Chef Angelo Sanelli, who started Michelangelo's and Original Sin restaurants, dies at 63

Chef Angelo Sanelli of Michelangelo’s restaurant group was a house painter, interior decorator and an office cleaner before he became a full-time professional cook at the age of 30.
Chef Angelo Sanelli of Michelangelo’s restaurant group was a house painter, interior decorator and an office cleaner before he became a full-time professional cook at the age of 30.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Chef Angelo Sanelli, who started popular restaurants here, has died. He was 63 years old.

The Australian, who was the frontman of the now-defunct Michelangelo's Restaurant Group, which included restaurants such as Michelangelo's, an Italian restaurant; and Original Sin, a vegetarian Mediterranean restaurant, both in Holland Village, died on May 11 in Gold Coast University Hospital in Queensland, Australia.

He is said to have suffered chronic heart failure and was also battling prostate cancer, and is survived by his wife, Jayanthi, their daughter and two granddaughters.

Chef Sanelli was a pioneer in the local Italian food scene in Singapore.

In 1995, he started Michelangelo's in Chip Bee Gardens, which opened to much fanfare. It was one of the few standalone restaurants outside of hotels then to serve quality Italian cuisine. The restaurant was also one of the first in Chip Bee Gardens, which has become a foodie enclave. Later, he opened Original Sin and Sistina Ristorante, both on the same stretch, and high-end Italian restaurant Zambuca in Pan-Pacific Singapore.

In 2009, he left the restaurant group as he faced substantial financial losses. Later that year, he struck out on his own with French-Italian restaurant Mietta's in Arab Street. The restaurant shut down a year later. The couple also ran another short-lived Italian restaurant, Angelo's in Killiney Road in 2010, and relocated to Australia later that year.

Of the restaurants that he started, only Original Sin is still running.

Chef Sanelli, who was the vice-president of the Singapore Chefs Association, conducted numerous cooking lessons in his now-defunct Bentfork Cooking School in Chip Bee Gardens.

Local food and beverage professionals remember him for his gregarious and nurturing personality.

Dennis Sim, 39, executive chef of Coastes restaurant in Sentosa, who spent 11 years working with chef Sanelli, says that his mentor was "generous in imparting his knowledge to young chefs".

Chef Sim, who started out as a cook in Original Sin restaurant and rose to become head chef of Mietta's, says: "I remember one advice that he always gave the team after a successful dinner event - you are only as good as your last meal. It helped us not to get ahead of ourselves and think about ways to improve."

Mr Francis Poulose, 49, managing director of food and beverage consultancy Poulose Associates, who worked with chef Sanelli on dinner events in the noughties, says: "He was a gem of a person; he had no airs and was always keen to try out new ideas and event concepts. He made waves with Michelangelo's as it served good food and he had such a huge personality and interacted with diners. I will cherish these memories of him."

kengohsz@sph.com.sg