A celebrated culinary legend who helped transform Vancouver's dining scene over the past 50 years will receive one of Italy's top honours.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella is bestowing the Order of the Star of Italy upon Vancouver chef Umberto Menghi.
The honorary title is given to expatriates or foreigners who have made an exceptional contribution to the preservation and promotion of Italian culture and heritage abroad.
Menghi was recommended by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio.
“Umberto Menghi is an ambassador of the finest Italian cuisine in Vancouver and British Columbia at large,”Di Maio explained. “As one of the first restaurateurs to establish authentic Italian restaurants in B.C., he has trained generations of chefs, promoting and fostering true Italian traditions, which he has always been deeply fond of.”
“The author of five books on Italian cuisine, Menghi has succeeded in building and managing a famous chain of fine dining Italian restaurants in Vancouver and Whistler, as well as in promoting the finest Italian food and wine in the region by facilitating imports of Italian products, as well as by organizing—in his prestigious school in Tuscany, near Pisa—educational courses in Italian cooking and food/wine appreciation.”
Menghi will officially be made a Knight of the Order of Star of Italy at an awards ceremony during the 75th Festa della Repubblica (Italian National Day) in June 2021.
Over his longrunning career, Menghi opened and operated numerous restaurants, including La Trattoria and Il Caminetto in Whistler; opened Villa Delia Hotel and Cooking School in Italy; has written several Italian cookbooks, including Umberto’s Kitchen: The Flavours of Tuscany and Toscana Mia: The Heart and Soul of Tuscan Cooking; and hosted his own cooking show The Elegant Appetite.
“When I arrived in Vancouver in 1969, all I wanted to do was cook fresh, Italian cuisine exactly how we would enjoy it in Italy,” Menghi stated in a news release. “I had no idea where life would take me back then, but I’m glad to have spread my joy and commitment to Italian food, far and wide. I am at once humbled and honoured to receive the Ordine Della Stella D’Italia.”
He continues on with his Tuscan-inspired Giardino Restaurant (which reopened in November after temporarily closing due to the pandemic and is located not far from the famed Yellow House and his original Il Giardino), and he also teaches Italian cooking classes at Villa Delia in Italy.