What I drink when ... Enrico Paradiso

Returning from a European holiday in October 2010, three decades of working in the food-and-drink industry caught up with restaurateur Enrico Paradiso.

After being hospitalised in Singapore with a host of health complications, including pneumonia and liver damage, the co-owner of Potts Point eatery Fratelli Paradiso gave up his traditional indulgences such as wine, caffeine and cholesterol-rich foods.

Weeks later he was due to open Bar 10 William Street in Paddington, his latest venture with brother Giovanni, so he started his quest for an alternative tipple. Herbal teas replaced regular coffee hits and a replacement for wine was found in sake, the rice-based Japanese spirit.

''Working in restaurants, you are used to drinking a lot of wine,'' says Paradiso, who moved to Sydney from Melbourne 15 years ago before opening Fratelli Paradiso in September 2001, a day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.

''Matt, our sommelier, introduced me to sake and it didn't seem to have the same effect on my body,'' he says.

For Paradiso, switching from wine to sake was the start of a cultural shift from his traditional Italian upbringing, which included an annual grape-buying excursion with his father and uncle to the markets in Melbourne to make the family wine for the year.

By the time he was in his early 20s and working in restaurants, home-made wine was replaced by French and Italian red varieties.

Although he now enjoys an occasional glass of wine, Paradiso says he is more likely to drink sake with dinner. At 10 William Street, he serves six sake varieties with traditional Italian dishes - such as steak with rocket and tomato, or fior di latte with tomato and beets - all prepared by a Japanese head chef.

''But not a lot [of sake]; I might have one once a week,'' he says. ''It matches really well with Italian foods, not just Japanese.

''There are a lot of similarities between the two cuisines. A lot of Italian food is full of umami flavours and so is Japanese,'' Paradiso says, referring to the savoury taste common to traditional Italian ingredients such as ripe tomatoes, mushrooms and fermented cheeses as well as Japanese foods such as seaweed, bonito flakes and fermented sauces such as soy sauce.

When he does drink wine, he prefers what he calls ''free wine'' - that is, organic without additives. ''It is how it would have been when I was growing up.''

This article What I drink when ... Enrico Paradiso was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.