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interview • February 14th, 2022

Interview with Antonella Ricci and Vinod Sookar


Antonella Ricci & Vinod Sookar are chefs at restaurant Al Fornello da Ricci. After graduating from a banking economics program, Antonella entered the world of cooking to run the restaurant run by her family. She learned to combine her deep knowledge of the very rich tradition of Apulian territory with solid culinary training at Paul Bocuse's famous Lyon cooking school. After graduating from the High School of Cooking Training in Mauritius and working in various establishments on the island, Vinod Sookar fell in love with Puglia and quickly learned to prepare homemade pasta, capocollo (Italian dried pork), and salami. Antonella and Vinod met in Mauritius in 1998. The two got married and opened their very own restaurant Al Fornello da Ricci, where they conjure up delicious Apulian cuisine. We asked the chefs some questions to get to know them better, about their culinary inspiration, their favourite dishes, and much more.

Antonella and Vinod, how would you describe your cooking style?

Our Apulian cuisine is characterized by the sharpness of flavours and the search for perfection, where tradition is reinterpreted with refinement, creating a new balance and original dishes.

What's your favourite dish to make?

We love making roast leg of lamb, cooked slowly in a traditional charcoal oven on a vertical spit. We use an "Al Fornello" oven, originally from the Valle D’Itria area.

We go directly to the place where we choose our ingredients.

Antonella Ricci and Vinod Sookar

Al Fornello da Ricci

What is your favourite ingredient to work with?

The inevitable extra virgin olive oil. Because it never fails to give that extra touch of flavour.

Who is one of your top suppliers or producers?

Our main suppliers and producers are from this area. We go directly to the place where we choose our ingredients. It's important to keep the human connection.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your culinary career?

The biggest challenge has been cooking and working together as a couple for 22 years. But despite the challenges, the results have always been positive.

Which gastronomic trend are you excited about the most?

The modern Italian regional tradition is what we're most excited about. Italian products are plentiful in the area, always providing a touch of innovation.

If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would that be?

For me, Antonella, that has to be ​​pasta "orecchiette” with tomato and cacioricotta. Vinod would choose Asian cuisine, specifically noodles.

What’s one thing in the area that your guests absolutely need to see or do?

They absolutely must visit the farms and the Trulli, and make their own homemade pasta at least once.

Thank you, Antonella & Vinod

Book your table at restaurant Al Fornello da Ricci

Try chef Antonella Ricci & Vinod Sookar’s Apulian cuisine for yourself at restaurant Al Fornello da Ricci in Ceglie Messapica, Italy. You can make your lunch or dinner reservation through our website.

Al Fornello da Ricci