New Pastures

Italian-born chef Simone Saglia has been in kitchens his whole life, from a child in Piedmont to working in Michelin-starred eateries. He’s now brought a taste of his home to the Bay with The Trading Post.

Italian-born chef Simone Saglia has been in kitchens his whole life,
from a child in Piedmont to working in Michelin-starred eateries. He’s
now brought a taste of his home to the Bay with The Trading Post.

Piedmont, in northwest Italy, is home to the world famous white truffle of Alba, hazelnut forests,
and rolling hills of nebbiolo grapes destined to be used in the region’s revered Barbaresco and
Barolo wines.

The Trading Post chef/owner, Simone Saglia, grew up in this gastronomic paradise, and a love
of cooking was instilled in him as a child. At age three, he was spending days at his zia’s (aunt)
house, while his mother worked, watching her use age-old artisan practices to transform locally grown produce into traditional meals.

“It was my daily routine and I thought it was fun. A mezzaluna was my favourite tool — I used
it to chop parsley. Pretty much, my toys were in the kitchen,” he says. “This triggered my passion
for cooking.”

Culinary school was a natural next move for Simone, along with a job at All’Enoteca di Davide Palluda, a Michelin-starred restaurant, at age 15. Working in a demanding environment with
antisocial hours didn’t phase him: “I loved every single aspect, despite the fact it was hard.”

Beef & chamomile ravioli.
Opener: Simone and Kylie at The Trading Post with children,
Noah and Alba.

A shared lunch dish of cured duck breast with pickled vegetables and grissini.

Freshly baked soft brioche bun filled with custard and berries is a delicious morning offering.

Exploring the world was always high on his agenda, with Australia pegged as his ultimate destination. His excellent cooking pedigree eventually led him to a job at Harry’s Bar, a celeb-filled private club in London, when a fortuitous visit made his down under dream come true. Renowned Australian chef Neil Perry came in and dined one night while undertaking research for a new modern Italian restaurant, Rosetta, at Crown Melbourne. Connections were made and Simone was eventually flown to Melbourne to become sous chef at the prominent opening in 2012, where he subsequently helped garner Rosetta its first Chef’s Hat.

He met Kylie, his Waikato-born wife, in Melbourne and the two were married in Piedmont last year, after Covid meant their first wedding date had to be postponed. The extended pandemic lockdowns in Melbourne also sparked off a new business for the couple, selling fresh pasta — first to homes, then later to some bars and restaurants “We pretty much were making everything — cannelloni, ravioli, sauces… We made about 40kg of gnocchi a week, and about 20–30 trays of lasagne. It was pretty busy!” Simone laughs.

Now, with their two children, Noah (3) and Alba (1), they’ve relocated their lives to Paengaroa and created their own Italian cafe and restaurant, The Trading Post Osteria Italiana. It’s housed in a characterful historic cottage with a sunny courtyard: “It has a full Italian osteria type of vibe, the warm feeling of a cottage on the hills,” says Simone.

In the morning, you can pop in to grab fresh pastries, just like Italia — ham and cheese cornetto, cannoli, pain au chocolate and gluten-free scones. The à la carte daytime menu features breakfast options, such as pumpkin fritters with mascarpone and roasted hazelnuts, as well as lunch dishes, naturally starring some of Simone’s top-notch handmade pasta — maybe roasted beef shin and chamomile ravioli.

Dinner is a four-course degustation menu that changes every couple of weeks, with dishes like ricotta al forno — baked ricotta with balsamic and pickled beetroot, cervo scottato al ginepro — venison loin with carrot puree and juniper, or strozzapreti with pork and fennel sausage ragu (pictured above).
“A degustation mixes it up a bit — it’s more interesting for us and for the customer.”

As winter draws to a close, the season ends for Te Puke Truffles, which Simone has enjoyed
featuring on the menu, but he’s looking forward to the produce the warmer months will bring.
“I love asparagus, peas, broad beans... There’s going to be a lot of interesting starters and salads. And I really want to make my caprese salad — I just have to wait until I have the best tomatoes.”

1 Hall Rd, Paengaroa (10 minutes from Te Puke) Open Tues-Sat, 9am-2.30pm, and Thu & Fri
from 5.30pm. Dinner reservations essential,

Words by Sarah Nicholson
Photography by ilk