Paolo: il toscanaccio


Burrasca’s chef/proprietor, Paolo Calamai, is a native Florentine with a nagging wanderlust and a long history in the biz. Contrary to the infamous bamboccione or mammone (big baby/mamma’s boy), Paolo grew up in the kitchen at his mother’s and grandmother’s elbow, learning to cook the traditional Tuscan food that brought the extended family together at mealtimes. (Much to his mother’s chagrin, and unlike his three siblings, he also insisted on doing his own ironing).

As a teenager, he headed out to the chic resort of Forte dei Marmi, on the Tuscan coast, to learn the restaurant trade while most of his friends were working on their suntans and listening to Umberto Tozzi, Claudio Baglioni and the Bee Gees. Soon after completing formal training, he sailed the Far East with Princess Cruise Lines, manning the dining room and trying not to wind up overboard (like one ill-fated colleague), and taking in the sights and flavors of China, Thailand and Japan.

After a stint in rainy, gray, Northern England, Paolo eventually headed to the States, working in Italian restaurants in New York and Austin. In 1992 he moved to San Francisco and plied his trade in various capacities (waiter, manager, wine buyer, menu/recipe consultant) in places like Caffe delle Stelle, Etrusca (Il Fornaio Group), Frantoio and Antica Trattoria. In 1997 he worked with Pino Luongo in New York, managing the new Tuscan Square in Rockefeller Center.

In 2000, he and his American wife (writer Elizabeth Petrosian, who blogs about Italian life at Letters from Florence and has herself done stints at San Francisco’s Aqua and New York’s Gramercy Tavern) decided to give Italy another crack and headed back to Florence, where eventually their two children, Giacomo and Gemma, were born. Paolo got back to his roots in a big way, working with Fabio Picchi at Ristorante Cibrèo.

In late June 2013, feeling the need to make a significant change, the itinerant foursome moved to Portland, OR… and couldn’t be happier about it.

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