They say that as a chef your joy doesn’t just come from cooking and being in the kitchen, but feeding others and the ones you love. Cooking is a masterful piece of art. It has the power to bring people together and indulge in one thing alone, delicious food. Each chef has their own story and that story is often what shapes the bases of their entire career.
Stefano Faita, a Montreal-based chef has spent his entire life in the kitchen. He owes what he knows to his mother and Nonna, for years he stood by their side as they cooked up various
Italian dishes. Today, Stefano’s successes has led him to opening 4 restaurants throughout Montreal as well as creating his own line of signature pasta sauces. Stefano has made his mark in Montreal’s hospitality industry and has plans on sharing his passion for food past Montreal and into the entire country.
A Mother’s Impact
Stefano’s parents immigrated from Italy at a very young age and settled in Quebec. He was born and raised in Montreal and his earliest childhood memories involved Sunday lunches filled with fresh pasta. He says that his mother was never the type to shoe him away from the kitchen, but always include him so that he’d learn to cook the same delicious meals someday.
“Instead of watching transformers on a Sunday morning, I would sit on the counter by the stove and would watch my mom cook. She was a great teacher and from there I grew to love cooking,” Stefano said.
In the 90s Stefano’s mother, Elena, took over Dante, her families business that sold kitchen supplies in Montreal’s Little Italy community. At the time, she was also making a name for herself and was being feature in cooking shows across Montreal. Around that time Elena started up her own cooking school, Mezza Luna, in an apartment next to the shop.
“My mother and sister started Mezza Luna in 1993 in an apartment adjacent from the store. My sister was living at the apartment at the time and they would get 6-8 students, 3 nights a week giving cooking classes. My sister fell in love with an Italian boy and they moved to Italy and that’s when I started to help my mom at the cooking school. For a long period of time I was working during the day and helping my mom teach cooking classes at night,” Stefano said.
Over the years, Mezza Luna grew in popularity and Stefano says his mother was the pioneer of cooking schools in Quebec. Before they permanently closed down because of the pandemic, they were hosting cooking class 6 nights a week with almost 25 students. Each cooking class was over 2 hours and at the end of each class, they would all sit at a long table tasting each others dishes.
After working many years alongside his mother, Stefano’s own career was just beginning. Since Elena had connections being a chef on TV, Stefano started doing his own food TV programming. His first appearance was with Josée Di Stasio, who Stefano says was known for being like, “Martha Stewart of Quebec”. The 2005 segment showed Stefano creating the perfect pizza.
A few years later Stefano landed his first local show in Quebec and then a national show airing with CBC in 2011 titled In The Kitchen with Stefano Faita. “I did 3 seasons of that show and it re-ran another 6 years after production and it just got bought out by TLN, so I’m still on TV right now everyday,” Stefano said.
During his TV career, Stefano published cookbooks in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Entre cuisine et quincaillerie, Entre cuisine et bambini and Je cuisine italien.
“I was making a pretty good living on TV but one of my dreams was to always have my own restaurant but I knew I couldn’t do it alone because I was never a trained chef. I learned how to cook for my family and everyday people but never an entire restaurant. I started looking for a partner and came across Michele Forgione and that’s my partner to this day,” Stefano said.
Stefano and Michele opened their first restaurant Impasto in 2013. Impasto offers high-end Italian dining and flavours crafted by both chefs alongside delicious wines imported from Italy. Some of their menu items include Gnocchi Di Ricotta and Bottoni Pesto Alla Trapanese.
Following the success of Impasto, they opened up Pizzeria GEMA in 2014. GEMA stands for both Stefano and Michele children: Giovanni, Emilia, Massimo and Anna. They’re a pizzeria and ice cream shop in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy.
“The two girls are mine and the two boys are Michele’s and they’re in order of age. I just had a third child, a boy named Dario, so now I’m trying to figure out how to include him. We’re thinking about making a pizza dedicated to him,” Stefano said.
