Giovanni Pilu was born in Sardinia, a rugged untamed island that has long been a place apart from mainland Italy, separated by language, culture and history as well as geography, where the rhythm of life is still largely determined by the seasons. Keeping a few cows or sheep is still common even in non-farming households, and most homes have a vegetable garden. This is the Sardinia Giovanni grew up in. His childhood memories are of gathering berries, wild greens and herbs from the hedgerows on the way home from school, of bringing down small birds with sling shots and spending long summer evenings with friends searching streams in the hills near his home for trout and eels.
He began his hospitality career in his uncle’s bar in Olbia, then gained experience in the kitchens of various coastal resort hotels. There he met Marilyn Annecchini, an Australian of Italian descent on a working holiday. They took a summer job together in a restaurant in San Teodoro on the north-east coast. She headed back to Australia after the season finished and Giovanni followed not long after, arriving in Sydney in 1992 full of enthusiasm and passion for the unique flavours of his homeland.
In 1997 Giovanni opened Cala Luna at The Spit, where many Sydneysiders had their first taste of Sardinian specialities like fregola and bottarga. In 2004 he and Marilyn opened Pilu at Freshwater on Sydney’s northern beaches, where they’ve crafted a total dining experience around authentic Sardinian food, wine and hospitality. Offering a Sardinian tasting menu with matched Sardinian wines. The focus on previously unknown Sardinian beverages is an exciting point of difference, with the restaurant exclusively importing many of the Sardinian wines they serve as well as offering a range of artisanal Sardinian beers.
While Giovanni does import a few uniquely Sardinian ingredients, he’s very passionate about supporting local producers wherever possible and makes his own bottarga from Australian mullet roe.