyu, but if you don’t conserve and store your wagyu steak well – using the proper towel and changing the towel every single day, the result will not be as good as it should be. The towel is meant to absorb the excess blood and water; it is also to help protect the meat from bacteria; pay attention to the most minor thing, as it is essential. The value does not only lie in what we cook and just in placing it on a plate; the most important value is how we store the ingredients.
If you want to have good Italian cuisine, you need to spend a lot of effort in looking for the right ingredients and once you find it, make sure you give the respect that the ingredients deserve.
How do you define your relationship with food?
Love. Since I was a kid, I have always liked food, I didn’t know how to cook then, but I come from a family who also loves food and cooking. Both of my parents work, and there are times that I have to prepare the food for my sister and myself. So I started learning by making mistakes, but looking at my mother and father, I eventually learned to be better. There are times when we are going out for a pizza; I always have the curiosity to observe how they are making the pizza.
When was the last time you went back to Italy?
We just returned from Italy last February; we spent less than a month there. We enjoyed our life there because we missed our routine back in Italy. We enjoyed our time with friends and family, inviting them to dinner, and we occasionally visited the beach during the weekend. The season was the best time to go to the beach; it was fantastic because the sun doesn’t set until 9 or 10 PM. If you ever want to go to Italy, I recommend you don’t go in summer like August cause it’s hot, go at the end of June or the beginning of July, that’s the best moment to enjoy Italy, it’s hot but not crazy hot, and the weather it’s just fantastic. The sun is out until late, sometimes I forget the time, and it was already 9 PM! Hahaha.
Yeah, I enjoy getting reconnected with my culture because after many years in Indonesia, sometimes I feel a bit lost in translation – it feels pretty weird because I’m leaving home to go home, hahaha. But this is also part of my life, having two homes.
Where do you find your inspiration? I heard you find inspiration from traveling. Are there any memorable moments you had from your past travels?
Absolutely yes, I believe traveling is the biggest inspiration that everyone can easily get. Sometimes, it is not only about the food but also how you experience life. Because when I think about it, today we are sitting here in Osteria Gia, who I am today; it is also a part of the process I have been doing in life—from traveling, understanding others, and looking through different cultures, different attitudes, and different perspectives.
For example, adjusting to the food culture was difficult when I arrived in Indonesia because everything was so spicy. But now, I love it! I learn how to eat it and learn to love it. This is an important process, to be open-minded with changes. Don’t think that you know everything in this world because you will never finish learning; there are many things to learn. Until now, I’m still learning a lot; I’m learning about other cooking methods from my travel, and I also learn a lot from discovering the street food here.
Can you tell us one of your memorable moments in being a chef?
I think one of the most beautiful experiences I ever had was when I was working with a master chef that is very famous in Italy. The first time I met him was when I was in Rome, I was working with him in Rome, and then he brought me back to Sicily. During the summer of 2012 (if I’m not wrong), the royal family came to the resort we were working at; at that time, it was the high season, so he asked me to follow him for three months.
The resort was beautiful and unbelievable, and since I had to be with him all day, I learned not only how to manage the restaurant and how to be a proper staff but also how to live a good life through his perception of life. To this day, I think from all my travels and working around the world, it’s probably one of the most beautiful experiences.
How do you want people to see your dishes?
I want people to see our dishes as something made with love. Passion, that’s what I ask myself, don’t work as a robot; we don’t need robots. Sometimes making a mistake is human; I don’t mind as long as you don’t let this dish go out because if you’ve worked with me for a long time, you’re not a new person inside the kitchen. There is an executive chef, the Indonesian executive chef. To be an executive chef means you must have long experience working in this business. Hence, I want them to use that experience, and this responsibility in not sending out a dish you know is not made with love. For me, cooking expresses love; you care for and feed someone. And I think it’s one of the most notable gestures of love.
So cooking has to be beautiful. It’s like being an artist, you know, expressing ourselves with the ingredients. The plate is the canvas, and the ingredients are the colors we have so that we can express ourselves, even in plating. Let me tell you, not everyone can do platting properly is like taking pictures; you know someone has the right eye, and they know how to take the angle, the same with plating, plating you can even plate an ordinary Caprese salad. But by putting your passion when platting it, it would look different. It’s a way to put your love, and that’s what I want people to see, people that work with passion.
Osteria Gia opened a new outlet in Pondok Indah Mall this year. Are there any new dishes that guests should try?
Coming back from Italy – it was seafood season there, and I felt like I wanted to have those flavors here. Then we made a special menu, using lobster, whole baked fish with oregano, and lemon, a menu that will remind you of southern Italy. There’s Cozze Au Gratin, using blue mussels; it’s a classic dish with a light flavor, something you don’t need to eat too much.
We also update our menu every three months – following the European season. We tried to change a few things, not too much, but we do have some special menu that changes every few months.
We always tried to keep ourselves updated, which is not very simple; ingredients matter is a big problem; if the supplier runs out of ingredients, we have to find other alternatives. But if the replacement is not up to standards, I prefer to tell the customer that this item ran out. Sometimes it’s better to say no instead of getting alternatives that are not as good as the one you are using.
What was the latest recipe you created for Osteria Gia?
We have a special seafood menu right now, and I created this open lasagna: a homemade squid ink pasta with seafood ragout, prawn bisque bechamel, and chives oil. In this market, sometimes it is not convenient to go too far from what the people know, so using something that everyone is familiar with helps with the menu. So instead of making a highly complex dish, we just make something as classic as lasagna but twist it a little bit. Compared to the traditional lasagna, this one is a bit more light, with seafood inside and only two layers, one at the bottom and one at the top. I would say this is something a bit different.
Pondok Indah Mall 2