Chef Gianluca’s culinary identity began developing far before he first stepped into his father’s kitchen at the age of 13. Growing up, he was surrounded by a family of professional chefs and phenomenal home cooks. Both his father and brother are chefs, and his mother’s cooking truly represents the specialties from his home of Vicenza, a city located halfway between Venice and Verona in the region known as the Veneto.
By the time Gianluca began working beside his father at their family gastronomia, La Parmigiana, his passion and palate for food were already stirring. From there, he studied cooking at Italy’s famous culinary “high school,” Recoaro Terme, in Vicenza. Three years later, in 1980, Gianluca had completed the arduous program and went on to sharpen his skills in a succession of highly regarded Italian restaurants. The exposure to these burgeoning gastronomic environments gave him the necessary space to meticulously hone his talents and increase his knowledge of Italy’s breadth of regional cooking styles and ingredients.
Gianluca ambitiously navigated his way through an intense hands-on training and went on to work at two prestigious hotels on the Lido di Venezia in Venice: Hotel Des Bains and Hotel Excelsior. These instrumental opportunities allowed him to step up and take the reins as the executive chef at one of Northern Italy’s most popular restaurants at the time, Ristorante Molin Vecio, in Vicenza, followed by several years as the executive chef of the celebrated Ristorante Castelli di Giulietta e Romeo, a unique restaurant within a medieval castle in Montecchio Maggiore, in Vicenza.
Gianluca’s innate appetite for his trade and polished expertise continued to guide his culinary journey as a sous chef in La Spezia at the Ristorante Locanda dell’Angelo (Michelin two-star) and as the executive chef at Ristorante Locanda delle Tamerici (Michelin one-star) before opening his own wine bar and gastronomia, Il Vicolo, in Vicenza in 1993. In 1998, Gianluca moved to the U.S. and became executive chef, Food R&D, and vice president at A.G. Ferrari Foods, an Italian food purveyor in the San Francisco Bay Area, planting the seeds for future endeavors. In 2010, he returned to Italy and opened Ristorante La Berlera in Riva del Garda where he worked side by side with his wife and son. The restaurant is located inside of a boulder that was carved out in 1794, resulting in a small, castle-like structure surrounded by mountains and rolling vineyards—a truly unparalleled dining experience.
In addition to his extensive restaurant experience, Gianluca’s culinary knowledge affords him an extremely well-rounded perspective. He has furthered his education with master classes in the art of pastry, as well as achieving the status of master sommelier, accredited by the A.I.S. (Associazione Italiana Sommelier). Gianluca also partnered with author Anna Maria Molino and together co-wrote a popular Italian cookbook titled La Cucina Vicentina (The Vicenza Kitchen). The book, featuring authentic recipes and ingredients of Gianluca’s homeland, has sold over 100,000 copies.
Gianluca’s philosophy focuses on using the best available seasonal ingredients to showcase the unique flavors and cuisines of the regions in Italy. It is this philosophy that united him with fellow Italian chef and longtime friend, Donato Scotti. With a shared vision to create contemporary, rustic Italian cuisine with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, Gianluca and Donato have partnered to open DONATO&co. in Berkeley’s bustling Elmwood retail district.