Italian chef finds menu for happiness in Sanya


Daniele, owner and chef of Italian restaurant Cucina in Sanya, Hainan province, chats with guests on December 28. GUO CHENG / XINHUA

HAIKOU - By the seaside of Sanya Bay in Sanya, a tourist town in southern China’s Hainan Province, an Italian restaurant has attracted countless diners from here and abroad with its authentic flavors.

Daniele, the owner and chef of the restaurant, is from Sardinia, Italy.

“My restaurant is traditional Italian in general, but more Mediterranean, and especially Sardinian, something unique in China,” explains Daniele.

Formerly a chef in a five-star hotel, Daniele has worked in many countries, including Great Britain, Thailand and Qatar. He enjoyed the chance to experience new cultures, new languages ​​and new people.

When he arrived in Sanya from Doha in 2015, he fell in love with this tropical coastal city and never left. “The reason is simple. I found my wife here,” he says. “My wife is practically ideal. Without my wife, I can’t do business.”

His wife Tessa, a Chinese from Xi’an, worked in the same hotel with him. Getting closer by the day, they gradually fell in love with each other and got married in 2017.

“He’s very passionate and enjoys his job very much,” says Tessa.

In 2018, Daniele and Tessa decided to open a restaurant named Cucina, which means cuisine in Italian.

“It is my dream, as a chef, to have my own restaurant,” says Daniele. “I love Sanya, and it’s a place full of opportunities.”

In his eyes, Sanya is a leading tourist destination in China, while Hainan is also a free trade zone, which means more opportunities for people coming to the island.

While running her own restaurant, Daniele also provides consulting services to various Chinese hotels and restaurants in Sanya. “Few foreign chefs work here, so they need help developing their international menus, and in particular the Mediterranean Italian menus.”

In her spare time, Daniele enjoys surfing and paddling. “We can enjoy the sea for 12 months in Sanya, and that’s the best part.”

Having lived in Sanya for over six years, Daniele has witnessed the development of the city with new buildings and parks springing up almost daily. “The environment is better and the government has invested a lot not only in normal infrastructure, but also in service to citizens,” he said.

Daniele and his wife planned to open a second Italian restaurant offering Italian street food in another bay of Sanya. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan has been put on hold.

“As soon as we see a small opportunity and the economy is more stable, we will open our restaurant,” explains Daniele.


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