When asked why a Swedish-born chef would choose to open an authentic Italian restaurant, Staffan Terje, opening chef of Perbacco in San Francisco replies, “Italian food is the food that talks to me. You don’t choose who you fall in love with. It just happens.” Raised on a farm outside of Stockholm, Staffan discovered his passion for food at an early age.
After several years working in Stockholm and at prestigious restaurants all around Europe, Staffan moved to Napa in 1986 where the lure of Italian cuisine called, and Chef Terje joined the original Piatti in Yountville, located in the Napa Valley. “We were doing some of the most authentic Italian food in the area,” says Terje. Being in Napa brought back memories of his childhood on the farm. “At the restaurant we used produce from small farms and sometimes even people’s back yards.” he remembers. Inspired by the vast array of local products (the first Meyer lemons I ever used came from a neighbor’s tree!” he says), he began to form the philosophy of sourcing ingredients from small farms that he still follows today. Promoted quickly, he was soon responsible for new restaurant openings, menu development and training. Other career highlights include a seven-year stint at San Francisco’s famed Scala’s Bistro and cooking at the James Beard House in New York City.
“These days, chefs are taking back the skills required to master the craft of cooking,” he says. “For example, Perbacco has a curing room to make our own salumi. Our food is inspired by the traditional, seasonal dishes from the northwestern regions of Italy; Piemonte, and Liguria” and Val D’Aosta, with some dishes inspired by the Provence region of France.” Chef Terje continues his philosophy of buying produce from small, local farmers, and feature items on a menu that changes daily. “Our dishes will highlight the seasonal produce available from the farmers market at the Ferry Plaza supporting the local growers,” he says, adding, “It’s the right thing to do.”
In January 2010 Terje opened barbacco eno trattoria, just next to Perbacco. At barbacco, he maintains the same quality-driven tenants to form the regularly changing, flexible menu.