Throughout spring and summer, posters adorn Italian walls with the word ‘sagra’ clearly taking prominent position in the advertising, so what does this word mean?
The literal translation is festival, but the definition of sagra is a local fair and celebration connected with food and local produce; for example, the town of Baone, in Veneto, hosts an annual Sagra dei Bisi (festival of the green pea). During the event, the streets are filled with people dressed in medieval costume and local residents prepare different dishes that must include the peas within the recipe. Among a number of traditional recipes, the most famous is definitely Risi e Bisi (a delicious risotto with peas). After all the tastings, every evening culminates in a music show with Italian live bands.
Actually, almost every town in Italy at some point during the year will host a food festival. This year for example is the 80th Fish Festival at Chioggia, Venice. The sagra lasts for ten days and attracts over 100,000 people each year; music and theatre act as a backdrop as visitors sample fish dishes, fresh from the Adriatic sea, such as stuffed clams and mussels, griddled sole, pickled cockles and mixed fried fish. Attending a sagra is the perfect way to immerse yourself in Italian life. Add to this the opportunity to sample local cuisine as you sit at long communal tables to eat with the local population and you get a real feel for how Italians come together to celebrate.
Finding out about a sagra is very straightforward as most of the posters follow a similar format: the main heading will tell you where the festival is held and the date; these are mostly in bold typeface and large enough to read from a passing vehicle. Once you’ve found one that interests you, the poster will give you the start time, destination and other events that will be staged. You don’t have to be a local to attend and most towns welcome outsiders and tourists to their celebrations. The lines of parked cars stretching out of the town will indicate that you have arrived at the right place, and those who arrive early are usually the last to leave due to the sheer volume of traffic attending! In fact, some sagre (the plural of sagra) are so popular that the towns have a coach service to ferry people in and out of town to keep the streets clear for dancing.
Sagre take place throughout the year, with many taking place in the summer, so during your holiday to Italy this year, keep a keen eye on the local posters and find a local sagra, and for one evening become an honorary Italian and enjoy all the hospitality the town has to offer!
Easter or Pasqua is the second most important Italian holiday after Christmas. This holiday covers a long weekend in Italy, with the additional Italian tradition of Pasquetta (little Easter, also called Easter Monday) which, according to tradition, you are free to celebrate as you wish. In fact, young people during this holiday tend to stay with friends having pic-nic in the countryside or spend a long weekend in another city with no parents at all. A famous Italian saying for this time of year is:
“Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”
(At Christmas with your parents, at Easter with whomever you want).
Visitors to Italy who are not spending time with friends may be interested to find that every city has their own traditions and, while you may not have friends and family to celebrate with, there are several ways to enjoy uniquely Italian traditions for Easter.
Chocolate and painted eggs
As chocolate became more and more popular in the early 20th Century, the skills of knowing how to color Easter eggs started to fade, and chocolate eggs began to take the place of painted hens’ eggs. Chocolate Easter eggs have now overtaken decorated eggs in Italy as the most popular gift at Easter.
Italians take everything chocolate very seriously – and Easter eggs are no exception. Chocolate eggs have become increasingly elaborate as manufacturers tempt people to buy their eggs. In every city in Italy, every supermarket, shop window and market stall will have a huge variety of chocolate eggs in the days leading up to Easter Sunday. They range from the tiny, solid milk chocolate to the massive, showy hollowed out eggs containing sometimes quite elaborate gifts. All of them will be wrapped in foil or cellophane with decorative ribbons.
Tradition in Florence
This tradition started in 1096, following the return of a Florentine knight, Pazzino di Ranieri de’ Pazzi, who raised the Holy Cross banner in Jerusalem during the Crusades. For his bravery, he received pieces of flint from the Holy Sepulcher of Christ. Upon his return to Florence, these stones were used to light the Easter Vigil sacred fire and then ported around the streets of Florence. Today Florentines commemorate this event with a Sunday procession during which an antique cart is pulled by a team of white oxen during a parade of 150 soldiers, musicians and other people dressed in 15th-century attire. The procession starts at Porta al Prato and ends in Piazza del Duomo in front of Santa Maria del Fiore. Once arrived, a dove-shaped rocket (La Colombina) holding an olive branch is shot towards a cart loaded with fireworks, setting off the scoppio (the boom). This yearly event is meant to bring a bountiful harvest, stable civic life, and growing business.
