The Venue: Celebrated Chef Massimo Bottura – the culinary master behind three Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana, consistently ranked in the top five in the world since 2010 and number one in 2018 – has opened his first restaurant outside of Italy, Torno Subito, at the fabulously funky W Hotel – The Palm, Dubai.
The Design: Torno Subito is a culinary and design celebration of Bottura’s childhood memories of holidays spent on the Italian Riviera in the 1960s and dishes prepared by his ancestors with creative culinary twists. The phrase ‘Torno Subito’ translates to ‘I’ll be back soon’, borrowed from signboards that hang in store windows in Italy indicating their afternoon break. Unlike Chef Massimo’s renowned fine-dining experience in Modena, Italy, the relaxed, laidback ambience at Torno Subito is a quirky, playful reincarnation amid gelato hues and nostalgic beachside iconography that evoke a giddy response. Massimo’s whimsy is evident in every corner of the restaurant, with design channelling famous Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s surreal carnival style from La Strada and La Dolce Vita. Colourful Paola Lenti furniture, life-sized beachfront imagery and a homage to Massimo’s love of art create a very animated décor.
Bold black and white striped floor-to-wall tiles are reflected in gold and mirrored surfaces in the reception area, where white neon lights frame vintage images of actors, plus a comical shot of Chef Massimo greeting diners. Immediately inside the restaurant a fresh herb garden and seafood counter speak to the seaside focus. Fluttering above the Mediterranean-blue bar is a mobile of black-and-white Polaroid photographs - some of which were actually taken by Chef Massimo during his youth. Oversized beach ball pendant lights hang over tables featuring Richard Ginori dinnerware custom-made for decadent pasta bowls. Mossy-green, thick woven chairs sit on flooring that resembles shifting sand at the beach, and candy-coloured booths and glowing neon signs are paired with Hollywood-esque graphics on 1960s life on the Riviera. A retro, pastel pink, roaming ice cream cart serving lemon, chocolate and strawberry gelato, as well as Stracciatella, or more experimental creations such as olive oil gelato, adds more whimsy to the setting. On the patio, the Italian Rivera theme escalates with pedalòs (a typical pedal boat) where you can dine on the terrace or take one out on the water to enjoy a picnic basket.
The Experience: The serving style is relaxed with waiters dressed in gelato-hued trousers injecting ‘pronto’, ‘prego’ and ‘bellisima’, when describing the selection of dishes from all over Italy. Fortunately, there is some crossover from Osteria Francescana’s menu including the signature Tagliatelle Al Ragù, a recipe handed down from Massimo’s grandmother made with different cuts of slow cooked and hand-chopped beef. Some notable starters include: a poached egg with Parmigiano Reggiano and black truffle; ravioli with burrata and tomato powder, and sauce extraction from olive oil, capers and tomato; finally, the Modena Salad with 14 ingredients from Modena to Dubai. For the main event, the Wagyu cheek with potato cream, spinach and truffle sauce was exceptionally tender, but every dish seems to have a delighfully lingering and suitably playful quality.
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