You may have heard of Ryan Zuvich. He runs the show at La Stella Trattoria, an Italian restaurant located in the heart of the Old City Quarter, since 2014. The cozy eatery serves a variety of Italian cuisine, with an emphasis on ingredient-driven, technique focused, classic cuisine with a modern approach.

Zuvich chatted with The Nav about some of his peeves with the restaurant industry, things to avoid when eating out, and his method for cooking the perfect steak.

What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?

For me, it’s about what’s fresh, so it changes all the time. That being said, good kosher salt is always on hand.

What’s the secret to cooking a perfect steak?

This totally depends on the cut. Some steaks like rare, some need medium. Some want to be grilled, others need to be roasted. Start with top quality and you should be well on your way.

What do you always avoid ordering on a menu?

Depends on the restaurant. If it’s a shop that looks a bit rough, I’m going to stay away from the complex sounding items. If it’s a shop that seems not very busy, I’m staying away from fish dishes. If it’s a top quality restaurant, I’ll likely stay away from the easy dishes as those are likely there to please the crowd and the team in the back is likely more into the challenging stuff.

What tricks do you use for perfect fried/scrambled/poached eggs?

Fry in butter. Season scrambled eggs after they’re cooked. Poach in water with vinegar in it.

What is your go-to meal when you’re low on time?

Pasta with sauce made from whatever is in the fridge.

What would your last meal be?

Never ending.

What is the best recent food trend?

Sourcing local. Though that has been the norm in good restaurants for decades.

What is the most overrated recent food trend?

Pink salt.

What is a good simple piece of advice for pairing wine and food?

Typically reds with red meats, whites with fish; but really drink what you enjoy.

What is your secret Nanaimo restaurant recommendation?

Not much of a secret I’m guessing, but The Milton Street Public House.

What dish are you bored of cooking/seeing on menus?

Whatever protein (fish, steak, etc.) with “seasonal vegetables and your choice of roast potatoes or rice blah, blah,”—fucking awful

What is your favourite Canadian dish?

Candied salmon.

Easiest meal to prepare in order to impress someone?

Roast chicken and vegetables. Easy to execute and turns into multiple leftover dishes.