How Italian restaurants are trying to survive the pandemic
Last Tuesday, August 18, the Italian Chamber of Commerce held a webinar on Italian cuisine entitled Mangiare Italiano. Mangiare means “to eat.”
It was a five-course menu that started with insights from Italian Chamber of Commerce president Sergio Boero for starters, then moving on to the delicious insights of three top Philippine restaurateurs and chefs before a sweet conclusion for dessert by yours truly, who had the pleasure of moderating the event.
Restaurants today, as you know, are struggling amid the imposed quarantines due to the pandemic. But it was good to have this talk with motivated members of the industry who have remained not only resilient, but also optimistic in spite of the hazards of a lockdown.
The restaurants that participated were Anzani, represented by chef-owner Marco Anzani, who joined us via Zoom from Cebu; Rossini, an Italian restaurant at S’ Maison in the Mall of Asia complex, represented by its general manager Thomas Moorsheim; and Finetra at Solaire, represented by its executive chef Alan Marchetti.
Anzani is a fine dining restaurant in Panorama Heights in Lahug, Cebu. It has an al fresco section and a wine cellar. Customers love both their Italian and new Mediterranean cuisines.
Chef Anzani has 35 years of experience and was even hailed by the New York Times as a pioneer of “new Mediterranean cuisine.”
He was enjoying a bottle of a 2017 Ornellaia, one of Italy’s leading Bordeaux-style red wines, during the webinar. While discussing the perils of the pandemic, we concluded that one way of recreating the restaurant experience at home—in today’s “new normal”—is to simply purchase and enjoy these bottles of wine at home.
With over 350 official varieties of grapes documented by Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, you’ve got the whole year covered with Italian wines alone. That doesn’t even include yet the Super Tuscans (high quality Italian red wines made from non-indigenous varieties).
At the moment, Anzani remains closed although they do a few select deliveries. We can’t wait for the day that we can travel again so we can enjoy the Michelin-starred cooking of chef Anzani once more.
Rossini, at S’ Maison, likewise remains closed but has continued its kitchen operations to service employees and front-liners.
Moersheim was a joy to speak with as he continues his advocacy for excellent Italian cuisine—including pizza Romana, traditionally prepared pasta and fine dining Italian dishes that use truffles, which was a favorite ingredient of opera composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini, whom they named the restaurant after.
Moersheim had such contagious optimism, as he announced that Rossini, together with chef Davide Lombardi, will open a Makati branch soon. No virus is stopping them.
Finestra, meanwhile, has it best, as they are now open to the public. This Italian steakhouse is located in Solaire Resort and Casino and is the go-to of some Italian expats when they crave a taste of excellent Italian food, as they would have it in Italy.
Marchetti shared he has been able to continue his commitment to delivering Italian cuisine with the best ingredients to their customers by diligently finding local sources. For prosciutto, for example, he no longer relies on imported, which would be hard to come by now due to limitations brought about by the pandemic.
He now makes his own. He has contracted a pig farm that is now dedicated to his restaurant and he has even gone as far as regulating the local pigs’ diet so that they come out fatter and just like the pigs raised in Italy.
The challenge for us customers is that Finestra does not sell the prosciutto for takeout (although I would urge them to); it is solely for dishes of Finestra. I guess that is the incentive so we will have to make our way to the restaurant to enjoy it.
Boero, who conceptualized the webinar, which was put together with the hard work of ICCP business manager Carlo Liay, reminded us that Italian cuisine is not only about flavor but also about culture.
It was really a wonderful afternoon, reminiscing and analyzing Italian cuisine and experiencing Italian culture once again, even if it was only virtual this time.
Perhaps in the next webinar, we should do as Anzani did and have a bottle of wine each, and maybe Finestra’s prosciutto and Rossini’s pizza Romana. Looking forward to the day when we can taste Italian cuisine again—together. Buon appetito! Saluti!
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