Obituary

Chef Angelo Sanelli who founded restaurants Michelangelo's and Original Sin dies

Angelo Sanelli (left with granddaughters Priya and Ella) had heart failure and prostate cancer.
Angelo Sanelli (above with granddaughters Priya and Ella) had heart failure and prostate cancer.PHOTO: COURTESY OF JAYANTHI SANELLI

Chef Angelo Sanelli, who died last month, started a standalone restaurant in Chip Bee Gardens in 1995 to serve quality Italian cuisine

Chef Angelo Sanelli, who started several 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 Italian restaurant Michelangelo's and vegetarian Mediterranean restaurant Original Sin, both in Holland Village - died on May 11 at Gold Coast University Hospital in Queensland, Australia.

His wife Jayanthi Sanelli, 57, tells The Straits Times in an e-mail that he died in his sleep of chronic heart failure after a five-year battle. He also had prostate cancer.

Apart from his wife, he is survived by their daughter Dee Dee, 34, and two granddaughters - Priya, three, and Ella, one. They live in Gold Coast in Australia.

Mrs Sanelli says: "It feels like there's a huge hole in our lives. We are still adjusting. Priya, who did drawings with him, broke down crying and misses her nonno (Italian for grandfather) and so does Ella, who also kissed a photo of him. Dee Dee, who was daddy's girl, feels like she has lost her best mate."

Calling her husband of 29 years "my soulmate and love of my life", she says: "He was always romantic. For our 25th wedding anniversary, we spent it in hospital. He put a strawberry in my champagne and hid a little present under a pillow. We always did special little things for each other."

She also misses his "incredible aura".

"People and aspiring chefs loved talking to him. He was always encouraging, humble and had a great sense of humour."

Chef Sanelli was a pioneer in the 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 then, apart from hotels, serving quality Italian cuisine. The restaurant was also one of the first in Chip Bee Gardens, which has since become a food 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.

According to Mrs Sanelli, her husband decided to leave Singapore as he "was terribly heartbroken by the betrayal of people he cared for, trusted and loved in business".

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

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

Over the years, he received 183 awards and accolades, including Restaurateur of the Year in 1998 and 1999 from Wine & Dine magazine.

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

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

He had started out as a cook in Original Sin and rose to become head chef at Mietta's. "I remember the advice 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 of ways to improve."

Mr Francis Poulose, 49, managing director of food and beverage consultancy Poulose Associates, who worked with 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. He had such a huge personality and interacted with diners. I will cherish these memories of him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Michelangelo's chef-founder was award-winning pioneer'. Print Edition | Subscribe