x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The Italian World Cuisine Summit rolls into Dubai

The Italian World Cuisine Summit rolls into town, bringing with it an entourage of Italian Michelin-starred chefs from around the world.

Chef Domenico Crolla with his Giuseppe Verdi pizza. Courtesy: Domenico Crolla
Chef Domenico Crolla with his Giuseppe Verdi pizza. Courtesy: Domenico Crolla

The American president Barack Obama, Sophia Loren and even the newest heir to the British throne, Prince George, are expected to make an appearance in Dubai over the next five days.

At least, their incarnations in pizza will be, giving a new meaning to the term “pizza face”.

Domenico Crolla, a Scots-born Italian, discovered a knack for creating striking portraits of celebrities on pizza dough bases using just cheese, tomato sauce and a scalpel.

He will be showing off his talent as the Italian World Cuisine Summit rolls into town, bringing with it an entourage of Italian Michelin-starred chefs from around the world.

“The summit is a culinary showroom. It is a great opportunity to learn more about Italian cuisine and how to enjoy it at its best,” says the summit’s founder Rosario Scarpato.

“There is a rich programme of things to do. Italian cuisine is one of the most popular in Dubai and this is the first time in the city’s history that such a concentration of Michelin-starred chefs will be coming here.”

The five-day extravaganza, now in its fifth year, has just relocated to the UAE after four years in Hong Kong. With a growing number of Italian restaurants opening, the organisers wanted to celebrate the burgeoning appetite for all things Italian.

It will feature 25 Italian chefs, of whom 15 have 25 Michelin stars between them in Italy. The remaining 10 are based overseas and will be coming from countries including Singapore and China.

The event will kick off tonight with an invitation-only gala opening in the Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel, presided over by the guest chef Massimiliano Alajmo, the youngest chef in history to be awarded three Michelin stars.

Over the next four days, there will be a host of activities and events, including a mini piazza created on Jumeirah beach with displays of pizza acrobatics – the art of tossing pizzas and spinning dough – cookery classes for both amateurs and professionals, demonstrations of ice-cream making and the opportunity to sample some of the finest Italian food in the world at restaurants around the city. There will also be a celebration of the best of Italian design, from Ducati motorbikes to furniture from Poltrona Frau.

Fourteen restaurants in Dubai will be taking part, including Bussola in the Westin hotel, Casa Mia in Le Meridien hotel, the Cavalli Club and Roberto’s in DIFC, whose chef Luca Signoretti was instrumental in bringing the summit to the city.

They will host the visiting chefs, who have created their own set menus or signature dishes to be offered alongside the standard menu.

And as the truffle season is in full swing, each restaurant is planning to showcase a dish featuring the sought-after white truffle, which is only available for a few weeks of the year. About 50kg of the fungi, worth an estimated Dh1.2 million, is being brought in specially for the event.

There will also be competitions to find the best barista and the best pizza in the UAE, while the qualifying round of the pasta world championship will be staged on Friday. The winner will eventually be flown to Italy in June next year for the finals.

Scarpato, whose network includes 2,200 chefs around the world, says there are 128 Italian restaurants in Dubai and another 18 in Abu Dhabi. While they are a fraction of the estimated 800 restaurants in New York and 450 in London, the number is growing in the UAE and is high compared to the population with the means to enjoy fine dining.

“Dubai has a good infrastructure, a lot of expertise and a good clientele. That is why we decided to move the summit here,” he says.

A former sociologist and TV producer, he got the idea for the summit after recording a series of programmes several years ago on how Italian cuisine is enjoyed around the globe.

“The idea is to show that Italian cuisine abroad can be of the same level and in some cases, better than the cuisine in Italy,” says Scarpato, who is from Naples but lives in Melbourne, Australia. Food from the country can be distinguished by its simplicity and the importance placed on the ingredients over the technique, he adds.

“Our cuisine is based on diversity from north to south but there are dishes that unite us,” he says.

“It is all about the freshness of the ingredients and sitting down together to enjoy a meal. The Romans believed people eating alone were miserable and food for us is a celebration of life.”

• The Italian World Cuisine Summit runs until Sunday. For details, visit dubaisummit.itchefs-gvci.com




• Enjoy a white truffle dish at any one of 14 restaurants in the city

• Watch pizza acrobatics and the pizza artist Domenico Crolla in action at the piazza grande show at Bussola on the beach on Saturday. The festival runs from 1pm to midnight and is free

• Browse artisanal foods in Dubai Mall every day from 6-10pm

• Attend a masterclass by the two Michelin-starred Marco Sacco on Saturday from 11.30am to 1.30pm in the Miele kitchen showroom

• See the qualifying round of the world pasta championship at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality in Jumeirah on Friday from 10.30am to 12.30pm