Food News

Isabella Manfredi: how I eat

The lead singer of The Preatures on growing up in restaurant kitchens and eating on the road.

The Preatures' Isabella Manfredi

Will Horner

What’s your earliest food memory?

Sitting on the marble benches in the kitchen at The Restaurant Manfredi in 1991. I’d watch my nonna making pasta and every so often she’d feed me a bit of the raw dough.

You’ve grown up spending a lot of time in restaurants. What makes a good one?

That’s a mystery, just like a good song. There’s no formula – it’s about a certain energy coupled with great execution.

Your father, Stefano Manfredi, is a wonderful and well-respected chef. What has he taught you about food?

Many things – but above all he taught me that the simplest things are often the hardest to do well.

Do you love or hate to cook?

I absolutely love it. It’s in my blood.

When you’re on tour, what does a typical dinner look like for The Preatures?

Who knows? It could be anything. A French dip if we’re in the States. A packet of corn chips, a tin of tuna, or airport sushi, perhaps. But if we’re in Europe, it’ll be a sit-down meal cooked in-house at the venue. Europeans know how to do it right.

What about when you’re in the studio – what are your go-to snacks?

I don’t really snack. If I eat something with delicious carbs I’ll be satisfied until the next meal. Our guitarist Jack [Moffitt] will make a salad for lunch and we’ll eat together. He’s into baking at the moment, too, so lately we’ve been having fresh sourdough. Sometimes Nonna or Dad will cook a big minestrone or osso buco, and I’ll keep it in the fridge or freeze portions. As a back-up I keep Love & Bones Broth soups in the freezer for a quick meal at any time of day, too.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing?

Vermouth and dark chocolate.

What’s the first thing you do when you travel to a new city?

As soon as we touch down I’ll be looking for a good café or somewhere to get coffee.

You spent a gap year in Italy. What do you miss most about that time?

The first month I spent studying Italian at a school in Navigli, in Milan. There was an osteria nearby with an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for €8. They’d do things like slow-cooked rabbit, coniglio with celery and carrot, and tagliatelle with butter and parmesan. I went there almost every day and they’d let me take leftovers home for dinner.

And what do you miss least?

I dated this Calabrian guy who used to eat chocolate-chip cookies in milk for breakfast, like you’d eat cereal. He had no comprehension of what toast was. And no toaster. It weirded me out to the max.

What’s your favourite kind of Italian?

I love very simple Italian food. I remember the first night I arrived in Rome, Mum and I sat in our little motel having a minestra together with big spoons. It was a light, golden broth with just a few vegetables – and it was just perfect.

Before starting The Preatures you worked in hospitality. How did you find it?

I got my first big job working the pass at a fine-dining restaurant in Sydney. On my first night, I dropped an entire table’s meal – three whole plates – clean onto the floor in front of them. Talk about baptism by fire. I learnt quickly after that and took pride in being good at my job. I loved the rhythm of service and making people happy.

You’re a big supporter of the Keep Sydney Open campaign. How would you like to see your city’s nightlife improved?

The Keep Sydney Open movement is as much about preserving nightlife culture in Sydney as it is about supporting sensible and sustainable planning for our city. To revitalise Sydney’s nightlife we need to address property prices, overhaul rental laws, invest in public transport and cultivate good drinking culture. This means focusing on small bars and venues in neighbourhoods rather than just large-scale entertainment precincts. Cities are for everyone, not just the people who can afford to live there.

You recorded your latest album, Girlhood, in Sydney. What do you miss most about the city when you’re away?

The sky, the gum trees and the colour of the light.

Do you ever cook for your dad?

Nah, it’s too much pressure. He gets real finicky in the kitchen and likes things to be just so. It’s territorial. Nonna is the same. I’d rather just eat.

What’s the best thing about Italian culture?

Noise at the dinner table.

The Preatures’ new album, Girlhood, is out now.

Related stories