Omanis love their pasta ‘al dente’. One of the many things they share with Italians. This is the revelation of Italian Chef Luigi Ferraro, born in Cassano Allo Ionio, now a citizen of the world who has moved from city to city giving places like Sharm-El-Sheik, Stuttgart, Bangkok, London, Paris, St Petersburg, New York, Delhi, now Muscat an opportunity to try what authentic Italian food really taste like.
He has only been in the Sultanate for three months, but is now able to make a comparison of what his country of Italy shares with people in Oman. “In South Italy, families make their own food. Especially fresh pasta. Every Sunday, families sit down together to eat and while they are at it, they talk about whatever happened during the week,” he shared.
This is very similar to most families in the Sultanate. Traditionally, Omani homes love preparing their own bread and while pasta is staple in Italy, the Omanis too love their bread. Families in Oman also love getting together to talk about random things.
For those dining in restaurants and seeking out Italian food, the preference among Oman residents for pasta is always ‘al dente.’
“And I love seasoning and spices. One thing that I personally share with a lot of people here,” he said.
November 20 to 26 was celebrated by 120 countries all over the world as the Italian Cuisine in the World Week — a time when the spotlight is placed on the culinary traditions of this Mediterranean country.
Oman is one of those countries that celebrated the week with gusto and during this time period, different Italian-themed restaurants in the country are in full gear generating huge interests not only from the locals but the expats as well who comprised almost half of the population.
“I came from Delhi. I was there for two years. When I came to Oman, I’ve seen what the country is like and I loved it. Right now, I really love the good weather,” he shared.
Chef Gigi is currently running Shangri La’s Capri Court, a contemporary Italian restaurant that offers innovative menu and stylish restaurant design, which opened in 2006 and can seat 114 guests at the same time. Daily, it opens at 6 pm and closes at 11.30 pm.
He has to meticulously create all of the meals that now appears on the restaurant’s menu.
During the Italian Cuisine Week, what captured people’s interest is that they’ve brought to Oman one of Italy’s most celebrated Italian delicacies, perhaps also one of the most expensive, the Alba white truffle. Found by employing the help of specific farm animal, the white truffles are only available two months in a year and usually at a lesser quantity.
“Every region in Italy has their specific ingredient. Tastes and flavour differs from city to city. South of Italy (where the Chef came from) has its specific tastes,” he shared.
As the last hurrah to the Italian Food Week, Oman Daily Observer was given a rare access to the esteemed Capri Court’s kitchen — one that is often off limits because of high sanitary standards. The access allowed us to see what takes place behind the scene with the Chef and his team beginning preparation as early as 3 to 4 hours before opening time at 6 pm.
“Most of the ingredients we used here are sourced in Oman. But since we go for authentic tastes, we also get some ingredients from Italy,” he shared.
For our visit, the chef prepared his version of risotto and because of dietary preference, was put to the test by using ingredients without dairy.
“My mother loves to cook. It’s from her that I got this passion for good food. I was in secondary school when I told my mother that I’d like to go to culinary school,” he said while in between chopping the onions and heating up the pans.
Although his family’s root was always in the marble business, his family supported him in his passion for cooking and have come far from his humble culinary school in Italy. He would eventually become a multi-awarded chef with a book under his belt and print several others shared with other chefs.
One of his recent awards include the “Rotary International-City of Sun”. He won two gold medals at the “‘International Kremlin Culinary Cup” in Moscow in 2013 in the Hot Dishes and Artistic Dishes categories.
“I travelled in different regions of Italy because it is important to have full understanding of what make Italian cuisine authentic and dynamic and that’s what I’m bringing to Oman,” Gigi said.
The risotto he prepared took barely 15 minutes and he plated it with masterful ease. He spent another 10 minutes taking us on a trip down memory lane while he whipped up another dish.
In less than 40 minutes, our early dinners were served. While guests began to pour in, our visit was just ending.
We left behind empty plates — the cleanest it possibly can after a nice meal. We haven’t been to Italy yet but based on our preview so far, we might have to accept Chef Luigi’s invitation of visiting his home in Calabria because suffice to say, Italy is indeed delicious on a plate.
To know more about Chef Luigi, visit his website at http://www.luigiferrarochef.com/portal/en/