If you’ve ever eaten at The River Cafe, you’ve likely seen Joseph Trivelli. He and Sian Wyn Owen are the restaurant’s executive chefs, and he has been in the kitchen since 2001.
In this week’s newsletter, Joseph recalls how he began at The River Cafe and shares some of his favourite foods from Shop The River Cafe.
“I was 25 when I brought my mother to lunch at the Cafe. I remember telling her in the middle of our meal, ‘Right, mum—I’ve got to work here.’ I wrote a hand-written letter and gave it to the manager, who handed it to Rose. She came right over to our table, sat down and talked to me about being a chef - enquiring about my Italian family and interested in the food my grandmother cooked.
I started the following Monday. And that was 20 years ago. Of course, I had no idea I would still be here.
There’s no way to compare working at The River Cafe with any other restaurant in the world - the values, the people who work here, cooking with the seasons and the sheer beauty of the space.
Sometimes a young chef sends me a note from their table. I always go over to talk to them.
Here is what I’m loving right now in the Shop. To start, there is the Squid with Red Chilli and Rocket. It’s the only dish that’s on the restaurant’s menu every day. Grilled sweet squid, bitter rocket, the heat from chilli— it's simple and difficult to achieve.
Next, Spaghetti Bottarga: the most luxurious pasta on the planet. I can’t think of anything better. Bottarga, the dried roe of the grey mullet is deeply savoury, salty and strong.
With spring almost here, I’m thinking of the Lamb Chops Scottadito, which means “burned fingers” in Italian. You’re meant to eat these pounded-thin, rosemary-seasoned chops right off the grill. All they require is a minute or two per side in a hot pan or on the barbecue.
Finish with The Almond Tart, the first dessert I made when I started at The River Cafe. Right now, we’re layering it with Rose’s Seville orange marmalade, which she would make every winter. It was meant to last throughout the year, but it never did. It was too good.”
Photography by Matthew Donaldson