SAY THE WORDS VILLA TOSCANA TO ANYBODY IN ABU DHABI WHO LOVES ITALIAN FOOD AND YOU’LL GET RAVING REVIEWS. THE RESTAURANT HAS BECOME FAMOUS FOR ITS TRULY AUTHENTIC MENU AND BEAUTIFUL SETTING AT THE ST.REGIS ABU DHABI. FACT’S ANGELA BEITZ SAT DOWN WITH THE HOTEL’S EXECUTIVE CHEF STAFANO TO TALK ALL THE THINGS TUSCAN AND TASTY.

When you enter Villa Toscana it’s like taking a trip to a beautiful Italian home. And when you’re faced with a sizzling hot piece of Pepperoni pizza minutes after walking in, you know you’re in for a good evening out. This restaurant has SO many qualities but it’s the homely atmosphere that really makes it stand out for us. We’re here for a sit down with Executive Chef Stefano to learn more about the secrets to Villa Toscana’s success and what his philosophy is when it comes to cooking delicious Italian food. “My philosophy is tradition and passion, it stems from my earliest childhood memories, cooking with my mother,” he tells us. “She was my greatest inspiration and many of the recipes I cook today are hers. If you visit Villa Toscana for Expresso Lunch you will see that we serve rustic pizza pie’s on our antipasti buffet, these are an example of a completely original recipe of my mother’s that we share with guests daily”.

Chef Stefano also shares that it’s his approach to bringing fresh, authentic ingredients to Abu Dhabi and to find flavours that are not found elsewhere in the capital, that makes Villa Toscana really special. “We produce traditional recipes and cater to a variety of guests’ palates with simple, honest Italian cuisine,” Chef Stefano says. “The Italian kitchen is made for so many people; vegetarian’s, meat lovers, those who love fresh pasta, rich desserts, coffee, and so, in some places it is trendy to change dishes and alter menus, but we want to showcase truly authentic, seasonal dishes,” he adds. Chef Stefano believes that people love Italian food so much as it evokes special memories and emotions. “Italian food is simple, flavourful and most dishes encompass a minimal three key ingredients so it is not complicated for a variety of different palates and people from all cultures enjoy it,” he explains. “True Italian food cooked with passion tastes homely and will often evoke emotions or special memories for guests, I’m often called to the table to hear that a dish has been particularly meaningful, these occasions are truly rewarding.”

It’s now time to eat as that slice of pizza really whet our appetite. But, before we even get to the food we have to mention the staff and their service. They’re SO friendly and knowledgeable, most are Italian and there’s just a really genuine feeling that they want you to have a good time. They know the menu well and anticipate your needs, especially with keeping your glasses filled! The starters are great for sharing; standouts include the caprese salad; milky buffalo mozzarella, tasty tomato and a very nice balsamic vinegar. We also try the Burrata which is one of our favourite things to eat here and it’s consistently yummy, served with fresh tomato and crispy squid ink grissini. UN-BELIEVABLE!. For mains, the rack of lamb with rosemary and mint is utter perfection. The pasta is exquisite and all the portions are super generous.

The incredible food and hospitality we enjoyed is all down to the enthusiasm and passion of Chef Stefano and his team. “The Villa Toscana and St. Regis Abu Dhabi are an extremely special place to work, more than a place to work, it is a home away from home where the team feel like family,” Chef Stefano shares. “There is so much enthusiasm and passion which will always be the most important things in life.” We 100 per cent agree!

GO: Visit Villa Toscana at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi. Call (0)2 694 4553 for reservations and more information.