AS head chef at the busy Italian Cafe, life can be somewhat hectic for Paun Paula.

But as she talks enthusiastically about the food on offer at the Ocean Beach Hotel on Bournemouth’s Overcliff, it’s clear she couldn’t be happier.

As an Italian, she grew up with home cooking and always wanted to be a chef. She worked in kitchens in Italy and then at the Enzo restaurant in Bournemouth when she came to the UK, before becoming head chef at the Italian Cafe 18 months ago.

“I am very passionate about the food and about Italian cuisine,” she smiles.

“What we do is pasta and pizza, then we also make some Italian desserts as well. The most popular dessert is Tiramisu, which I am doing as my grandmother did it, so it’s an old recipe.

“If you call it the Italian Cafe, you need to have classic Italian dishes. So on the specials we have something different, to make people try something different – that’s the most important thing.”

The restaurant prides itself on its fresh ingredients, calling the suppliers every morning to see what is available. As a consequence, the menu is kept fairly flexible, to allow seasonal adjustments to be made.

Although the majority of its produce is sourced locally, a few things do come from further afield.

“If you want to serve Italian produce and Italian dishes, you need to get some fresh produce from Italy, otherwise it’s going to taste different,” says Paun, “that’s what makes all the difference.

“We do buffalo mozzarella, that comes from Naples. We also get cherry tomatoes from Naples as well. They’re very good quality.”

The kitchen team are trying to establish a popular menu which can then be tweaked seasonally, but Paun is keen to offer people something a little different.

“It’s not easy, but people are getting to try things,” she says.

“It’s curiosity, that’s a good thing. They see something they’ve never seen, so they want to try it. Usually we get really good feedback so it is working.

“I’m happy because I see it getting busier and busier and busier, so that means people are coming back.

“When you work with your heart, it’s nice that you can see people that love your food.

“It’s the start of what I think is going to be a successful year.”


For the cream

3 large eggs, separated

1 large egg yolk

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup mascarpone cheese, softened

For the syrup

1/2 cup coffee,

1 1/2 ounces Disaronno Amaretto

½ ounces Kahlua

1 tablespoon sugar

For the cream and assembly

3/4 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

24 ladyfingers

Dark chocolate, for grating

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a metal bowl over gently simmering water until the mixture doubles in volume and holds a ribbon when the beaters are lifted. Remove from the heat. In a clean bowl, whisk in the mascarpone cheese until smooth. Whip egg whites to medium peaks. Fold whites into the yolk mixture and set aside.

For the syrup, heat the coffee, add Disaronno Amaretto, Kahlua and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.

For the topping, whip the cream until it holds a soft peak and stir in sugar and vanilla. Chill until ready to use.

To assemble, dip the ladyfingers quickly into the coffee syrup and arrange 3 into each of 4 serving dishes. Spoon a generous layer of the mascarpone filling over the ladyfingers and grate a little chocolate over top. Repeat with a second layer of ladyfingers and the remaining mascarpone filling and grating of chocolate. Dollop the whipped cream over each tiramisu and dust with chocolate powder.

Chill until ready to serve.