The Italian chef behind Terrazza is Fabrizio Sartor who comes from Belluno province in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy, flanked to the north by the Dolomites range of alps and to the south by the canal city of Venice on the edge of the Adriatic Sea.
The fact that Venice is only an hour away has connected Sartor all his life with this geographical intersection of rich and unique culinary traditions.
“Every region in Italy has different kinds of food and almost everywhere it is special,” Sartor said.
“In Veneto we have mountains and sea; we are close to middle of Europe and at the same time we are a neighbour to the Balkans. That’s why the influence of food is in between the oriental part of Europe, the Balkans and typical Mediterranean cooking.”
Sartor, 49, grew up in an atmosphere of patience for food, taking extra time to cook sauces longer to get just the right consistency. He grew up in Pedavena, a village of about 4,500 people between Belluno and Venice where his father worked for the famous brewery of the same name. Sartor’s family originally came from Austro Hungary.
“We always had lot of very high quality cheese from the alps, a lot of seafood from Venice, especially clams and shrimps. All this kind of seafood is really in our culture. From the beginning it was a natural passion.”
At the age of 16, Sartor enrolled in hotelery school in Cortina and worked during the summer seasons in Venice learning from the great chefs.
“At that time it was really incredible.I started from the basics, cooking by fire and making seafood, fresh pasta risotto, tortellini and then I became a garnish chef working with meat and the main courses.”
He completed his apprenticeship by the age of 22 and has since owned or run more than 39 restaurants over the years. Terrazza is his 40th restaurant and one that bears his signature more than any previous one.
Sartor came to Cambodia seven years ago to manage the Luna d’Autunno Italian restaurant and later, after opening five Italian restaurants in China in 2008, he returned to Cambodia and opened yet another successful restaurant, this one in Siem Reap called Il Forno.
The big difference for Sartor is that Terrazza is the first restaurant he got to make from scratch.
“This is not my first restaurant. I had one in Italy, and I have managed other restaurants for other companies. But I never had the opportunity until now to make one from scratch. With support from both Pierre Tami and Alain Dupuis, now I can say it is no longer just a dream. It is a dream that has become reality.”
Sartor owned his first restaurant at the age of 25 called “Al Porton” in the Dolomite area where in 1991 he received the Michelin Guide’s “two forks” award for culinary excellence.
He later sold Al Porton and opened another Italian restaurant, beginning a lifetime tradition of starting up successful Italian restaurants. Sartor worked in the Dolomite mountains for several years as a kitchen chef, and then opened another of his own restaurants in Bolzano City, at the border with Austria.
Sartor opened his next restaurant in Tuscany’s Elba Highland before going on to manage a complex of five restaurants in Genoa including a brasserie, a lobster house, one Mediterranean style, one American style and a sushi bar.
Sartor then moved to Berlin, Germany to manage a big restaurant complex before opening a popular Italian restaurant called Ferrari.
One high point in Sartor’s experience was catering for 700 people at the season inauguration of the Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra in 2004.
“My passion is increasing in my approach to Italian cooking. When I came back from China I took a break. After that time I felt my passion increasing. That’s why I’m here to make this dream come true,” he said.
“I got the call from Pierre Tami and Alain Dupuis to make a new project of an Italian restaurant in Phnom Penh and that’s the reason why I’m here,” he said. “For the first time in my life I can do exactly what I want and I have been able to do the first one that I really wanted.”
Terrazza’s location on Street 282, nearly across from Score sports bar, includes parking for 50 cars.
Since the location was obtained about seven months ago, with the help of fellow Veneto resident and architect Riccardo Dal Mas, the project has come to fruition and is now open for business, with the first meals being served last Thursday.
Sartor and his Khmer wife have a son named Francesco.
“Now I have the right ingredients, the right team and the right partners who support me. This is very important. We are new for the local market. Terrazza is comparable to the three or four of the best Italian restaurants in Bangkok, like Opus or Vino di Zanotti,” Sartor said.
“Terrazza is comparable, absolutely in terms of quality. Here we buy everything from Italy. Here we just buy the fresh vegetables and fresh seafood and that’s it. Almost all the other ingredients are directly from Italy. This is very important.” Sartor has personal relationships with the wine makers from more than one region, and that is reflected in the choice of wines available.
Terrazza seats 180 and employs 50 people.
Key members of Sartor’s team came from Siem Reap where they had been working for him for three years already. He also has three other genuine Italians on staff.
“They know what I want and they help me to train other ones. The kitchen staff have been trained for the last three months,” he said. “I can count on the generous collaboration of three Italian people who are providing the interface between us and the customers ; they are Davide Covre, Giordano Pini and Gloria Renica.
This weekend is reserved for VIP gala dinners, both on Friday and Saturday. Restaurant patrons will be welcomed starting on Sunday when all the opening festivities are concluded.
“The key of a good chef is the personality and the character that is able to take the customer or the client to your way dining. We call our restaurant Terrazza because it is an international name that everybody knows and is easy to remember,” Sartor said.
“Almost everybody in Italy has a Terrazza. It is something very popular because the summer time is long, and we like to stay outside. The other point is because we have a very nice Terrazza here in our location and we use it to create our pizza station, with a wood fire pizza oven directly imported from a top Italian supplier, Valoriani, from Reggello, Florence.”
The upstairs area with the pizza station can accommodate 50 people in the well-ventilated open air space.
“What we want to do is to create a very good complete Italian restaurant with traditional pizza Napoletana,” Sartor said.
Terrazza’s pizza recipe follows the official document released and approved by the Italy’s Ministry of Tourism. All the ingredients used that are imported from Italy follow the Denominazione di origine controllata or DOP, which means “Controlled designation of origin” which serves the Italian food industry as a quality assurance label especially for wines and cheeses.
“We have huge menu with everything: appetizers, pastas, meat and seafood main courses. We import exclusively the finest cold cuts and cheeses from our caterer Ferrarini in Reggio Emilia, Italy,” Sartor says.
“We have every different food from 10 or 12 regions in Italy, and it will be more oriented toward Veneto, and because I came from there, but we also touch Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Tuscany, Campania, Puglia and Sicily,” he said.
“This is part of our culture and background; we grew up with that food and wine. It is also the reason, for sure, our geographic position in the middle of the sea, we have more than 8,000 kilometres of coast, and I think Italy is one of the richest sea about seafood. The fish from the Adriatic Sea on the east side of Italy are different from the fish on the west side in the Tyrrhenian Sea,” Sartor said.
“The Italian Peninsula’s climate is so specific because of the presence in particular of the Alpine Arc which draws the border from West to East with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia, and can offer a wide range of other products such as Porcini mushrooms and others, various types of game and rare salads and herbs. We have always been naturally rich in terms of ingredients.”