A jack of all trades, but a master of none. Steven Lovisa wore many hats before he found the one. One that fit just right, that is a chef’s hat.
Lovisa, 36, now owns Foundry Kitchen and Bar in Port Perry. He made a few stops en route to becoming an accomplished chef.
Prior to his departure, Lovisa was in a lot of ways the typical town boy. He left no stone unturned, from fishing and biking to playing football and double bass during high school.
“Fort Frances is a hockey town,” Lovisa said. “I grew up playing hockey until I was in high school. I played football for the Muskies for a number of years, which was a great experience, although I wasn’t very good. I would end up getting injured.”
Lovisa, grew up in Fort Frances and left when he was 18 to pursue his post-secondary studies.
Inspired by Frank Maraj, his English teacher, Lovisa then decided to study English literature at Lakehead University.
“I found the university experience to be rather stifling, as far as creativity was concerned,” Lovisa said. “So it wasn’t really for me.”
Lovisa said at the time he wanted to be a writer because he enjoyed being creative, but the stiff nature of university found him regurgitating information, and he was writing things other people wanted, in perspectives he did not agree with.
Faced with his less-than-ideal university experience, Lovisa got into culinary studies when his father, the then dean of hospitality and tourism at Confederation College, pitched the idea.
Lovisa said that some of his fondest memories growing up were always around the dinner table when his family would gather to celebrate different occasions and holidays.
“My experience with food started from a young age and as I started to pursue it professionally, I realized that food was quite powerful,” Lovisa said. “The memories and the feelings and emotions that it could invoke.”
Realizing that culinary arts was his true calling, Lovisa had both an opportunity to never look back and the determination to give others similar positive experiences surrounding food.
Lovisa is trained in traditional French cuisine, but growing up in an Italian household and eating traditional Italian cuisine also helped Lovisa broaden his abilities.
“I’ve learned a lot of different ethnic cuisines over the years by just practicing, reading, researching and working with different chefs,” Lovisa said. “But I always like to go back to the Italian roots, and the whole mantra of Italian food kind of speaks to the essence of what I do.”
Italian cuisine is focused on the quality of the ingredient.
“It’s not about doing a lot of different things. It’s just about doing things simply and doing them well,” Lovisa said. “If you start with good product you’ll end with good product, and that’s what I’ve always admired about Italian cuisine.”
Lovisa’s favourite food to make is gnocchi because it requires basic ingredients yet high skills.
“It’s a real labour of love. It’s very simple as far as the ingredients but it takes a lot of time to make it,” Lovisa said. “If done properly gnocchi can be wonderfully light, yet a comforting and satisfying dish. Whereas if you’re buying gnocchi frozen or prepared at a store, typically it’s quite heavy.”
Lovisa said his parents instilled a strong work ethic in him from a very young age.
Lovisa said his first job was a paper delivery boy for the Fort Frances Times, adding that his parents taught him the value of work, managing his time, earning his own money and saving.
It has been a few years since Lovisa last visited Fort Frances, but he said he misses his family, friends and wishes to revisit his childhood memories soon.
“Some of my fondest memories is just spending time on the lake. It’s just such a beautiful area and a pristine location. Having moved away, I appreciate the remoteness of it,” Lovisa said.
“Fort Frances is a big part of who I am. I’ve never lost sight of that.”
By Merna Emara
Lovisa’s Cacio e Pepe
8oz dried bucatini (half of a pack, spaghetti or linguine will do too)
8 cups of water
2 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbs salted butter (it’s the best!)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
40 good cranks on your pepper mill (don’t use pepper that comes ground. The flavour just doesn’t compare to fresh cracked)
3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (Parmesan is a good substitute but it can’t be the finely grated stuff)
1 cup reserved pasta water
- In a wide stock pot or Dutch oven, bring your water to a boil. Then add your salt and pasta.
- Stir your pasta often to prevent sticking. You’re using less water than you typically would to cook pasta because you want more starch content (flavour!!) in your water to make your sauce.
- Put your oil, butter & pepper in a pan big enough to fit all of your cooked pasta in it and toast the pepper over medium heat for a few minutes.
- Cook your pasta for 2 minutes under the directed time. You want it very “al dente” (to the tooth or still has bite). Reserve your pasta water.
- Take a cup of your pasta water & whisk it into you butter & pepper mix.
- Turn the heat on your pan to low & whisk in your cheese.
- Whisk your sauce until the cheese is melted & things look nice & smooth.
- Add your pasta & toss! If it seems thick loosen it with a bit more pasta water. Taste & add salt if you think it needs it. Now plate this up & dig in. Buon appetito!