Signal Hill chef shares tastes of his native Italy, hosts cooking classes

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Chef Christian Simionato cooking homemade gnocchi pasta.

Chef Christian Simionato is sharing his 18 years of culinary experience through a series of pop-up dinners and cooking classes held in the Signal Hill area, featuring cuisine from his native Italy.

The Signal Hill resident and chef’s culinary journey began at the age of 13 on a farm near Venice, Italy, out of necessity.

“I had to help the family,” Simionato told the Signal Tribune, “and growing up in a farm outside Venezia, everyone had his part to do.”

His mother taught him the basics of Italian cooking, but many members of his large family were responsible for teaching him their own recipes. After his uncles and father butchered pigs in the winter, they taught Simionato how to prepare charcuterie meats, while his aunt Mariuccia taught him to age and cook wild game.

“I have seven aunts, and each of them has a specialty,” Simionato said of his early food mentors.

These early lessons can still be tasted in Simionato’s food. The “pasta fresca” served at many of his dinners owes its texture and depth of flavor to Simionato substituting chicken eggs for duck eggs, the way his grandmother taught him.

From these early origins, Simionato later expanded his understanding of food by earning a degree in enogastronomy, the study of food and wine. He went on to cook with Michelin Star chefs in kitchens around the world, including London and Beijing.

After moving to Signal Hill five years ago, Simionato wanted to share his knowledge of food and wine with the local community. A year later, he opened a wine import and distribution business with Andrea Semprebon, Alwaysgood Wines LLC, which imports and distributes boutique, organic and vegan wines. Currently, Simionato partners with the business DG Events LLC to host his series of Sestieri pop-up dinners and cooking classes in Signal Hill.

The Sestieri dinners are multi-course Italian meals held at a 12-foot-long communal table, meant to encourage guests to make new connections.

“Eighty percent of the time our guests don’t know each other,” Simionato said.

These dinners combine Siminionato’s family recipes with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

“Seasonal ingredients play a starring role in each dish,” he said, “the aim [is] to expose diners to new flavors, new experiences and infuse each meal with the sense of joyness.”

While all of Simionato’s classes and dinners with DG Events for March are fully booked, more are being planned for April, including an approximately three hour class for Ravioli Piacentini.

Simionato put significant amounts of time into researching and testing out different Ravioli Piacenti recipes after hearing about the historical origins of the pasta. First made by the cooks of nobleman Bernardo Anguissola to provide poet Francesco Petrarca with a visually appealing meal, the braided raviolis are now served with oisette sage butter and grana padano cheese at Simionato’s Signal Hill dinners.

DG Events LLC has also announced $75 cooking classes where students will learn how to make Tortelli with Grana Padano cheese, ricotta and noisette butter sauce and a milk free lemon tart from Simionato before trying each dish along with a glass of wine on Sunday, April 5 from 3pm to 5:30pm. Those who register for the class before March 25 will receive 10% off.

To learn more about this class and other culinary events being held by Chef Simionato and DG Events in Signal Hill, email Debora Zoli at [email protected] or contact DG Events’ Instagram page, @dg_eventsllc.