Angelo Sabatelli

Angelo Sabatelli

It took Angelo Sabatelli a good few years working around the world to realise his true calling was to cook the traditional cuisine of Puglia, but when he returned home to open his first restaurant, the wait was worth it.

From the age of six, Angelo Sabatelli was in the kitchen teaching himself how to cook. A tough upbringing meant he had to make the best of what basic ingredients he had, and he was always curious as to how he could make food taste as delicious as possible. His first memories were of simple, traditional dishes native to his home region of Puglia: ‘Stuffed aubergine was my favourite dish as a child,' he says, 'and on Sundays we had a ragu with fresh Puglian tomatoes.'

By the time he attended culinary college at thirteen years old, Angelo was already far more practised and talented than his peers. But he was also working to make money for his family, which affected his attention in the classroom. ‘I was so tired from working in the kitchen that I started to miss school,’ he says. ‘I only just managed to pass my exams.’ The moment he finished his final exam, he ran all the way to the centre of his hometown Monopoli to take part in a cooking competition. One of his tutors was on the judging panel, and couldn’t believe Angelo had sprinted the entire way just to enter on time. His hard work paid off, however, as he won first place – making him the youngest chef to ever win the contest – and continued to beat all the other entrants for the next five years. His success at such a young age, despite being overworked, was proof that Angelo was full of natural talent and, despite his lack of classical training, he began a career in the restaurant industry.

Following his local success, Angelo travelled to Rome to work at Il Convivio, before moving on to the Hyatt Aryaduta in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai and Le Touessrok in Mauritius. Being able to experience these exotic cuisines, new lifestyles and different cultures was a fantastic opportunity for Angelo to pick up cooking techniques almost unheard of in Italy, but he pined for the flavours of Puglia. Despite this, he rose through the ranks thanks to his abilities and at one point he was in charge of eight different restaurants. His success did not lead to happiness, however – Angelo loved to cook, but hated the paperwork and bureaucracy that comes with managing a large business. He longed to return home and cook the food he fell in love with as a child, and decided to leave Mauritius in 2010 to open his own restaurant in Monopoli.

Angelo says it would have been impossible to fulfil his dreams without the help and support of his wife Laura, who has a keen eye for art and interior design. In 2011, they opened Ristorante Angelo Sabatelli to rave reviews and in 2013, the pair gained their first Michelin star. Angelo’s dishes are Puglian through and through, taking the light, healthy and humble ingredients of his childhood and elevating them to new heights. He is incredibly passionate about the gastronomic heritage of the region. ‘The restaurant industry in Puglia can be tough because the culinary traditions are so rich and strong,’ he explains. ‘There are so many amazing home cooks.’ While he doesn’t like to use ingredients sourced outside of Puglia (a lot of the produce he uses comes from his own garden), the technical skills he picked up during his travels certainly influence his cooking style. Angelo’s ability to use these to prepare and present traditional regional dishes in new ways is what makes him one of Italy’s most exciting chefs.

In March 2017, Angelo moved his restaurant from the outskirts of Monopoli to Putignano, giving him a new lease of life in the kitchen.