Venice is most certainly a magical place and my latest visit was made even more so by being a guest for two nights recently at the Luna Hotel Baglioni, an unforgettable experience.
The attention to detail and friendliness of the team was the epitome of luxury in this historic family-owned Venetian hotel.
Of several encounters during my visit, one that I truly cherish was the chance to meet Chef Cosimo Giampaolo and the rare opportunity to have a behind-the-scenes tour of the sophisticated Canova Restaurant and its kitchen.
Rosita Dorigo, the new Food and Beverage manager of Baglioni Hotels, and Gianmatteo Zampieri, the hotel manager, joined the chef in Caffè Baglioni for a relaxed chat.
Two other Italian Talks writers and I enjoyed caffè and cookies, while we discovered the exceptional talent and passion of the talented yet humble Chef Cosimo.
He graciously spoke to us with an engaging smile, although he clearly would have preferred to be at work in the kitchen of his award-winning restaurant (it has won the prestigious Fogher d’Oro and Gambero Rosso awards among others). We learned more about the chef’s philosophy as well as some exciting new culinary ideas being implemented across all Baglioni Hotels.
Hailing from southern Italy, Chef Cosimo was born in Puglia. The typical authenticity and freshness of that region are a big influence on his cooking philosophy. At the age of seven, Chef Cosimo attended a pasticceria in Monopoli. At this bakery he had the chance to get the feel of a kitchen and developed a love for it, and the rest is history. Learn more about Chef Cosimo here.
The cuisine of Canova Restaurant is primarily Mediterranean and the food is not only good to eat, but also wholesome and healthy. Like Puglia, Venice is on the sea, so seafood is a specialty of the chef.
Fresh seafood is delivered daily and more often if needed. Originally the marketplace existed near the Royal Garden and today a supplier in the Rialto Market delivers directly to the hotel.
On our tour of his immaculately clean kitchen, Chef Cosimo pointed out the bunches of fresh herbs of marjoram, basilico, menta and rosmarino which we could see visible. He shared with us how he picks some of these by hand from home and his mother’s garden, including the rosemary which he uses with potatoes, meat, and fish dishes. Many of his vegetable dishes from Puglia are prepared with mint.
In his kitchen there are a total of six chefs including Cosimo; three of these work at baking bread and creating desserts.
He showed us several types of bread including white, brown and whole wheat. I was fascinated as I watched a pastry chef skillfully prepare tiny pizza appetizers.
Although Chef Cosimo is skilled in all aspects of food, creating desserts or dolci is his favorite activity. As soon as he showed us where those are prepared, his blue eyes lit up and his smile became even bigger.
The skills needed with dolci require one to be precise with weights.
For example, a recipe might say to use seven grams of egg yolk, not simply one egg. Rosita shared a story about a signature dessert of Chef Cosimo, a chocolate dish made with licorice powder. Later he surprised us at dinner with this delicious treat!
The menu at Baglioni Hotels is currently in the process of being redefined by Rosita in cooperation with the chefs. With Rosita’s years of experience as a chef, a sommelier, a food consultant, a caterer and more, she brings the latest trends and ideas to the Baglioni chefs.
Realizing that each Baglioni restaurant has its own individual style, she focuses on tradition first and then creativity. Focusing on the philosophy of quality, selection, healthiness and taste, Baglioni menus will incorporate subtle changes to maintain these standards.
Each hotel will feature food and beverage offers related to the style of their local region. So for example, cheese is different in each region, but ‘pasta pomodoro’ will always be prepared in a similar way using a traditional approach. In Venice traditional cicchetti can be found on the menu, prepared with a heightened elegance typical of the Canova Restaurant.
All chefs are planning two signature dishes each which will one day be available at all Baglioni Hotels.
Each chef will share in teaching the other chefs how to perfect their signature dishes, so as to spread best practice to all restaurants. For example Chef Cosimo will share his signature dish with the chef from Florence’s Relais Santa Croce and in this way expertise will be shared across the group.
Guests will recognize the menu according to the philosophy of each chef. Rosita adds with a smile that prosecco will always be offered (she is from the Veneto and is passionate about prosecco!). The new Breakfast 4 You concept begun in Milan will eventually be available in all Baglioni hotels.
In this climate of gastronomic innovation being cultivated by Baglioni Hotels, it is possible for new dishes to be created every day.
The chef will also be ready to serve guests in the suites who benefit from their own private kitchens.
Clients can go to the market with the chef and cook together if they desire and help create their own dish. Privacy is very important and many celebrities and important guests come to the Luna knowing that they can be assured of complete discretion, so this is a valuable and unique service.
Italian culture and heritage will be reflected in good food and in the Italian tradition to always be generous in offering food and drink to guests. Hotel manager Gianmatteo Zampieri explained that part of this tradition stems from the fear of hunger that built up during the wartime years. While men were away fighting, less people were available to tend the fields and there was a shortage of food to the point that food rationing became the norm.
This tradition of generosity continues today. Our lovely tour of Chef Cosimo’s kitchen ended with a complimentary surprise of almond-flavored cookies.
Grazie to Chef Cosimo Giampaolo and Rosita Dorigo for giving us an unforgettable experience and a glimpse into the exciting world of gastronomic innovation being nurtured at Baglioni Hotels.
Margie Miklas is an American writer with a passion for Italy. She writes the blog, margieinitaly. Follow her on Twitter, FaceBook , Instagram, and Pinterest. She is the author of the award-winning book, Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy and also My Love Affair with Sicily and the recently released Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Concierge tip: Have you ever thought about getting a taste of EXPO Milan 2015 in the romantic environment of Venice? Then Baglioni Hotels has put together a special package just for you: Luna Hotel Baglioni for EXPO 2015. In addition to your hotel stay, highlights include a guided visit to the 56th International Art Exhibition and entrance to AQUAE Venice 2015.