IN/OUT | Living a beautiful life

IN/OUT | Living a beautiful life

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Pilu at Freshwater hosts a long lunch in the Orange countryside

Selecting the very best seasonal produce is paramount to Giovanni Pilu.

Bell Hill, a beautiful working farm in regional Orange, is where he sources the best beef and lamb for the much-acclaimed Sydney restaurant, Pilu at Freshwater, which he runs with wife Marilyn Annecchini.
The landscape around Bell Hill reminds Giovanni of his native Italy and the family-run farm and homestead have become a destination to celebrate good food, countryside and community.

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As part of Orange Food Week, Giovanni Pilu and Marilyn Annecchini from the award-winning Sydney restaurant, Pilu at Freshwater created a special lunch at Bell Hill, the regional property belonging to their friends, producers and suppliers, Julia and James Jackson.

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

We sent photographer Julie Adams along to capture the stunning autumnal country air in Orange at the event created between old friends for the local community. A highlight in the Orange Food Week calendar, this was the fourth time that Pilu restaurant has collaborated with Bell Hill, bringing a bit of Sydney beach to the bush.

Giovanni and Marilyn also brought Pilu Restaurant’s head chef Jason Saxby who grew up in nearby Bathurst. Together they brilliantly catered for a lunch of 50 guests and repeated it all over again for dinner for 50 the very same day…! Somehow, they made it appear easy, setting up long convivial tables in marquees on the lawn with guests treated to a simple Italian style setting of shared plates with local Angullong Wines matched perfectly to the fresh, seasonal menu.

We spoke to both couples about their shared love of the land, seasonal and sustainable produce, local and international travel, daily inspirations and what it means to live a beautiful life…

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

Sourcing produce for our restaurant is crucial – we are only as good as our produce. We spend time researching local, sustainable and seasonal produce…
Giovanni Pilu, Pilu Freshwater

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

Giovanni Pilu, Pilu at Freshwater

When did you arrive in Australia, and what brought you here?
I arrived in 1993, and I was brought here by my beautiful wife Marilyn.

What were the challenges and pleasures?
Challenges were not knowing the language but it was a pleasure being in a great country with fabulous people.

Can you tell us about your upbringing in Sardinia?
I grew up in a family, one of four kids in a small village in the north of Sardinia. Life was simple, summer spent at the beach and then working in a bar during the holidays.

What do you love about Sydney?
Great weather, love living on the Northern Beaches, love the outdoors. People are easy going and relaxed.

What have been the highlights of your journey with Pilu over the years?
Mentoring young chefs and waiters. Winning numerous awards. Being part of a great community. Supporting local charities including Bear Cottage.

Tell us about the importance of sourcing produce for your restaurant?
Crucial – we are only as good as our produce. We spend time researching local, sustainable and seasonal produce.

Favourite travel destination in Australia?
Noosa

Favourite parts of Italy – any tips for travellers?
Obviously Sardinia – the beaches are amazing and the best time to travel is Spring i.e. May/June. Sicily, the island of Salina is a personal favourite. Venice – the small bars, Cicchetti and fresh fish.

Describe your dream meal
Spaghetti all vongole. The island of Tavolara in Sardinia, with family and friends.

Where do you find inspiration on a day-to-day basis?
From my team of talented chefs and daily discussions with suppliers.

Best piece of advice you have been given?
Priorities in life should be in the order of family, work, pleasure.

What does living a beautiful life mean to you?
Work life balance, family, holidays, good food and not forgetting cycling…

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

Keep it simple, lots of sharing – food in platters in the middle of the table. Give everyone a drink on arrival, probably a Negroni and get them to help with dinner prep.
Marilyn Annecchini, Pilu at Freshwater

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

Life is short and too busy. Any opportunity we get we love to have our friends come up to the farm to unwind and enjoy the country with us. Hence entertaining for us is always relaxed, with lots of good food, plenty of great laughs, sunset drinks and a log fire if it’s cold enough. You can’t go past a picnic in the paddock on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
Julia Jackson, Bell Hill

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

Marilyn Annecchini, Pilu at Freshwater

What are some of the highlights of managing Pilu?
A fabulous location with an amazingly talented team – they continually inspire me.

What’s next for Pilu?
Refining what we do, developing the Pilu Baretto brand

What is your approach to entertaining?
Keep it simple, lots of sharing – food in platters in the middle of the table. Give everyone a drink on arrival, probably a Negroni and get them to help with dinner prep.

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

Julia Jackson, Bell Hill, Orange

Please tell us about your farm property Bell Hill.
We’ve owned Bell Hill for 10 years. We love the serenity, privacy and views as it’s perched on a hill, with 360-degree views of Orange and beyond. The sunsets are absolutely amazing. At Bell Hill we breed predominately Angus cattle as well as some White Suffolk sheep.

