Chef Andrew Toncini brings connection, comfort and Italian cuisine right to your home
Words Toby Tannas
Photography Lia Crowe
Chhef Andrew Toncini wants to change the way you experience food. His mission: bring authentic Italian cuisine directly to you, in your home, with a healthy helping of personality to go along with it.
“I am a people person,” says Andrew. “I like to be with people, talking about my favourite thing in the world—Italian cuisine.”
With his big smile and endearing accent, it’s easy to see how Andrew has cooked his way into the hearts of many Okanagan families. He’s only called the valley home for a few years but in that time, he’s forged special relationships in many a private kitchen.
“I cooked very consistently for a handful of families over the summer,” he says. “A few times a month they would have me in to prepare a meal or cater a special event. It’s nice to get to know and get comfortable with people.”
Comfort and people are two of the key ingredients in a “perfetta” private Italian dining experience. Andrew believes that a meal is a deeply personal and sensory experience that’s best shared in an intimate setting. When he’s invited into your home, he sets out to create an ambience of connection and conversation. Unlike the traditional restaurant experience, Andrew’s private dinners offer a unique insight into the magic of gastronomy, where every dish is tailored to your preferences.
“Each menu and experience is different. From a pizza party to a four-course, wine-paired meal, I design the food and the pace of the evening with the host. We discuss preferences beforehand, taking into account allergies and any dietary restrictions, and then I craft the menu so there is a little element of surprise.”
It could be a beautiful meal presented in courses by Chef Andrew at the table with a smile and story.
“I like to explain what the dish is and why I chose to prepare it the way I did. I always enjoy the reactions. When people tell me how authentic it is, how they taste the flavours of Italy, that’s where I feel like I’ve accomplished something. That’s the best feeling.”
Some guests prefer to be in the kitchen as Chef Andrew works his magic. Through questions and even participation, guests get a more interactive experience where they get to know Andrew and glean some of his culinary knowledge and techniques.
“I like to share what I do. Hospitality is my calling; being a private chef is the most personal way that I can share this craft of mine.”
His clients rave about the intimacy of the experience. It’s elevated and relaxing at the same time; it’s like going to a restaurant but being able to move from kitchen, to table, to lounge at your leisure.
Private dining is not the only experience on Andrew’s culinary menu. He also offers cooking demonstrations and classes at Lakehouse Kitchens in Kelowna. From teaching the art of handmade pasta to perfecting the delicate balance of flavours in traditional Italian dishes, Chef Andrew creates a space for people to evolve on their own culinary journeys.
“This helps me carry on my traditions through food. I cook with love, serve with passion and ‘chef’ with joy.”
Andrew’s love, passion and joy for food started when he was a young boy growing up in Italy’s Marche region. Perched on a stool in his nonna’s kitchen, he was the official taste-tester and sometimes the referee.
“Both of my nonnas would be in the kitchen making things. One was from northern Italy, the other from the south. They would both be trying to outwork the other one; I was like the judge. It was fun.”
As a young man, Andrew travelled to Australia where he worked in restaurant kitchens gaining crucial knowledge and professional experience. When his brother joined him from Italy, the pair opened an Italian street food truck and eventually a restaurant called Toncini Modern Italian. When his brother moved to Japan, Andrew chose Canada as a home base just as the pandemic tightened its grip on the world. With no jobs to be had in Vancouver, he was hired as a cook in a work camp near Williams Lake. A few months in, a road trip to Alberta brought him through the Okanagan and ultimately to what he calls his destiny.
“It just felt like home,” he recalls. “I went back, finished out my contract and then moved to Kelowna.”
He didn’t have the means to open a restaurant at that time, but through friends he found work doing private events and from there his concept evolved organically. Word of mouth has helped spread the news of Andrew’s extraordinary dining experiences. While he won’t rule out a bricks-and-mortar Toncini Modern Italian restaurant in Kelowna down the road, his current approach keeps him fully satiated for now.
“Private dining really speaks to me. It allows me to bring the authenticity of Italy to people who haven’t travelled there or those who want to re-create it in their homes. My job is to create an unforgettable experience.”
Chef Andrew’s private dinners are sure to become part of the Okanagan culinary landscape as people seek more personalized and engaging dining experiences. His clients are serving up rave reviews, while his passion, personality and artistry have them coming back for seconds.
To learn more about Andrew’s offerings visit: toncinimodernitalian.com.