Style visionaries breed legacies. More than five decades ago, the design world witnessed the debut of a stimulating knitwear line, overtaken with bold stripes, incredulous geometric patterns and floral prints. In essence, the design world witnessed the debut of Missoni, where the legendary Rosita and her husband established the house of style as an iconic pillar of modern Italian design and innovative glamour. When presented with the unforgettable success enjoyed by the design label, most people fail to notice that the Missoni empire is actually a family business in its entirety, based on the traditionalist values of the silver haired design goddess, Rosita Missoni. Today, the house of Missoni is the successful product of a tight family unit, where women of the house, Rosita, Angela and Margherita hold the reigns in continuously innovating the household name.
When the fashion and tableware visionary ventured into the business of hospitality, she decided that the heart of any hotel lies in the heart of every Italian home: the kitchen. Recently opening its doors in Kuwait with its second boutique hotel worldwide, the fabulous identity of the Hotel Missoni is incomplete without Cucina, the hotel’s main fine dining Italian kitchen and restaurant, and the heart and soul of the establishment.
Dreamt up by Mama Missoni herself, Cucina is an inspired culinary vision realized by renowned Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli, the hotel’s consulting chef and owner of London’s Locanda Locatelli restaurant. Both natives of northern Italy’s Lombardy region, Rosita and Giorgio conceived a menu based on contemporary classic recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients, creating a glamorous gastronomic affair of design, elegance, and heart-warming food.
Ornate floral plates, polka dot cyan napkins, glints of gold and azure walls; Arabian indulgence is resplendent, Missoni style. Paying true homage to the brand’s iconic vision, Cucina is both bold and understated, fashionable and passionate, standing out as a fine dining landmark on the culinary scene.
A study of timeless chic, we are completely enamored by the bespoke design of Cucina, as our dining expectations are already prepped for an inimitable experience. Before we’ve had our taste of the celebrated menu, Mr. Umberto Panella, the restaurant manager, warmly greeted us in true Italian spirit, offering that we try the internationally-recognized cocktail drinks exclusively created for Hotel Missoni. We’re promptly served with Giardino aromatizzato, an aromatic peachy concoction, and the rose-petal garnished Profumo di rosa. As the lovely Umberto began to speak to us about the unique Cucina concept, we were completely mesmerized by the refreshing drinks, the aromatizzato is reverently refreshing, with fresh pomegranate stirred with hints of cinnamon spice, sweetened almond, fresh lemon with feisty ginger ale. The Profumo di rosa is no less intoxicating, as the blend of ripened raspberries, fresh grape and lemon immersed in scented rose water give us enough reason to come to Cucina without having to taste the food. Umberto smiles and adds, “Ah, but we did not even begin the tasting! We have a seven-course meal prepared for you. Not to worry though, all the dishes are prepared from less than four ingredients.”
Confounded by the seven-course phenomenon, Umberto assures us that our dishes will be prepared in smaller quantities, so that we may enjoy all the different selections prepared by Giorgio Locatelli’s apprentice Chef Claudio and executive Chef Ramon. We notice that the menu is fairly simple, elegantly listing a small selection of antipasti, fritti, pasta, soups and risotto, main dishes as well as side vegetables. Umberto explains, “The philosophy of authentic Italian cuisine is all about the product, where we import the seasonal ingredients from all over Italy. Daily specials change seasonally, in order to ensure that each plate is fresh, new and innovative.” Staying in season is a recurring trend in Italian culture. As every prolific style follower knows, fashion changes with seasons, and so does food.
After trying the homemade rustic breads served with Locatelli’s signature and fragrant olive oil, we sampled our starter salads of broad beans with sharp pecorino cheese, the crunchy green beans and potato salad with baby rocket leaves, as well as the warm king prawns salad. Lightly dressed with an immaculate bread dressing and fresh tomato, the king prawn salad delivered an unprecedented taste, leaving us craving more of the scintillating dishes prepared by Chef Claudio.
Personally presenting us with the pasta dishes, Chef Claudio preferred to first-handedly experience our reaction to the Strozzapretti and Gnocchi. A soft and chewy egg-free pasta, the Strozzapretti is perfectly complimented by the fresh tomato, black olives, fragrant capers and spring onions, while the soft and powdery potato dumplings (Gnocchi) were flavored with a surprisingly mild and pleasant goat’s cheese. Noting that we are extremely impressed with the pasta dishes, Chef Claudio returns with piping hot dishes of pot-roasted Hammour with potatoes and black olives, as well as a striking escalope of veal. Giving a local fish a true Italian twist, the Hammour is moist and beautifully seasoned. Cooked in butter and sage, the Saltimbocca (veal) is delectable, and its side offering of aubergine cake makes for the perfect companion. On focusing on utilizing fewer ingredients to produce the tempting dishes, Chef Claudio remarks, “People come here and expect these new dishes. The challenge for us is to bring back the real Italian cuisine and its very old story. Plates come together from the ground, from different parts of Italy. That’s why we have Roman, or Neapolitan and Lombardian dishes.” He smiles, “You will see with the dessert.”
True to his words, our dessert experience is transcendent, taking us to unexplored territories in Naples with the Pastiera Napoletana; a ricotta tart with a bursting pistachio ice cream. A classic is also revisited with the Tiramisu, presenting the perfect rendition of how this traditional dessert should taste, light and airy, leaving room for the pure taste of coffee to truly take its place.
Towards the end of the meal, we find leaving an exemplary vision of true Italian hospitality extremely difficult, especially when presented with the surrounding sophistication of one of Italy’s most forward-thinking designers. Rest assured, we will be returning to Cucina to sample the Autumn Winter collection, or selection, of seasonal Italian charm.
Cucina is located on the first floor of Hotel Missoni on Gulf Road in Salmiya. For your reservations, please call 2577 0006 or visit www.hotelmissoni.com.