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Opportunity knocks for enterprising winemaker turned chef

NEIL HODGSON
Enrico Doro makes fresh gnocchi at the Nelson Farmers Market, but also has frozen product to give away.

The Nelson Farmers Market is alive and well in its new location next to the library in Halifax St. In fact, the site seems purpose-made for this great market.

There’s plenty of space so stalls are a little more spread out, which is great for social distancing, and there’s enough room for more traders to join in the fun.

One such new trader is What?Gnocchi! The food Italian born Enrico Doro produces is simply delicious. When it is made well gnocchi are little cloud-like pillows of heaven that simply melt in your mouth and carry flavour perfectly.

There are many secrets to making perfect Italian gnocchi potato and flour pillows, but the sauces are equally as important when it comes to flavour, and Enrico certainly knows how to make both.

NEIL HODGSON
Doro has worked around the world as a winemaker, before settling in Nelson and using his grandmother’s gnocchi recipe to start a new business.

I sat down with him last week to chat about his business, imagine my delight when I discovered he’s a winemaker by trade and worked in Italy making wine for 10 years before deciding to travel the world following the grape harvest seasons with his partner Chiara.

“We have known each other since we were 14 years old and we had been living together for three years in Italy before we decided to travel together. It’s easy for a winemaker to travel and find work in different regions by following the harvest seasons.

“We started by going to South Africa working for a producer near Stellenbosch and then we travelled around South Africa for a while before going to Madagascar and then returning to Italy for a month. After that we went to Sonoma Valley in California before moving to New Zealand where I got work with Villa Maria in Marlborough.”

He arrived at the same time as Covid in 2020 so worked through the first lockdown in quite unusual circumstances.

“We lived in a motorhome at the winery during lockdown and it was the first time I was working 12-hour shifts at night. I was way outside my comfort zone, but it was nice because the group that was created at the winery supported one another. It was amazing living, working and eating together.

“There were heaps of motorhomes for workers and a container kitchen with a chef for us.”

After that harvest in Marlborough he spent the winter in Nelson with Chiara, trying to find a job, “I worked as a pizza chef at Eddyline for a few months, while I was waiting an opportunity to work in the brewery as a new challenge.”

Then he got the opportunity to work with McCashin’s on the canning line and he moved through the ranks as he learned different roles.

NEIL HODGSON
Gnocchi is cooked when it floats to the surface of gently boiling water.

“Before I started at Eddyline we went to Club Italia for the pizza night and a lady introduced us to other young fellas living here who came from Italy, Greece and Spain. This is where I met another Italian guy, Davide Tulliani, we got on well and spent a lot of time together.

“Coming back from the Sarau Festival last year Davide and I decided to start a business together. Davide has been here for many years and knows how to move, basically we said you know something, I know something so we could make something unique together.

“We realised no one was making fresh, authentic gnocchi. Of course, I learned how to make gnocchi from my grandmother, so we decided to see if there was a demand for it.”

Gnocchi is traditional in Italy so Enrico and Davide “called our grandmas for tips and tricks on how to make it, we have differences in the raw materials here compared to Italy so we have been working hard with their advice to make sure we make a product that is true to our heritage using New Zealand ingredients.”

They set about making traditional potato gnocchi, pumpkin gnocchi, and beetroot gnocchi, gluten free and vegan gnocchi “so we cater to as many people as we can, we are also always working on new flavours. Everything is made by hand in a certified kitchen, including the sauces we created to suit local tastes.”

Taking the base gnocchi you can select from sauces like mushroom and truffles (“our most popular”) blue cheese and walnut, milder flavours of taleggio cheese and spinach as well as a classic traditional tomato sauce or a very tasty pesto.

“Before we started selling we called all our friends and asked them to try our gnocchi and sauces to help us understand what people liked, most of them were Italians so they were happy to try homemade gnocchi again.”

They started at various markets in the region in June “having to deal with bad weather every weekend and then lockdown was difficult so now I’m just really building up the business. Davide decided recently to leave the food business, I swapped my fulltime job at McCashin’s with a casual job to do this.

“Many people don’t know what gnocchi is so I like people to try it at the markets. When you eat gnocchi the texture is really important, it has to melt in your mouth and it’s much better handmade, when the people have the opportunity to try them they make the pleasure sound from the mouth and they love it and that makes me really proud of my hard work.”

Enrico cooks his fresh gnocchi to order at the markets for people to eat on the spot or take away. You can also buy it frozen with the sauces to take home. “We give people a pottle of sauce to go with the gnocchi they take home.” To cook it from frozen just takes three minutes in boiling water, when the gnocchi rise to the surface they are cooked, check out the video on their Facebook page.

“I want to grow the business and I have lots of ideas for things like home deliveries. Making gnocchi takes all my time but starting a new business comes with risk and rewards, you have to work hard for success, it doesn’t happen instantly, but it is working so far.”

You can try and buy this very tasty traditional Italian gnocchi at the Farmers Market, the Saturday Market and at the Richmond Market. Check out the website www.whatgnocchi.com to find out more and stay in touch on social media.

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