Easter in Rome
Rome is the city where the Vatican state resides, and who at this time a year is a sort of Mecca for Catholic pilgrims (do note that the Sistine Chapel does have exceptional closures during this long weekend celebration). Lucky for Roman visitors, however, all the other museums will stay open. On Good Friday many people gather in Saint Peter’s Basilica to listen to the Pope’s mass at 5 pm, and immediately following, the Pope starts his walk to remember the Christ’s Via Crucis with a candlelit procession starting at the Palatine Hill. After making 14 stops along the way to remember the walk of Christ and pray, the holy pontiff ends at the Colosseum. The beauty of this procession also lies in the gathering of many pilgrims with torches who follow: even for those who are do not consider themselves religious, this event is magic.
Traditional Easter food is the second most important celebration during Pasqua. If you want to eat at a restaurant, you’ll definitely want to first check if the place is open and second, make a reservation, noting that several restaurants do close from Good Friday till Pasquetta. While dining in Rome, you won’t want to miss the Roman traditional foods of Pizza Sbattuta, a sponge cake, hard boiled eggs, ham and corallina, a typical salami for Easter, as well as different varieties of salty cakes. You will also want to try the traditional lunch, consisting of oven-baked lamb, carciofi alla romana (Roman-style artichokes) and colomba (dove-shaped cake).
Food Italian traditions for Easter
In Lombardia (and not only), the Colomba is the most famous dessert, a dove-shaped bread made with almonds, sugar and egg whites. Today this cake is known worldwide, but originates in the region that boasts Milan. Another northern tradition is the Pinza Pasquale from Trieste, a sweet bread with a three-point cross carved on top. A Southern Easter tradition is the Casatiello from Naples, a salty cake containing cheese, sausage, salami, and even hard-boiled eggs. Catania, Sicily has a special kind of Easter cookies, aceddu cu’ l’ova. These cookies are simple and have different shapes (the most famous one being a dove), and once made they are given to family members and friends as a gesture of affection and good luck.
Many events have occurred at Italia Kitchen headquarter since we opened the training room in April 2016: chefs trainings, equipment testing and cooking classes. For Italia Kitchen Group is a great satisfaction being able to offer our customers a useful service which complements the quality of our work by adding a required support to the normal sale of kitchen equipment.
This month, our training kitchen has been the protagonist of two interesting events: the presentation of X-Oven charcoal grill and Marra Forni pizza oven.
X-OVEN CHARCOAL OVEN
The X-Oven is an Italian charcoal oven similar to “Josper” but with a different and better technology. It is equipped with an insulated chamber and an external, safe and functional fumes exhaust system, while its inner parts are made of porcelain stainless steel. Its removable grill drawers system is a distinctive trait. The drawers, mounted on ball bearing telescopic rails, have been designed to work at extremely high temperatures and offer maximum resistance to constant stress over time.
X-OVEN allows cooking different dishes at the same time at three different temperatures, all to the advantage of creativity and performance. In order to control the cooking process, the drawers open securely without the risk of gusts at high temperatures. The heat does not disperse, enveloping the food and preserving its juices and organoleptic properties. Working is easier and safer, the quality of the dishes is excellent and consumption savings are significant!
During the presentation, we have made a food tasting and our guests (chefs and restaurant managers) have been able to test the oven cooking some delicious food with the assistance of the X-Oven chef Mattia.
The engineer who projected the oven, Alfredo Mercurio, was present at the event in order to answer all the questions of the customers.
MARRA FORNI OVEN
Pizza training session with Marra Forni and its Neapolitan classic style gas oven was a real success as well!
Marra ovens are a perfect combination of craftsmanship, technology and functionality. Marra Neapolitan ovens are designed specifically to accommodate the high-volume pizza making of a true pizzaiolo. The dome and deck consist of refractory bricks with 4 inches of multi-layered insulation in the dome and 8 inches in the deck. The oven features a 18 inch by 9 inch opening along with a stainless steel flue collar atop the dome. A round flue adapter comes standard on all ovens.
The oven requires a 2” tolerance in all directions, and comes standard with a fire-rated tile clay dome. The Neapolitan ovens also features a 14 inch landing on the opening, as well as a control located between the deck and the top of the dome for getting a precise reading. Oven can be vented directly to the roof or vented through a powered type 1 exhaust hood with approved grease rated duct in accordance with all local and national codes. For wood burning ovens, they must be vented as a solid fuel burning appliance and must be installed following a manner that obeys all local and national codes and is acceptable to authority having jurisdiction.
The result is a crunchy, easy to digest, real Italian pizza!
For more information about these professional ovens, for tasting and training, contact Italia Kitchen Group in Dubai, we are at your disposal to answer any question you might have.
Carnival has very ancient origins. It is believed to have originated in Roman times when Saturnalia, the Saturn festival, and Lupercalia, the feast of the full moon, were celebrated.
Saturnalia for the Romans included long and complex rites dedicated to seeding. Banquets, exchanges of presents, and sweets characterized these celebrations, which included servants acting as their masters, and a slaves being crowned as kings. Lupercalia marked the end of the Roman year and was celebrated with dancing and singing in the streets. Historians believe that these celebrations influenced Carnival.
Traditional in Roman Catholic countries, Carnival is not celebrated or even known in many countries of other faiths. The Carnival Season is a holiday period during the two weeks before the traditional Christian Lent, when the rigors of 40 days of fasting and sacrifice begin. In fact, the origin of the word “Carnival” comes from the Latin “carne-levare,” literally “to remove the meat” or “stop eating meat.” The celebration of Carnival ends on Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”).
For centuries, Rome was the headquarters of Carnival. Many Popes have been great supporters of the public celebrations, the horse rides, the exhibitions, and the parades. During the Renaissance, the festivities, sponsored by the Pope and the noble Roman families, acquired political prominence. Thousands of people would travel from all over Europe to attend. The Palio was a famous horse race without jockeys, taking place along the Via del Corso. The race became a competition for the best horses. The victory would culminate in a large public banquet and food distribution. The Palio was abolished in 1884 after an accident occurred in front of Queen Margherita.
The carnival of Venice was first recorded in 1268. It was unruly, with parades and Pamplona style bull chasing games. The use of masks to cover faces made it even more transgressive, and the Mascareri, the mask-makers had a special position in Venice. Everyone could wear a mask during the carnival without the barriers of gender and social status.
Venice was occupied by Napoleon in 1797, and this actually ended the Repubblica Serenissima, “The Most Serene Republic.” After Venice became part of the Austrian Empire, the celebration of Carnival was stopped and restarted only in the 1970s. Today, Venetians have reinvented the ancient masks and costumes in a style that melts together the dress styles from the Middle Ages through the 1700s. The result is splendid precious elegant dresses in silk, gold, silver, and lace, wigs, and since the masks cover people’s faces, everybody can feel free to dance and sing in public without being recognized.
What is Carnival after all, other than excess and the transgression before the sacrifice? And the practiced and desired transgression was of course related to the abundance of food. The gastronomy of Carnival rich in fats and sweets. Traditional dishes in most regions of Italy include gnocchi, lasagna and tortelli.
Nowadays, many traditions have vanished or changed, but fried pastries are still common in Fat Tuesday cookery. Spoonfuls of dough fried in oil take the shape of small balls in Frittelle or Castagnole.
However, the most famous carnival fritters are ribbons of sweet pasta fried and covered with sugar or honey. These fritters are familiar all over Italy, where they assume many different names—including Frappe, Frappole, Sfrappole, in central Italy, Cenci (“tatters”) or Donzelli (“young ladies”) in Tuscany, Crostoli (“crusts”) or Galani in Veneto, Lattughe (“lettuce”) in Romagna, Nastri delle Suore (“ribbons of the nuns”) in Emilia, Bugie (“lies”) in Piemonte, and Chiacchiere in Campania.
As we told you in the last December Newsletter, 2016 was, for Italia Kitchen Group, a very satisfying year for more than one reason: new acquired customers, a change of location both in Dubai and in Bahrain and the successful completion of prestigious projects.
In the first Newsletter of the year, we are pleased to show you some of the projects where we have worked in the kitchen realization and in the kitchen equipment installation.
Volante Dubai is a 35 floor residential tower comprising of 45 exceptional apartments all overlooking the Dubai canal and the Burj Khalifa. Italia Kitchen Group has provided the kitchen equipment for the private Club kitchen, bar and outdoor bbq area.
An upbeat new nightclub and karaoke bar in the heart of Dubai, Palm Jumeirah, 5 star Waldorf Astoria Dubai Hotel. Mirage Club divided into Bar area, Main hall and 2 separate private vip rooms. Offering a warm ambience, welcoming everyone to high-class karaoke experience while serving signature cuisine by highly experienced chefs.
Since 1991, La Gaufrette has grown from just a café in to a full-fledged coffee shop loyally frequented by families, executives, tourists and even corporate. Year after year, La Gaufrette has grown to be one of the most respected and appreciated coffee shop within the UAE. The freshly brewed coffees and homemade pastries, cookies and sandwiches are made with fresh ingredients and a love for creating unique tastes. Italia Kitchen played a part in the realization of the La Gaufrette 5th branch in Maisan Towers 3, Al Barsha, Dubai.
Mercato is the last Skelmore Hospitality Group’s concept (the one of Roberto’s Restaurant & Lounge in DIFC) which opened in Dubai last May 2016.
Their motto is “We don’t just like food, we love it”.
“It perfectly shows!” we could answer them.
The restaurant incorporates a retail space featuring fresh pasta, including roasted coffee beans, cured meats, bread, pastries and an open kitchen which let the clients see with their own eyes the baker and the chef making bread, pizza or pasta from scratch. The chef takes great care in selecting the best quality ingredients.
As you enter Mercato, you are welcomed by a fragrance of fresh bread, vibrant colors, and a vivid atmosphere inspired by Mercato Centrale in Florence, an historical place to buy groceries that has been renewed and it has become a meeting place for food lovers and gourmets. That is exactly what Mercato is.
For all these reasons, it was an honor for Italia Kitchen Group to be part of its project and realization.
We asked to Mercato’s manager, Mrs. Grazia, what he think about the work that Italia Kitchen’s project manager and technicians made for Mercato:
Time that Mercato project’s born, we immediately thought of relying on someone with great experience and seriousness that could provide us support in any emergency situations, requirements found immediately in Italian Kitchen Group…THANK YOU !
So if you haven’t already, visit Mercato to experience deliciously prepared dishes and the best customer service in town!
by Martina Bettella
If you are part of the industry that handles the customer relationship, surely you have got to interact with angry or rude people at least one in your life. This kind of encounter could be frustrating and exhausting for both, yourself and the customer.
However, now that you have come this far, you have a choice. More than not loose a client and prevent a negativity mood, you could be satisfied of yourself to been able to help someone’s problem, or just you might transform a bad experience into something positive, despite your interlocutor’s attitude. So, let’s see some advices to learn how to deal with arrogant and constantly angry customers.
