When A Three Michelin-Starred Italian Chef Comes To London

Executive Chef, Enrico Cerea of the exclusive three-Michelin-starred restaurant Da Vittorio, arguably one of Italy’s finest restaurants, recently took to the kitchen at Harry’s Bar in London’s Mayfair. Housed in a country villa in the Bergamasco foothills, Da Vittorio is a family run restaurant renowned for its regularly changing menus that keep up with the seasons and local markets. Cerea’s specially curated London menu took its inspiration from the ingredients of Northern Italy, and included spaghetti of tuna bagna cauda and pistachio crumble; a Sicilian scampi tail with pomegranate dressing and foie gras granita, and ravioli with a white truffle Parmigiano sauce.

What are some of the challenges working at Harry’s Bar verses a family run establishment in the Italian countryside? It’s a different context and, as you may imagine, it’s much easier to work when you are surrounded by a familiar work environment. However, the well-equipped kitchen, the professionalism and kindness shown by the whole Harry’s Bar team, has allowed us to offer the same quality you would find in our restaurant in Brusaporto, near Bergamo.  

What have been the challenges sourcing the ingredients for the menu and what ingredients are you most excited about? We have used typical Italian products and raw materials that are unparalleled, such as white truffles, Reggiano Parmesan and Sicilian prawns. London is now so “close” to us in terms of logistics and feasibility that sourcing products of this nature is less of a problem, and we can offer the same quality in London that our Italian cuisine can offer at home.

What is unique about the cuisine of Northern Italy compared to the rest of Italy? Italian cuisine is made up of typical specialities that come from every region, and this is what makes our gastronomic tradition so appealing, even abroad. It doesn’t matter whether it is North or South, from Piedmont to Sardinia, what makes the difference is the great raw materials we have and how we manage them.

What are some of the key differences you see in British diners compared to Italian restaurant goers? I’ve always been fascinated by the gastronomic cultures that are different from mine. Each cuisine is an expression of the heritage of that particular country, and I’m intrigued by that. It’s a source of inspiration for me. The other day I went to an English pub and tasted an amazing chicken pie. It could be an idea for a future recipe. Also: I loved the Scottish meatballs!!

Did Covid impact any decisions to made around the menu—what to serve and how to serve it? Our menu was conceived months before the lockdown as an interpretation of what the season and the raw materials offered at the time. The pandemic forced us to reformulate everything: for example, we had to eliminate too many sharing dishes on the menu and remove the petit pastry for the time being, where each chef interacts directly with the customer. 

What is an ingredient you use that people might not expect? Tuna spaghetti with bagna cauda and pistachio crumble is a rare recipe, but it is hugely appreciated because it stands for the uniqueness of Italian cuisine. The ingredients recall  different regions of Italy such as Piedmont (bagna cauda) or Sicily (pistachio). It is a recipe that truly represents what Italy is.

What is your top tip for amateur at-home chefs? It’s a matter of raw materials: the better the ingredients you can get, the better your recipe will be. Whenever you have the choice, and where possible, ask for fresh seafood not farmed, and source locally wherever possible.

How did the Michelin stars change your business? A star has never changed our way of working: giving our best has always been a priority, even before Michelin awarded us. Even after 55 years in the business, Da Vittorio is pushing itself to the limits, looking for something never achieved before.

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