Italian food in the Middle East has moved on from just being about pizza and pasta — there is a growing understanding of the cuisine, say chefs. Italian food in the Middle East has moved on from just being about pizza and pasta — there is a growing understanding of the cuisine, say chefs.

Meet the experts

Giorgio Locatelli, Founder, Ronda Locatelli, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

Andrea Mugavero, Executive chef, Roberto’s Restaurant & Lounge Dubai

Manuel Polin, Speciality chef de cuisine, Segreto, Dubai

Andrea Giannini, Head chef, Sabella’s, Kempinski Hotel Ajman, UAE

Emiliano Lazzaro, Owner and chef, Signor Pomidor, Dubai

Hisham Ibrahim, Owner and chef, House of Pizza, Dubai

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Have you noticed any increase or decrease in the popularity of Italian cuisine in the region?

Giorgio Locatelli, Ronda Locatelli: There has been an increase in its standing to the point now where it’s difficult to be original. When we arrived, Italian food in the Middle East was just about pizza and pasta whereas now there is a growing understanding of the cuisine — it’s a burrata revolution!

Andrea Mugavero, executive chef, Roberto’s Restaurant & Lounge Dubai: There has been a significant increase in popularity, mostly thanks to the availability of authentic and traditional Italian ingredients, as there are more suppliers offering the original Italian ingredients required.

Manuel Polin, speciality chef de cuisine, Segreto: Italian cuisine is well known across the world and the same can be said for this region, but I have noticed a gradual decrease in the level of authenticity of Italian cuisine in the region. Personally, I feel that the role of any dish is to achieve a balance between customer dining preferences and the chef’s creativity, which is something authentic fine-dining venues are better at creating.

Andrea Giannini, head chef, Sabella’s, Kempinski Hotel Ajman: It is very popular in the region and its popularity has been increasing tremendously. More and more people are coming to the UAE, looking for different and familiar cuisines that will fit their palate.

Emiliano Lazzaro, owner and chef, Signor Pomidor: There has been an increase in interest for my country but, at the same time, quality has decreased. More and more often I see offerings from ‘can to plate’. Italian food is history, tradition, feeling, love, culture, passion; if this is not transferred to the palate of our clients, we failed.

Hisham Ibrahim, owner and chef, House of Pizza: I frequently travel to the US and Canada, so that region is one of my main yardsticks for comparison. While the palate for Italian food is expansive in the Americas, the GCC region’s love for the cuisine is primarily associated with pasta and pizza — and, understandably so, due to the strong presence of big pizza franchises in the UAE. The culture of family restaurants serving homemade Italian cuisine is what is missing here. Sumptuous Italian food made with originality, passion and farm-fresh ingredients is what this region needs.

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