Rushen pizza chefs are the tops with their creation

Cesare Marinaro, left, with Lee Harcomb of Freshway Chilled Foods and Robert Tucker

Cesare Marinaro, left, with Lee Harcomb of Freshway Chilled Foods and Robert Tucker

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Two chefs from a popular Italian restaurant have made it through to a national cookery final.

Cesare Marinaro and Robert Tucker, who work at Pizzeria Venezia in Rushden, triumphed at the regional heat of the Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association (PAPA) Pizza Chef of the Year awards.

Cesare and Robert won their category, the Tulip Supertops Toppings, with a “Taste of the Caribbean” style pizza cooked with beef and sprinkled with dried chilli, then dressed with mango, spinach and red onion salsa.

Cesare, who has worked at the Pizzeria Venezia since 1987, bought the restaurant in 2005.

Together with his wife, Sabina, he now employs 12 full and part-time staff.

He said: “Making pizzas is a passion and you have to be good at what you do to survive, particularly these days when people are so much more knowledgeable and discerning.

“Gone are the days when one could cut corners.

“With the advent of cookery programmes and celeb chefs, and more people cooking for themselves you have to entice them out of their homes with the offer of food that is different and better than they could cook.

“It is to do with quality and inventiveness, and excellent ingredients.

“We source all of our ingredients, use 100 per cent mozzarella and even cook our own hams, and I believe this makes a big difference.

“For example, we spent ages looking for the right flour, until we discovered it only a few miles away – proper Italian pizza flour.

“We were delighted to win our category and look forward to the final.”

Cesare and Robert will compete against 100 chefs at the PAPA Awards in London on November 14 for the title.