Roberto’s Group recently hosted chefs from Michelin Starred restaurants who brought their commitment and passion for the best of Italian dining to the Emirates. Sending UAE residents on a unique multicultural dining journey, while passionately working to elevate the UAE’s Italian culinary scene. First up was Chef Enrico Bartolini, Culinary Advisor of Roberto’s Group, who dazzled guests with his special truffle-inspired menu served at events across Roberto’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We caught up with the man behind the food…

Hi Chef! Welcome back to the UAE – what do you have planned for diners?

I am pleased to host events at both the Roberto’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai locations. Each event is a bit different, but both will bring some of my signature dishes from Italy, to give diners an authentic Italian experience, here in the UAE.

Your collaboration with Roberto’s focuses on celebrating all things white truffle – what makes this ingredient so special in Italian cuisine?

It’s very original – you cannot replicate it. The flavour is one that Italians love. For me, the perfect combo is with white wine at the beginning of the lunch and dinner. It’s a very elegant flavour that is full of personality.

Tell us about some of the signature items on the menu and what makes them appealing?

In Dubai, white truffles were featured in all six courses – from a starter featuring Alaskan king crab, to a main slow-cooked veal cheek, to zabaione for dessert, it had its place in every dish. In Abu Dhabi, working with my guest, Chef Alfio Ghezzi, we prepared a six-course menu together. A few dishes are a bit different than what their name implies. A starter features blackened cuttlefish, alongside sea urchin, and gnocchi without potatoes – instead it’s made with spinach. And for dessert, a “Tea-ramisu” – made with black tea, balsamic vinegar, capers, and caramel – ingredients that work nicely together for a twist on an old favourite.

For diners with a discerning palate, give us three reasons why Roberto’s should be their choice for an Italian food fix over anywhere else in the Emirates?

First, the people who work here. I’m always so pleased to see everyone’s dedication. This makes a guest’s experience stand out. Next is our quality of traditional Italian recipes, which are unique because they are served with a modern twist. Finally, our amazing locations – at DIFC overlooking the Burj Khalifa, and on the waterfront on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi. They  provide a comfortable setting for an exquisite meal, and are accompanied by great entertainment.

We’d like to take it back to the beginning – do you remember the first dish you ever cooked?

From my Tuscan childhood, my first cooking memory was of caramel. I was four-years-old when I learned that when you cook sugar, the colour and shape changes, and it becomes very tasty.

As a renowned chef, what matters more – taste or presentation?

You cannot compromise one for the other. We start from getting the right balance in flavour and texture and then we work hard to find presentation that will intrigue the guest, because presentation is very important in delivering a message.

Do you still feel the pressure when you’re in the kitchen – how do you keep your cool?

You need to be calm in the kitchen – TV programmes makes it seem like you need to get stressed and yell, but this is not my approach. The best way to work is to keep your head on your shoulders, remain calm and collected.

Share with us your advice for young, budding chefs…

A chef’s life is not easy, but with passion and self-belief you can achieve your dreams. Believe in yourself and work hard.

Over the next year, what are your goals as Culinary Advisor of Roberto’s Group?

First, I want to show UAE diners that a luxury experience can be attainable, and it’s not just for a select few. We aim to provide a luxurious meal and experience for all our guests. We also want to evolve new recipes to follow the personality of the restaurant. We have constantly refined on menu in Dubai and now in Abu Dhabi specifically, we know the market a lot more and can adapt to meet the feedback and requests we have had from our guests.