Can’t wait to get away for the holidays yet? Make a break for Italy with a culinary tour of the country instead.
Top chef Alfredo Russo is bringing specialities from 20 different areas of Italy to his Vivaldi restaurant at the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers on April 19 as part of the hotel’s 40th anniversary celebrations. The chef, whose Piedmonte establishment Dolce Stil Novo has a Michelin star, will also be on hand throughout the one-off event to guide guests through the various regional delicacies on offer.
“This is my way to make guests taste the tradition and the history of my people which they don’t know. Like a warm welcome to my house,” he told Gulf News tabloid! earlier this week, explaining how he wants to entice diners to visit Italy. “The awakening of memories takes place through taste to back to tradition, this is the departure point: to convert a memory into emotion and the emotion into a travel.”
Russo is known for putting a contemporary twist on classic Italian dishes. Born in Turin, he knew he wanted to be a chef at the age of 13.
“Nobody in my family was involved in a restaurant or a hotel. My father was in engineering and my mother was a teacher. When I said I want to become a chef, my family was not happy with this decision, and told me go to the restaurant to clean and wash the pots and dishes to demoralise me,” he says.
Instead, the insight into a professional kitchen only solidified his resolve, and by the age of 20 he had opened his first restaurant, with his own money, and soon had a line of diners outside every night. Founded on absolute respect for the Italian and Piedmontese regional tradition, the eatery won its first Michelin star two years later. Russo has since consulted with hotels around the world, opening restaurants in Japan, Thailand and elsewhere.
Another aim of the event, organised in association with WG Magazines and Italian Dairy Products, is to explode some myths around Italian food.
“Italian cuisine is very popular around the world, yes it is healthy, it’s tasty, and it is easy to prepare. For these reasons very often people adapt the recipes to their personal tastes,” the 50-year-old chef says. This flexibility means diners are often introduced to local variations that are neither authentic nor do justice to the food.
“Dubai is transforming very fast and sometimes it is more easy to follow shortcuts with menus with only the bestsellers such as lasagne, tiramisu, pizza, caprese and so on,” he continues. “A common misconception is about pasta and risotto, in Italy we cook and serve it al dente and not soft or overcooked. Another mistake is that pasta [and] risotto, they are not side dishes! And lastly we drink cappuccino in the morning for breakfast and espresso coffee to the end of the meal not paired to the desserts.”
A Taste of Italy takes place at the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers from 8pm on April 19. Dinner is priced at Dh175 including still and sparkling water; special beverage options are available.