A year later in 2015 they opened Chez Tousigant, a snack bar perfect for any of your on-the-go food cravings. Everything from the bread, hotdogs and hamburgers is homemade. Stefano says, “one of our chefs at Impasto dream was to own a snack bar and we were able to make that happen for him and that’s how we establish Chez Tousignant.”
Their most recent open was Pizzeria Vesta in 2019. One of their chefs from GEMA wanted to open Vesta to start serving New York style pizzas; GEMA offering more Neapolitan style pizza.
A Whole New World Of Pasta Sauce Making
Amidst of all the restaurant openings, Stefano was working on his own signature line of authentic, Italian pasta sauces. In 2017, he launched his first 4 flavours of sauces and in just a year the public was asking for more. In almost 5 years, Stefano has developed over 30 different products.
“This business that was suppose to be my side hobby became the biggest business we have right now. We have products like Italian sauces, frozen pizzas, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, panettone, dried pasta, meatballs, sausages and tiramisu,” Stefano said.
In the fall, Stefano plans on visiting Italy to explore all the regions in which his products like fresh tomatoes and olive oil are produced.
Stefano’s Favourite Sauces
Tomato Basil Sauce
RECIPE: Ricotta Gnocchi with Stefano’s Tomato Basil Sauce
- 680 g ricotta
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2/3 to 3/4 cup flour (add as needed)
- 450 ml Stefano Tomato Basil sauce
- In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together (except the sauce) until a pie dough consistency is achieved. Let dough rest in refrigerator for 24 hours.
- Roll out dough into thin cylinders and cut into bite-size pieces using a knife. Place gnocchi onto a floured baking sheet.
- Cook in a pot with boiling, salted water for 2 to 3 minutes or until the gnocchi float to the surface.
- During this time, in a small saucepan, heat the sauce and add the grated nutmeg.
- In a serving bowl, mix together the heated sauce and cooked gnocchi.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of basil and grating of Parmesan cheese.
RECIPE: Eggplant Parmigiana with Stefano’s Tomato Basil Sauce
- 5 large eggplants
- 4 tbsp flaked salt
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- 400 ml of Stefano Tomato Basil sauce
- 2-3 knobs of butter
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 4 to 5 cups grated mozzarella
- Peel eggplants and cut into 1 cm pieces. Place on a slotted sheet (ideally above the sink as eggplants will lose water). Sprinkle salt on eggplants and layer the slices on top of each other on the sheet (2-3 layers). Let the vegetable liquid drain from eggplants, about 25-30 minutes.
- Pat off the excess salt from eggplants. In a pan filled to about a quarter way with hot vegetable oil, fry each slice of eggplant on both sides (add more oil as needed during the process).
- When all the eggplant has been fried and are golden brown on each side, place on a sheet or plate lined with paper towel to remove excess oil.
- In a small saucepan, heat the sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
- In a baking dish (25 cm x 33 cm), spread a layer of sauce and add 2-3 knobs of butter. Then layer a row of eggplants and cover with some sauce, breadcrumbs and cheese. Repeat the step for 3 layers and finish with cheese.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
RECIPE: Margherita Pizza with Stefano’s Pizza Sauce
- 1 cup+1 tbsp 00 flour
- 1 cup+ 5 tsp all-purpose flour, and extra for work surface
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- About 1 cup (200g) lukewarm water
- ¾ tsp dry, active yeast
- 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 heaping tbsp of Stefano pizza sauce
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 85g fresh mozzarella
- 4-5 basil leaves, torn by hand
- In a large bowl, combine flours and salt.
- In another smaller bowl, combine water, yeast and 1 tsp of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Add the liquid mix to the dry mix.
- Knead the mix by hand, about 3 minutes, ensuring all ingredients are well incorporated. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Knead again for 3 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal parts and shape into balls.
- Place the dough on a well-floured work surface, cover with damp cloth and let rise at room temperature for 3-4 hours. (You may also refrigerate the dough from 8 to 24 hours. When ready to use, the dough must come to room temperature for 30-45 minutes before use).
Find more of Stefano’s recipes and learn where you can get your hands on his some of his delicious products, including his own wines here.