Italian Jewish cooking taught in London
Updated: 22/May/2006 17:51
Silvia Nacamulli
Photo: Tim Evan-Cook

LONDON (EJP) ---A passion for cooking and tracing the traditions and history of Italian food motivated Italian-born, UK-based Silvia Nacamulli to set up ‘Cooking for the Soul’, a thriving London-based business teaching Italian Jewish cooking.

Combining both the rich traditions of Jewish and Italian cultures, Silvia not only teaches the great flavours of both, but also adds historical and cultural narrative to her classes.

Silvia was born and brought up in Rome, but moved to England in the mid-1990s after living and studying in Israel.

She had been working in the UK in international business development for an Internet company, when in 2001 Silvia craved a new challenge and left her job to pursue a new direction.

To stay busy while looking for work, she began giving private cookery lessons.

“I thought this was going to be temporary,” she told EJP “To my surprise, however, people seemed to be taking me more seriously than I took myself!”

It was then she noticed an opportunity, Silvia had always wanted to have her own business, “It’s in the family, all of my family are self-employed,” she said.

Unique opportunity

Silvia realised that while there were plenty of people teaching Italian cooking in London, no one was teaching Italian Jewish cooking.

“I could finally combine cooking, for which I had always had a passion, with business, it was almost too good to be true.”

Her home town of Rome, the oldest Jewish community in the west, has had a huge influence on the shaping of traditional Italian cuisine. Silvia was raised in this unique tradition and was taught to cook by three generations of Italian Jewish cooks.

In 2002 Silvia set up ‘La Cucina di Silvia: Cooking for the Soul’, to teach the rich traditions behind Italian cooking in the Jewish tradition. She began teaching, on a one-to-one and small group in people’s homes.

As the idea caught on, she started to teach larger groups, give presentations to charity events and run corporate cooking lessons and team building events. She also began to cater dinner parties of up to 40 people.

In her classes, Silvia traces the traditions and history of Jewish cooking back through the centuries and explains the sources of some of the most loved Italian recipes, such as ‘Carciofi Alla Giudia’, a deep fried artichoke cooked in the Jewish style, and ingredients such as aubergines, tomatoes and pumpkin.

Exclusive classes

In 2003 Silvia was invited to teach at Divertimenti, a famous and respected cookery school in central London. Her class, ‘Italian cooking in the Jewish tradition’, is always a sell out and while restricted to 35 people, Silvia says that a high percentage are non-Jewish.

The school’s brochure describes the class, as “A unique combination of the flavours of two food-worshipping cultures.”

Silvia regularly researches new ideas for recipes and traces the origins of the traditions of the Jewish community in all parts of Italy. “It is so important to discover and preserve the traditions of Italian Jews,” she said.

This week Silvia is in Los Angeles to teach at a number of private and fund raising events. In July Silvia will teach for the first time at the London Jewish Cultural Centre and will be giving another lecture there again in the autumn.

Silvia has developed a flourishing business, as both a cook and teacher, with a rapidly growing reputation. She’s featured in Elle magazine and continues to lecture and write on the history of Italian Jews and Italian Jewish Cooking.

Recently she was a guest lecturer at the New York University in Florence.

Looking to the future, Silvia wants to write a book, not simply a recipe book, but one that combines Italian Jewish recipes with an exploration of the fascinating culture and history that lies behind them.

For more information, see Silvia’s website: