Indulge in all things Italian

Think Italian food is just about pizza and spaghetti?

The International Week of Italian Cuisine, which starts today, aims to show food lovers here otherwise.

The inaugural event, organised by the Italian Cultural Institute in Singapore, hopes to help participants discover the rich diversity of Italian wine, ingredients and culinary offerings across the country's 20 regions, such as pizzoccheri (buckwheat) pasta from the Valtellina valley in Lombardy and sea urchin and sea bass from the Mediterranean sea.

To do this, the week-long festival is rolling out 17 epicurean events, which include dining sessions at Italian restaurants, screenings of culinary-themed Italian films and talks on Italian wines and the Mediterranean diet.

The director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Singapore, Ms Veronica Manson, 51, says: "Like Singapore, food is a big part of our culture and identity that we want to share.

"Beyond dining in restaurants, we want to promote a complete scope of Italian cuisine - from its culinary traditions to products to cooking techniques."

The International Week of Italian Cuisine is a global movement spearheaded by the Italian government to promote its gastronomic culture abroad and it takes place in 130 countries where Italy has a diplomatic presence.

The annual event, launched in Rome in March, is one of the initiatives under Italy's Food Act, which was passed by the government in July last year to promote Italian cuisine.

Among the highlights of the event in Singapore are the special menus created by 10 Italian restaurants here which have received the Ospitalita' Italiana mark, a certification issued by the Italian government to eateries overseas that provide an authentic Italian dining experience.

The special menus are available only this week.

IO Italian Osteria in Hillview Rise is offering a four-course menu ($68++ a person) that features traditional dishes unique to regions or villages in Italy, including gnocco fritto, a deep-fried puff pastry with tomino cheese, mortadella (Italian sausage) and sweet and sour onions, from southern Italy.

The restaurant's co-owner, Mr Gianluca Impemba, 48, says: "Italy has countless classic regional dishes and we want to showcase dishes that are not easy to find even in Italy, and re-create these hidden flavours and recipes so diners can discover them."

Another restaurant offering a special menu is trattoria &Sons in Cross Street, whose three-course menu ($48 a person) "celebrates the heritage of Italian cuisine", says its chef Lorenzo Macchi.

The menu includes gnocchi made with pork sausages from Bologna, foam of taleggio cheese from Lombardy and pork medallions served with a reduction of marsala wine from Sicily.

Chef Macchi, 39, says: "We have drawn inspiration from all parts of Italy to create an imaginative menu that pairs speciality ingredients from across the country with rustic and homely Italian flavours."

Other participating restaurants include Alba 1836 in Duxton Hill, Casa Tartufo in Erskine Road and Pepenero in Stanley Street.

Gourmands can also buy Italian food products - from truffle-based products to olive oil to desserts - at the Italian Food Fair held at Isetan Scotts supermarket until Thursday.

For oenophiles eager to deepen their knowledge of Italian wines, Dr Michele Agostini, a historian and sommelier, will be giving a talk on the history of wines - from ancient to modern times - and shed light on the origins of iconic Italian wines, such as Barolo and Chianti.

There will also be free screenings of three Italian movies that centre on Italian food culture, including The Dinner (1998) and The Feast (2007) at The Arts House.

This article was first published on November 21, 2016.
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