Tony’s food journey began as a young boy growing up in the Italian town of Naples. And there is a common influence with his upbringing and how Tony operates today. Both his father Mario Percuoco and uncle were restaurant owners and his mother was a remarkable cook. She had an amazing knack of turning the simplest ingredient into a work of art. So while all the other kids around him wanted to grow up and become pilots and police officers, Tony’s dream was to become a chef. A dream he set into motion as soon as migrating to Australia with his family in the early 1970s.
As a fifteen-year-old boy just out of school in Australia, Tony landed his first role as an apprentice chef at the Bennelong restaurant in Sydney. One of the most iconic restaurants of the time, Tony launched into his role full of fear and excitement. His first true taste of grit, Tony grabbed the bull by the horns, worked hard and long hours learning as much as he could on the job. An experience, Tony attests for many ways, that set him up for life.
On arrival into Australia, Mario and Tony’s brother Armando opened the family’s restaurant, Pulcinella, a sprawling 200-seat establishment in Sydney’s Kings Cross with a reputation for fresh Italian food, attentive service and lively atmosphere. Three ingredients that; if you have dined at Tartufo, you will be familiar with.
The family’s desire to introduce real Antipasto to Australian diners was met with some difficulty with limited availability of fresh seasonal produce. They worked hard with a number of suppliers to create or source the ingredients required. A mindset that has carried through in how Tony operates today. While he may be working with his team on a dinner service, late into the night; you will find him visiting a northern NSW farm early the next morning sourcing the freshest quality ingredients that are in season. Tony is currently teaming up with Jumping Red Ant farms in Duranbah and Bilambil in northern NSW. Like Mario and Armando had done for Pulcinella in the 70s, Tony has partnered with producers like John, Kath and Brianna to grow a range of produce especially for Tartufo.
For those that have the pleasure of meeting Tony (which most clients that dine at Tartufo do), they will be met with his unwavering loyalty and respect for those around him; whether it be his team, customers, suppliers or ingredients.
“Respect everything, starting with your ingredient. If you keep it simple and not camouflage
it or unnecessarily tamper it, that ingredient will give you back a beautiful dish.”