The following tips can be used normally both for a call-in conversation and for face-to-face meetings
1. Be respectful
This is the critical time of the conversation: an angry customer called you and he is angry because of something you cannot control. To loose your temper could be very simple now, especially when the customer handle the situation like a personal matters. Worst case scenario, the customer decided to insult you because he has a problem with the product you have produced or it doesn’t play with his expectations. Patience to him, once they took their rage out on you, even the angriest customer will agree to calm down and and listen to you so that you can help them. After all, this is the real reason why they are calling you. No matter how difficult it may be, always have the utmost respect! There might be several reasons why they came to you to complain.
2. Listen carefully
Even while the customer is ranting and raving in his monologue, always listen carefully what he is telling you. This can help you for many reasons: it allows you to concentrate on the words, ignoring his tone of voice and can avoid annoying repeated complains. Take note and listen; is he talking about a single issue or different situations?
3. Recapitulate the problem
Once the client has calmed down, it is time to be heard. Explain what you understand calmly but firmly help you to demonstrate to the listener that you have listened what he said and you are fully aware of the issues to deal with. It also allows you to make sure you have not forgotten a word or to it helps you look into some important points. Sometimes, in the anger the problem can emerge partially. In this way, there will be no doubts.
4. Simple solutions
Very often, the problems with an angry customer can be solved with simple solutions. Probably it is not the first time you listen to someone’s problem, that is why you may just have the solution. After allowing him to vent, immediately offered him a simple solution, perhaps not definitive, but still “possible”. Pay attention at this stage, not to further irritate the customer (he could be still angry).
5. Provide information
If a simple solution is not available, then you must deeply explore the issue with the client. Provide information about the process that leads to the problem, trying to recreate with him the conditions that carried that particular circumstance. In this way you can demonstrate your professionalism and your dedication on the resolution of the problem.
6. Find resources
If you know you can not solve the problem by yourself, try to involve someone who can help you, better if you succeed getting him in touch with the customer. Do not ever perceive this as an attempt to delegate the problem to others, always consider yourself as the reference between the two people.
7. Make the customer feel important
Always update the customer when you solve some problem and let him feel important. For example, send him Christmas wishes. Good manners could transform a customer in a faithful customer, especially after an issue.
8. Take him out (I am joking!)
Finally, always keep in mind to never start a “words war” with your customers. Some of them could insult you and the temptation to face charges is too strong. Only fight the temptation. If you were an employer, you could lose your job. If you were he manager, you could ruined your reputation forever. If you have quite reached the limit of your patience, try to distract yourself: if you are on the phone, put him on hold and take a breath, if he is in your office, run off in your employers room. Sometimes, to solve unpleasant situations, you just need a break and someone’s support!
One of the hardest challenges when opening a new restaurant is creating and modifying your menu. The menu is what brings customers in and pays the bills, so it is essential to balance room for trial and error with the perfect variety of dishes. If you are creating a menu (or changing your existing one) and need some help getting it right, the following tips will help to bring you in the right direction.
1. Start with your environment
The first step to menu planning is to think about the location of your restaurant, café or eatery. What are people looking for in your area? What is currently popular and where are there niches? What are the socioeconomic considerations in the area? These factors should all play a part in the creation of your menu. Are you surrounded by fish and chip shops? Perhaps look at some fresh, gourmet eats for your menu. Find something your audience will find exciting and enticing. Take a holistic approach to your menu and consider the location and type of clientele and how this fits with your menu.
2. Focus on a theme
Every restaurant has a style, theme and atmosphere that are important to match to your menu. A coherent menu is essential: you don’t want to confuse or discourage potential clientele. Although it is good to be different, everyone likes the classics so try to find a balance between the two. Remember, your customers have a lot of control as to your success, pleasing them is just as important as doing what you love.
3. Be flexible and change often
Your first menu shouldn’t be your last! Make sure what you create, even if it seems perfect, has room for change. You want to be able to change things that don’t work and try new things to see if they could be successful. Regularly changing your menu is not only a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t, but also a way to build excitement for your guests. Try to find a regular schedule for change and stick to it. When it comes time to change the menu, remember that you don’t have to change everything, just keep the best and mix up the rest!