Can you tell us about your love of the land?
My husband was born in the country and his parents have been on the land in Orange for nearly 50 years. James has always loved the land even though he resides in Sydney. His passion is breeding animals being mainly cattle, sheep and horses. When the property came up for sale next to his parent’s farm we were very excited to purchase it.

Please tell us about your connection with Pilu Restaurant…
James and I have have been friends with Marilyn and Giovanni for over 12 years. Our eldest children were in pre and primary school together. The Pilu’s have been up to our farm in Orange on a number of occasions. Giovanni loved our farm and the surrounding rolling hills reminded him of Italy. He was very interested in brining our lamb into his restaurant as he has seen our animals and the wonderful location where the lamb is bred.

What was this lunch all about?
We hosted a lunch and a dinner during Food Week in Orange. We wanted to provide our guests with an amazing menu which was created from produce from our farms and from the Orange region. Paddock to Plate essentially.

As an Italian chef from Sardinia, Giovanni prefers to cook using local produce which is in season to create his meals in his restaurants. There’s a wide choice of produce to choose from in Orange and as he knows our beef and lamb he is always keen to run a function with us. This year we teamed up with a well-known local winery called Angullong Wines and their premium wines were matched to the menu perfectly.

We were extremely lucky to have not only Giovanni and Marilyn but also Pilu Restaurant’s head chef Jason Saxby to prepare and cook at the functions. Jason originates from Bathurst so he was really excited to come back to his roots and prepare using great produce he knows.

I think Giovanni as a chef and end user of our product appreciates the clean and green environment our animals are raised in. He has seen the way our animals are bred and knows the care and efforts we make to ensure they are raised in the best possibly way.
Julia Jackson, Bell Hill

What does Paddock to Plate mean to you?
Showcasing the amazing produce the Orange region has to offer. We are very lucky to have such an amazing variety of meat, fruit, vegetable, nut, wine, beer and cider to choose from in the region.

I think Giovanni as a chef and end user of our product appreciates the clean and green environment our animals are raised in. He has seen the way our animals are bred and knows the care and efforts we make to ensure they are raised in the best possibly way.

Providing a quality product from the farm to the table is very important and it inspires us to always look at new ways to improve.

How has the food scene changed in the Orange region?
Orange Food week has really put Orange on the map and it is now regarded as a major food, wine and tourist destination in regional NSW.

What is your involvement in Orange Food Week?
We’ve previously run four similar Orange Food week functions with Giovanni and Marilyn over the past few years. It’s not something we have done in consecutive years given Giovanni’s busy schedule and timings for us on the farm. This year we ran two functions, a lunch and a dinner at our farm and homestead, Bell Hill, held on the last day of Food Week 2017. We set up a marquee on our lawn and hosted 50 for lunch and 50 for dinner. The guests enjoyed the meal in a relaxed Italian style setting with long tables, shared plates of delicious food, flowing wine and plenty of laughs.

It was a real family affair on the day, with all hands on deck. We had our Archie (12) helping direct cars to park to our teenagers Olivia (18) and Dan (16) running the food and clearing tables. At one point I saw Archie helping Giovanni and Jason in the kitchen stirring a sauce and checking plates before they were served.

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

What is your approach to entertaining?
Life is short and too busy. Any opportunity we get we love to have our friends come up to the farm to unwind and enjoy the country with us. Hence entertaining for us is always relaxed, with lots of good food, plenty of great laughs, sunset drinks and a log fire if it’s cold enough. You can’t go past a picnic in the paddock on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Describe your dream meal
Big table, big personalities, shared food plates, in a big space, lots of laughs and a great red wine.

What does a typical day on the property involve for you?
First a strong morning coffee.

It’s hands on, depending on the time of year, there are morning jobs like checking the animals if it’s lambing and calving season.

James is generally up and moving early ready to muster, drench or check the livestock. There’s always jobs to do like checking fencing, fixing a gate or moving a mob of cattle. The boys, Dan and Archie are always eager to jump on their motorbikes to run a job.

I enjoy the serenity of our farm and like to walk around the garden and water the plants even though I don’t have a green thumb. It’s relaxing for me. I also look forward to the sunsets every evening, the colours can be amazing.

Favourite travel destination in Australia?
We love a great beach/summer holiday – there are so many beautiful spots we’ve yet to experience. We are very spoilt with some many places to choose from. As a family, we’ve enjoyed going to Bluey’s Beach in NSW over the last few years with the children. It ticks lots of boxes. It’s still a small beach village, has great surf, good coffee and restaurants, you can walk and bike ride everywhere and you’ll see dolphins in the water almost every day.

And abroad?
Italy – we’ve travelled there a bit over the years and every time we return we discover a new region or town and are totally blown away by its beauty, history, food and/or charm. So much diversity in such a small country.

What does living a beautiful life mean to you?
My family being with me where ever I go. Without them, something is missing.

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

In/Out: Orange Pilu Lunch

A seasonal long lunch (and dinner) created with friends to honour paddock to plate – the best produce, food, good friends and the regional community… this is living a beautiful life.

Photography: Julie Adams

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