Meet the chef: Stefano Righetti, Locals Only
Discerning travellers arrive in a new city with the intention of roaming under the radar, always seeking out that spot where true locals go. Restaurateur Tito Piazza took this concept one step further when opening Locals Only, his recent Ibiza venture. Situated in a prime position overlooking the newly reformed Plaza del Parque in Ibiza town, the name invokes the idea that we are all part of a global community. The motto is ‘where citizens of the world gather’. A recycled wood map on the wall is a symbol of our interconnectedness – everyone is welcome, we are all locals, this place is your place. With the terrace now reopened under the gorgeous Ibiza sun, Locals Only is the jewel of the plaza.
Locals Only serves up a menu of fresh, organic dishes imbued with an Italian soul. Sustainability is as high up on the list of priorities as the mouth-watering flavours and beautiful colours that arrive at the table. When searching for the perfect person to head up the kitchen, Tito sought out an old colleague from his days as executive chef for the Cipriani Group. It took some time for Stefano Righetti to become available but he was worth the wait. “He’s like a painter when he cooks,” says Tito. “It’s like he is drawing on the plate. Of course, I waited for him.” Softly spoken, with piercing eyes, there is no doubt this mild-mannered chef manages to control his kitchen with a subtle yet demanding presence.
Who inspired you to become a chef?
My family had a restaurant in our village in Brescia so I basically grew up in the restaurant. The passion comes from my family, for sure.
Tell us about your experience as a chef?
I’ve worked as chef for a long time, in five star hotels and also in restaurants with one or two Michelin stars such as Antica Osteria del Teatro, Vecchia Malcesine and Combal Zero. Then I worked at Cipriani in Abu Dhabi with Tito – he talked to me about this project here in Ibiza but it was three years before I was finally able to join him here.
What was it like as a young chef working at Michelin level?
In the start, it was really hard – long hours and lots of pressure but now I handle that much better. It was a really macho and aggressive atmosphere, but I have to be grateful to those chefs because they helped me so much. Being in that environment helped me to build character and pushed me to keep going.
What’s your style in the kitchen these days?
I can be quite strict in the kitchen – the team has to be attentive at all times to be able to help me to create good dishes. I like to control the kitchen, of course. But I can also be patient and teach people new skills – you must if you want to build a good team.
What fuels your passion for cooking?
It comes from within me. I always want to get better, to learn more. I try to put what I feel on the plate; to convert my passion to the plate. It’s not a job, it really is a passion.
What are your thoughts on the produce available in Ibiza?
Before I came I thought Ibiza here was all about the nightlife but I found a totally different world. The produce here is another thing that surprised me – the quality is excellent. We work with organic producers from the island. Of course, it changes with the season and even with the day. Tomorrow we might have zucchini and the next eggplant. Working with seasonal produce makes the creative side of cooking much more exciting.
How would you describe the cuisine at Locals Only?
It’s an international Mediterranean menu with an Italian flare – a modern osteria. Our message is clean, fresh food with respect to the earth and especially to the island. We respect our ingredients 100-percent.
Which are your favourite dishes on the Locals Only menu?
I love all the dishes on the menu! It’s hard to choose a favourite but I think I have to say an amazing risotto made recently with organic coffee, crispy turbot and black garlic. It’s very fresh and different. It has a bit of a crunchy texture.
What do you cook when you are not working?
I like to cook to surprise people. At home it’s more relaxed, of course, but I like to experiment. My family are happy with that – my dad likes to try new things but he still tells me you need to do this, do that, this way, that way!
What do you like most about working and living in Ibiza?
I like the life I have here. It’s really relaxed, there’s no agitation. I live very healthily here. I buy food from the famer’s market and it’s all very natural. And I love the beaches here – no single one is the same.
What other cuisines are you interested in exploring?
I would love to go to Japan. It’s a cuisine that’s simple but with deep flavours. Also, the sous chef here previously worked in Peru so now I am really interested in the cuisine of Peru – the mix of cultures there makes a really interesting combination.