Through pop-up dinners, cooking classes and food tours, Adisa Ziric and Francesco Bonsinetto’s Cucina Migrante (cucinamigrante.com) brings a taste of Italy to Southern California—while encouraging people to spend more time around the table together.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CUCINA MIGRANTE
In 2015, Bosnian refugee Adisa Ziric met Italian immigrant Francesco Bonsinetto at a mutual friend’s Thanksgiving dinner in San Diego. “We connected based on our love of food and our similar cultures,” says Ziric, who was working alongside a private chef creating beautiful dinner parties and specialty vegan cakes. Bonsinetto, a culinary scholar and Sicilian chef with a freewheeling spirit and adventurous approach, began buying her cakes for his customers, and the two fast friends went on a trip to Southern Italy for five weeks. “We started brainstorming about offering individuals custom trips to Sicily, where they are guided by local guides that fully immerse them in local cuisine and culture,” Ziric recalls. “We wanted to also bring the European concept of pop-up dinners, dining with strangers, to California.”
Cucina Migrante’s artful risotto PHOTO BY VALENTINA SOCCI
The idea for Cucina Migrante begn to take shape. “We both believe that food is the ultimate human connector,” says Ziric, whose passion for crafting memorable experiences was the perfect complement to Bonsinetto’s love of cooking. She serves as director of creative adventures, while he heads culinary experiences. “We believe that cooking and dining together makes families and communities stronger, and should be the most important and joyous part of the day.” The two started out by offering private-chef services, monthly pop-up dinners and culinary tours to Bonsinetto’s native Sicily, and then expanded into cooking classes, culinary team-building activities and local food tours—operating out of San Diego, and also serving Orange County and Palm Springs. Popular food tour destinations include San Diego’s historic Little Italy, the farms and wineries of Ramona, and the stunning Temecula Valley wine country.
Cucina Migrante co-founder Adisa Ziric serves dessert at a pop-up lunch PHOTO BY VALENTINA SOCCI
Cucina Migrante’s farm-to-fork cooking classes—hosted at the company’s charming bohemian villa in San Diego’s Golden Hill, at a client’s home or venue of choice, or remotely—are some of the country’s top food and drink experiences on Airbnb, and a popular team-building activity for clients such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft and Sony. The experience begins with a food tour at a local farmers market, where Cucina Migrante’s chefs guide guests in selecting ingredients, which they then use to prepare spontaneous meals together based on guests’ preferences and dietary restrictions. “We wanted to educate people to think about what is on their plate and where their food comes from,” says Ziric, who adheres to the Mediterranean diet and champions fresh, seasonal ingredients from local micro-farmers who grow what they call “real” food. They also use local seafood and poultry, and extra-virgin olive oil in tasty creations like a signature chicken with dates. Says Ziric, “Our guests are always amazed when we make a delicious pasta or risotto dish with just two or three ingredients, or our simple ways to make a beautiful and fast seafood dish.”
Sustainable, organic and seasonal ingredients are sourced from local micro-farmers to ensure the quality level of each dish is top notch PHOTO BY VALENTINA SOCCI
Cucina Migrante’s food has been called some of the best Italian outside of Italy, and a cookbook sharing over 30 recipes and the pair’s lifestyle approach is coming later this year. But what really sets these experiences apart is their warmth, authenticity and hospitality. “In our countries, cooking and eating together with family and friends is a big part of life,” says Ziric, who grew up eating dishes prepared daily from scratch while sitting around a dining table conversing and telling stories. “In California and many other busy societies, people don’t have time to share such simple things,” she says. “With our guests, we share the simplicity of Italian food and show them how to make delicious dishes using just one or two ingredients. We also remind them of the beauty of dining together.”
A tasty frittata topped with squash blossoms. PHOTO BY VALENTINA SOCCI