4. Keep it small
No one likes a huge menu with too much to choose from. Research has found that more choice causes indecisiveness and could even result in a guest leaving. While you may think lots of choice is great, it can make it confusing and frustrating for the customers. A simple, small menu is easier for everyone. Your guests will like it, you won’t have to buy as many different kinds of produce and your chefs will be able to focus on quality over quantity.
5. Use specials to test menu items
Specials are a great way to test and learn for a restaurant. They give you the opportunity to see what clients like without making them a permanent addition. This is a great way to make smart choices on your menu and make the most profit.
6. Have a ‘signature’ dish
Your signature dish should be the golden egg on the menu: it is a special dish that showcases your chef’s talents and your restaurant’s style. It is what draws people to your establishment and what they walk away talking about. It should be the star, but remember to make all your dishes worthy of remembering.
7. Price your menu accordingly
There are many factors that come into play when pricing menu items. Try to consider all of the things that could affect your profit margin and make sure these are covered. Public holidays, equipment, utilities, rent, produce and prep, breakage, staff pay and any incidentals are all outgoing costs. You may need to do a bit of trial and error to figure out how to cover them all. Consider price points and look at your competitors and clientele and remember you may need to mix up the menu when it comes to cost. Not all dishes will equal profit, some will be in the positive, some won’t reach it. By balancing this you should be able to maintain your overall food cost goals.
8. Make your menu attractive and engaging
The design on your menu can have as much impact as the dishes do! Where you place things, the shape and feel of the menu and what kind of colours and visuals you include all affect how a guest uses it. Smaller menus are a tick and items at the start and end of the menu are usually the most memorable. A4 books are great, particularly for pubs and similar venues, as they are easy to read and hold and can be stood up on tables.
We have been waiting for it so long and finally the great day has come!
Sunday, September 18th, we inaugurated the new headquarter of Italian Kitchen Dubai that, last April, has moved from Deira to Al Quoz, a central area of the city, where companies are mix in stores, banks, luxurious shops and hipsters clubs.
Precisely, the office is located in Al Quoz 3, in front of the showroom Natuzzi (here you can find the location map).
Thank to all the participants the day was a great success, but a special thank goes to our partners who have supported us for years in the most interesting events in Dubai and beyond. They are Rosario Scarpato, Aira Piva and all the chefs of Italian Restaurant Consulting and Electrolux, our well-known supplier that, in addition to the cooking line and the Air-O-Steam Oven, “brought” the Italian Chef Silvano Costantini and some students of ICCA , the famous cooking school based in Knowledge Village.
The new headquarter, like the old one, has a special feature that differentiates us from other professional kitchens providers in Dubai: the training room.
Italian Kitchen’s training room is a kitchen with all the professional equipment you can find in the best restaurants: pizza oven, dough mixer and moulder, manual machine for fresh pasta, freezer, chiller, blast chiller, ice-cream machine, soft ice-cream machine, ingredients to make ice cream and coffee machines. All from the best brands: Electrolux Italforni, Sigma, Aikhon, Baldassare Agnelli, Tecnoinox, SPM, SAB Italy and much more. Now that is fully and well equipped, our new kitchen is available for hire on a part-time basis, or by the hour. What we offer is a modern, practical and professional space for training sessions, cookery workshops, team buildings and tastings.
The restaurants and the chefs who will participate at the upcoming Italian Cuisine World Summit (to be held in Dubai, November 7th to 17th) have delighted us with some of their specialties like grilled shrimps, beef with polenta, pizza, cannoli siciliani and a lot of Italian dishes.
Those who have accepted our invitation have all let us feeling very happy and satisfied… of course also the good food attracted them greatly!!
During the afternoon, the new Consul of Dubai, Mrs. Valentina Setta, has honoured us with her presence. We wish her good luck for the new assignment.
We really hope that the new office will be the beginning of new projects, new contacts and new business for Italian Kitchen, a reality that is not only Italian, but who has been in the UAE for almost 15 years and in some way has contributed to the growth of this stunning city.
And again, thank you very much!