I was born in a little town in southern Italy called Rutigliano, but Barbados has my heart. I moved there in 2005, met my wife Danielle two and a half years later, and lived there for ten years on and off, until I came to work at Jamaican restaurant Rudie’s in Dalston. At first I thought I’d miss having a cold Christmas. But then I went swimming on my first Christmas morning in Barbados, came out of the water and called my parents, saying, ‘Hey, I’m sweating.’ I guess I learned to appreciate it. We don’t do turkey at home in Italy, so I had my first one in Barbados, when I had Christmas lunch with a British family I knew. We had big roast potatoes, turnips, carrots — a typical British Christmas. At Danielle’s parents’ house the next year it was a different story: we all tucked into a big buffet with sweet potato pie, pineapple and cherry baked chicken, coleslaw and steamed vegetables. Italian food concentrates on a sole ingredient of the highest quality and does very little with it. Caribbean food is totally different. For jerk, the meat may not be the best cut, but the long process of marinating in spices and then smoking it makes it taste amazing. It’s so soulful.
Melillo ( left) with sous chef in training Mark Silburn