Good food is the way to winning people’s heart. And Italians are masters at winning hearts with their globally popular cuisine so much so that the authorities in Italy believe food can also be a powerful tool for diplomacy.
Organising an Italian Cuisine Week in around 120 countries including Doha simultaneously, the Italian authorities aim to lighten up people’s mood with good food.
“It works. It almost always works because if you have good food, you have a good mood and if you are at a diplomatic table where you have to say something very important, it is better to have a good mood and good food,” Ambassador of Italy to Qatar, Guido De Sanctis tells Community while speaking at the official opening of the Italian Cuisine Week here.
The festival of food is fully supported and promoted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation through all the Italian embassies worldwide.
“If I try to look at Italy from outside it is difficult for me because I am from inside. However, I hear from many friends that Italy is very famous for food besides other things and it is hearting to hear that,” says Sanctis.
The Italian Embassy in Qatar in cooperation with the Italian Chamber of Commerce and The Luxury Network has scheduled a rich programme for this special week. Prime Italian companies such as Lavazza, Ferrero-Merch, Fashion Food Luxury, Salini Impregilo, Intesa San Paolo, Westin Hotel and Spa, CKGS and JADU are sponsoring the Italian week.
The ambassador said that last year in Milan they held Expo 2015 from May to November and the topic of the expo was ‘Feeding the Planet.” One of the most successful pavilions at the expo was the pavilion of Qatar.
“After one year we have decided to organise a week of Italian cuisine worldwide which is taking places in all the countries that we have embassies in; roughly 120 countries. It has been an effort by our authorities in Italy, our local companies and sponsors,” said ambassador Sanctis.
“We are organising the week in Doha together with Italian restaurants because the number of Italian restaurants is growing and some of them have accepted to make a show for us tonight. And I was very happy to see a lot of people coming to attend it. I could see that it was a success,” he added, referring to the opening party.
The ambassador’s favourite Italian recipes are from his youth which he says have gone on to become globally popular.
“My story is that of a young man raised in Rome in Central Italy having a special cuisine and my mother is from North of Italy. I grew up eating my mother’s cuisine and just to mention one of the cuisines that she used to make was risotto Milanese, it is rice with saffron,” recalls the Italian ambassador.
“And the other thing was ‘osso buco’ which is now common everywhere but it is not easy to find the ingredients because you need a special cut of meat,” he says.
Osso buco is an Italian braise that uses one of the top braising cuts from a veal or beef carcass, either the shank or shin, which is cut into thick slices through the bone.
“These are the dishes of my young age and whenever I can have them, I always have them. Yes, I find them here because Risotto Milanese is popular all over the world now; though not all the risotto is my mother’s risotto,” he smiles.
For osso buco, he says, you have to sometime go to the supermarket. The restaurants also sometimes have it, he added. The rarity is good, the ambassador says, because this means it is fresh.
“I hope that my Qatari friends and all of my friends living here in Qatar will visit one of the five restaurants that are offering the special Italian menu,” he refers to the cuisine week. The ambassador says they are still experimenting with such festivals.
“Our embassy is not so big. If I take the importance of Italy in the Qatar market, and I am not talking about just food, and the number of Qataris that visit Italy every year and the number of visas we issue, our embassy [needs to be bigger],” says the Italian ambassador.
“And this not the moment for our government to spend too much money abroad because we have some budget constraints; but organizing festivals like this [is good]. I hope that we would be able to organise even bigger things in future,” he adds.
Two air tickets were awarded to two of the attendees of the exclusive opening party, sponsored by Qatar Airways through a raffle announced by the ambassador himself.
Palma Libotte, chairperson of the Italian Chamber, said the number of people who came to the opening party was much more than they were expecting. On social media, she said, they have reached 45,000 people and engaged 2,000 followers in just 20 days.
Until November 27, five prime Italian restaurants, Mercato Antico, La Veranda, Nonna Zanon, Antica Pesa and Italia Mia will offer exclusive menu at very accessible prices. As Grand Finale of the week, Italian One Star Michelin Chef Gianfranco Pascucci will perform a live cooking lesson to selected guests in Westin Hotel Doha.
Ambassador of Italy to Qatar, Guido De Sanctis, right, announces a Qatar Airways ticket raffle while Palma Libotte, Chairperson of the Italian Chamber, second right, looks on. Photos by Umer Nangiana