Chef Massimiliano Boldrini was born into a family of chefs and was raised and trained in Ferrara, a city rich with culinary tradition in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Massi has enjoyed working in kitchens across Europe and the States, and training under James Beard Best Chef nominee, Gino Angelini, in both Italy and Los Angeles. From a very early age, he was also fortunate to learn from his father, Giuliano Boldrini, a prominent chef in Bologna.
In 2007, Massi’s dream of opening his own restaurant became a reality when he and his wife, Jennifer, opened Riva Cucina in Berkeley. Both Massi and Jen feel incredibly honored to have earned a recommendation from the Michelin Guide, an "extraordinary to perfection" Zagat rating of 26, Oakland Tribune’s Top 10 Best New East Bay Restaurants as well as countless regulars turned friends over the past eight years. They are very excited about their newest adventure catering intimate private events together at wineries and estates in the Napa Valley, where they live with their two young children, Giulia and Luca.
Born into a family of chefs and raised in Ferrara, a city rich with culinary tradition in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Massi was destined for a life of cooking. Massi entered the commercial kitchen at age 15, as a summer intern at his father’s restaurant. As a prominent chef in Bologna, Massi’s dad wanted his son’s first professional experience to instill a realistic sense of the career he was about to choose. While other interns worked six-hour shifts, Massi worked his dad’s twelve-hour days. He gained exposure across all kitchen stations from prepping to grilling to learning how to de-bone a prosciutto. This experience solidified Massi’s career choice and he went on to five years of formal culinary training.
Massi’s skill brought him to a four-star hotel in Milan, then onto Prague and Bournemouth, where he trained local chefs in Italian cuisine. He returned to Italy and held positions in Rimini and Lido di Spina, two towns on the Adriatic coast and in his hometown, Ferrara. Massi gained a following in Emilia-Romagna for his innovative approach to Italian cuisine, as he regularly pushed the boundaries of regional cooking techniques. Massi traveled to Los Angeles in 1998 to train under Gino Angelini, a James Beard Foundation best chef nominee, at Vincenti Ristorante in Brentwood. Massi split his time between Ferrara and LA for three years until he met Jen, his wife-to-be, just six days before returning to Italy.
In 2007, Massi’s dream of opening his own restaurant became a reality when he opened Riva Cucina in Berkeley. Both Massi and Jen feel incredibly honored to have earned a recommendation from the Michelin Guide, an "extraordinary to perfection" Zagat rating of 26, Oakland Tribune’s Top 10 Best New East Bay Restaurants as well as countless regulars turned friends over the past eight years. The couple’s newest adventure includes catering private events at wineries and estates in the Napa Valley, where they live with their two young children, Giulia and Luca.
Jen first fell in love with Italian culture and cuisine while studying abroad in Florence. Exposure to the Italian way of living and thinking at this young age offered wonderful perspective and instilled in her a desire to learn even more about the world’s diverse cultures. Upon returning to the University of Notre Dame, Jen picked up anthropology as a minor and applied to graduate school in San Francisco, where she earned her Masters degree in East West Psychology.
Jen’s studies, passion and wanderlust led to a position at an online luxury travel company, Unexlored.com, during the heyday of the Internet boom. An opportunity of a lifetime, she jumped at the chance to research, market, travel to and write about some of the world’s most amazing destinations. One such trip led her to meeting Massi, her soon-to-be Italian husband.
Jen later accepted a project manager position at Gravity Branding in San Francisco and then again at AddisCreson in Berkeley, where she was exposed to the world of brand strategy, naming and design. She spent five years managing branding projects for clients such as Nissan, Verizon, Kashi, Safeway and UC Berkeley.
When Massi found an available restaurant space in Berkeley, Jen jumped on board to help manifest his dream. Traveling to Italy for inspiration is one incredible perk of owning Riva Cucina; tasting Massi’s culinary creations everyday is an even greater one.
Jen’s days are now spent managing Riva’s front of house, hosting culinary tours in Emilia-Romagna, and building Riva’s catering business in Napa, where the couple live with their two young children, Giulia and Luca.