Life trans­ported Sil­via Colloca from a Hol­ly­wood movie set to Syd­ney’s sandy beaches. But, as she tells Genevieve Gan­non, it was in her culi­nary in­her­i­tance where she found so­lace and suc­cess.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by ALAN A LANDS BERRY• STYLING by BIANCA LANE

Suc­cess, so­lace and cook­ing

Sil­via Colloca is carv­ing off gen­er­ous slices of ciambella, drop­ping crumbs and pieces of dried berries onto the un nished wood din­ing ta­ble as she de­scribes the prove­nance of the cake, which her nonna Irene used to bake back home in Italy.

“The recipe has been passed on so many times and it’s been al­tered so many times and it still works and it’s still a fam­ily favourite,” she says. As she cuts and serves, Sil­via ex­plains her own ver­sion of the pin­wheel-shaped tea cake is driz­zled with lemon ic­ing and dec­o­rated with freeze-dried straw­ber­ries, em­bel­lish­ments her fore­bears would have thought were “very fancy”.

The recipe has trav­elled all the way from Abruzzo in Italy to the sun­lit home on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches that she shares with hus­band, the ac­tor Richard Roxburgh, and their three chil­dren – Raphael, 11, Miro, eight, and Luna, 18 months.

“Some of the recipes re­ally have trav­elled,” she con­tin­ues, paus­ing a moment to brush back a long hank of shiny hair. “Say, I make a recipe that orig­i­nated in Italy and there’s some­one from Syria say­ing: ‘My gosh, we make some­thing ex­actly like that only we add saf­fron and honey.’ You can see that we re­ally all come from this very sim­ple place in the food cul­ture and we have cre­ated this global nar­ra­tive that joins us all together. I nd that re­ally beau­ti­ful.”

Like any Ital­ian worth their sea salt, Sil­via talks with her hands, and she talks a lot. The conversation lurches from opera to act­ing to mar­riage and chil­dren to the calami­tous trial and er­ror of be­ing a self-taught cook (“I am an ex­pert on things that go wrong!”). It’s a pas­sion that suf­fused the food blog she started in 2010, and helped pro­pel it from a loose col­lec­tion of recipes in the tra­di­tion of cucina povera – peas­ant cook­ing – into four cook­books and two tele­vi­sion se­ries. De­spite the zeal Sil­via brings to her bak­ing and brais­ing, the suc­cess of her foray into food still takes her breath away.

“I think what peo­ple have connected with over the past seven years is the mes­sage that the food is an ex­cuse to cre­ate con­nec­tions with other peo­ple, and to open up the conversation and have a deeper con­tem­pla­tion about what it ac­tu­ally is to be hu­man and alive,” she says in an at­tempt to ex­plain the at­trac­tion.

On more than one oc­ca­sion, and much to her cha­grin, Sil­via has been de­scribed as an an­tipodean Nigella Law­son. At a glance, it’s not hard to see why. They’re both raven-haired cooks whose love of but­ter, ri­cotta

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