One half of knock-out Sydney restaurants Bodega and Porteno, Elvis Abrahanowicz talks of veal sweetbread cravings, the best cuts for barbecuing, and what it's like working with Mum and Dad.
Catherine Osmond

25 Nov 2013 - 1:59 PM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2014 - 3:55 PM

You have two restaurants with Ben Milgate (pictured, right) – which one are you at tonight?

I do Tuesday to Thursday at Porteno; Ben works at Bodega, then we switch over and I do Friday and Saturday at Bodega – and we usually have some other event on, so I do a six-day week.


The restaurants are a family affair, right?

Yes, Mum [Hilda] is here every day – she makes the empanadas and the chimichurri. My dad [Adan] looks after the whole beasts, so he’s here early every morning getting the pigs and lambs ready.


What’s it like working with your parents – do they boss you around?

[Laughs] No, they’re awesome – they’re a lot of fun.


And your dad tends the all-important fire pit [asador] as well?

Yes, all day... he used to do service as well, but he was doing 15-hour shifts, so we cut down his hours. We’ve got to make him last!


Tell me about your heritage …

Dad’s parents are Polish and he was born in Argentina. Mum was born there too – her Dad was Italian and her Mum was Spanish; everyone in Argentina is from somewhere else! We moved to Fairfield [in Sydney’s west] when I was seven.


What’s a family dish that you still enjoy?

I love veal sweetbreads – it’s one of the best things you could eat off the barbecue. Mum’s also pretty amazing with pastas and baking.


Who taught you to barbecue the Argentinian way?

We’d have a barbecue in Fairfield every weekend, like they do in Argentina, and I’d always help Dad. I love it and it’s just what I know.


Aussie barbie versus Argentinian barbie: care to weigh in?

I don’t think there really is an Aussie barbecue – it’s more like a grill. I don’t mind it, but I just like cooking over charcoal. It’s a gentler heat than gas and Argentinians like to take their time.


What’s the best meat for barbecuing?

Argentinians always use different cuts to what people use in Australia – the secondary cuts are more popular for flavour and texture. They like to chew on their meat.


Your wife, Sarah, has called you boys the “Surry Hillbillies”, in reference to your rockabilly look. What do you love about the '50s?

I love the style, the people and the cars, and I like the music, of course – I was named after Elvis Presley because my parents were fans.


What’s your favourite dish in your new book, Recipes for a Good Time?

The fish fingers. It’s been on the Bodega menu pretty much since it opened and it’s an easy one as well, compared with cooking a whole beast!


And your own “recipe for a good time”?

Spending time with friends and family, somewhere fun and with good music.


Recipes for a Good Time, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate (Murdoch Books, $59.99, hbk).

Check out our cookbook review of Recipes for a Good Time here.