Home » General » Italian Invasion… Four Seasons Dinner in Harare

There is no doubt whatsoever that the richness of their culture is so distinct that they stand out wherever they are in the world. Brace yourself for that invasion is set to hit Harare as the Embassy of Italy and the Meikles Hotel’s famed La Fontaine Grillroom have teamed up to present the Four Seasons Italian Dinner Series. Aptly titled A Winter in Rome (Inverno a Roma), the dinner will provide locals with a trip to the enchanting city of Rome right here in Harare on July 24.

And the chef is none other than the versatile Italian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Enrico De Agostini who will serve four of his favourite recipes rich in flavour and tradition. We got a taste of the offering this week when the Ambassador hosted us at the chef’s table at La Fontaine Restaurant together with the Meikles Hospitality managing director Karl Snater and selected journalists.

He traded in his suit for the chef’s attire and true to his billing he easily demonstrated his culinary skills and never missed a step in the kitchen. In true tradition of a master chef the ambassador took us through the menu taking time to explain the significance of the chosen dishes, the ingredients and the preparation.

“Italians are fond of food and it is quiet important in building relationships,” he said

Chef De Agostini started with Suppli di risso al telefono to tickle the taste buds as an appetizer. Of course it’s a tongue twister but in English it loosely translates to “Telephone Style Rice Croquette”.

When broken in two pieces, the mozzarella (cheese) in the middle becomes drawn out in a string somewhat resembling the cord connecting a telephone handset to the hook.

“In Italy, the suppli di risso al telefono is usually made by the road sides and is quiet popular. You eat it with your hands,” he said

They are indeed a delight crunchy inside and soft and tasty in the inside.

Then came the starter, Fusilli alla Coda vaccinara. It is essentially Fusilli pasta in oxtail sauce enhanced by some tantalising cheese.

The Italians are certainly crazy about pasta and they have many ways of preparing it. The Fusilli pasta dish was served with minced oxtail and wow the flavour was awesome. In between sipping some red wine, the Roman experience was certainly setting in.

At this point, we could not wait for the main course. Saltimbocca alla romana are essentially Roman style beef escalopes served on a bed of spinach with slices of bacon on top. To say simply irresistible would be an understatement, Ambassador De Agostini actually joked about how the meat jumps into one’s mouth! The escalopes of veal were certainly out of this world.

Never have we tasted beef that is so soft and tasty. Served with our everyday green vegetables prepared with olive oil, we finally saw what the fuss is all about when it comes to olive oil.

“Olive oil is quiet healthy and gives food, especially salads a good taste,” he said.

The dessert was quiet interesting because unlike the usual ice cream ala something, the chef chose Ciambelle al vino simply put, ring shaped biscuits.

Now these were a big oops because while they tasted so good, we almost broke our teeth trying to bite them. However in his defense the chef was quick to point out that it was one of those mishaps in the kitchen.

“The biscuits are dipped into sweet wine but are not supposed to be that hard,” he said. An Italian coffee wrapped up the proceedings but it must be pointed out that the diplomat who was born and raised in Rome gave us an unforgettable experience and certainly something to look forward to during the dinner that’s already sold out.

There is no better way to get an understanding of the Italian tradition and culture than to share a meal with them and the Ambassador certainly knows how to sell his country by describing and elaborating certain aspects about the Italian way of life.

“People in our country have their supper as late as 8.30pm. Our routines are different because we get up at 8 in the morning. We also shut down operations and sleep for two hours in the afternoon before resuming work around 5pm,” he said.

To highlight the diversity of the Italian tradition, Ambassador De Agostini said that recipes for the same dishes are usually altered to suit different areas as some ingredients are not found in other areas.

“We are offering a comprehensive experience of the Italian culture through food. Cooking is about culture and when we do it, we have an opportunity to talk about it. In the four seasons, we move around the country and offer Zimbabweans to experience that through our cooking.”

Roman cuisine is the cuisine of the Italian city of Rome. It is based on seasonal ingredients mostly from Roman Campagna, and prepared in a simple way. Among these, the most important are vegetables (typical are peas, globe artichokes and fava beans), meat (milk lamb and goat) and cheeses (Pecorino romano and ricotta). A typical condiment in Roman cuisine is strutto, pork lard prepared and canned each winter. Also used is the fat of prosciutto, while olive oil is used only for raw vegetables and – occasionally – to fry.

Rome’s food has evolved through centuries and periods of social, cultural, and political changes. Rome became a major gaomical centre during ancient age. Ancient Roman cuisine was highly influenced by Ancient Greek culture, and after, the empire’s enormous expansion exposed Romans to many new, provincial culinary habits and cooking techniques. In the beginning, the differences between social classes were not very great, but disparities developed with the empire’s growth. Later, during the Renaissance, Rome became well known as a centre of high-cuisine, since some of the best chefs of the time, worked for the popes.

An example of this could be Bartolomeo Scappi, who was a chef, working for Pius IV in the Vatican kitchen, and he acquired fame in 1570 when his cookbook Opera dell’arte del cucinare was published. In the book he lists approximately 1 000 recipes of the Renaissance cuisine and describes cooking techniques and tools, giving the first known picture of a fork.

Source : The Herald