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09/23/2011 - Royalty At Ravioli's



Royalty At Raviolis Osteria

by Howard Kotliar

This Temecula Night Out started as A Day In Temecula early one morning, when this writer was asked by his staff to spend some quality time with Chef Luigi Mazzaro of Raviolis Osteria in Murrieta.

Chef Luigi's quest began at the young age of 3 when his Mother was the Personal Chef for a Royal Family in Naples, Italy. This Royal Family had almost everything... They had a lot of money, the big castle, huge amounts of property and of course a big staff to do everything for them. Yet, what this Royal Family did not have was a son to carry on the name and the family legacy.


One day this Royal Family asked Luigi's Mother if they could completely adopt Luigi to carry on the Royal legacy. Without question, Luigi's Mother said no. Of course, for her love of Luigi and she did not want to break up their beautiful family that she cherished so much. It was then that Luigi's Mother left her position at the Royal family to take care of her own family and build their personal legacy.

Fast forward to Luigi at the tender age of 13. Early one Tuscan morning, a neighbor of his asked Luigi if he wanted to go to work with him that day at the restaurant the neighbor worked at. Luigi looking for adventure and excitement immediately said yes! This very moment was the beginning of Luigi's culinary journey and what would become his passion.

It was that same day that Luigi met who would become his Mentor - The Executive Chef, Raffaele di Sarno of La Caravella Restaurant in the Campania Region of Italy. Chef Raffaele is considered one of the best Chefs in this entire region - if not in all of Italy. Although this mentorship would not take place until Luigi proved himself reliable to Chef Raffaele. To prove Luigi's dedication he diligently spent one year as a dish washer, then he was promoted to pots and pans washer where he spent another year. During these two years Luigi would try to befriend Chef Raffaele, by trying to get close to him and in his culinary art.

Chef Raffaele would not have anything to do with Luigi. The reason was not Luigi, it was the fact that so many kids would come and go from the restaurant with no dedication, no passion and no reliability that Chef Luigi thought all kids were the same. The Chef thought that eventually Luigi would leave too. Luigi set out to prove Chef Raffaele wrong! And he did...

The restaurant was 50 miles from where Luigi lived. For the 3 busiest months of the year Luigi would literally sleep at the restaurant. His shift would end about 3am and he needed to be back at 6am every day. So Luigi's Father twice a week would bring him fresh clothes. It was after this sheer devotion and dedication that Chef Raffaele gladly took Luigi under his wing. With the Chef's mentoring, Luigi became a Line Cook, where he spent two years mastering his craft. Luigi was then promoted to Head Chef of La Caravella's upstairs Dining Room. This was very prestigious, for he was now "Chef Luigi."

Then at the age of 24 Luigi, out of the blue, got a call from his soon to be wife's uncle's friend (that's a mouthful)... who asked Luigi to come to the US and be the Executive Chef of his Orange County, California restaurant "Ristorante Ferrantelli". At first Luigi said no, as he was the only son and wanted to take care of his family. After one month of numerous phone calls from the States and his soon to be wife's suggestion of taking a vacation to try it out, Luigi agreed!

In our conversation Chef Luigi instantly remembered the date he landed in Los Angeles Airport. It was February 7th, 1998. He knew no English, he knew nobody and was in a strange land. Talk about courage and determination! From that very first step he took on US soil he was destined for Culinary greatness here in the Southern California.

The very next morning, he started in the kitchen of Ristorante Ferrantelli in Laguna Nigel. The Manager Pascalli was the translater and Executive Chef Luigi started his Culinary Magic. After 8 weeks with no day off, Chef Luigi went back to Italy to get married and bring his new Bride back to their new home in Dana Point where they begin their new Culinary journey.

Under Luigi's Culinary expertise Ristorante Ferrantelli was honored with The Best Italian Restaurant In Southern California three years in a row from 2002 to 2004. On Valentine's Day 2004, Chef prepared 454 dinners flawlessly and on time to his awaiting guests. Now that is culinary mastery at it's best.

In 2005, Chef Luigi wanted to "Realize His Dream" of owning his own restaurant. He moved his family, that now included their two children, Giovanni and Valentina, to Temecula. He then opened "Mazzaro Italian Dining" to rave reviews. In addition, Luigi open a Pizzeria in South Temecula. After moving on from these restaurants in 2008, Chef Luigi took some much needed time off to rest and relax and most importantly as he put it, "to connect with his family."

Until recently Chef Luigi was at Rusticana in Lake Elsinore. In August of this year, Chef Luigi was made Executive Chef of Raviolis Osteria.

To this day, Chef Luigi never forgets his Mentor back in Italy, Chef Raffaele di Sarno, who Luigi made a promise to... "That he will never forget him and that his name will stay with him always... and it has... and it always will."


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