Sep 03, 2013

    I've a soft spot for pasta in general

    Award-winning Italian chef Michele Pavanello, who is the resident chef at Otto Ristorante at Red Dot Traffic Building, will be taking part in the inaugural Gusto Italiano festival, a showcase of Italian culinary delights and products from now till Oct 3.

    The 41-year-old, who has also helmed the kitchens at Pontini and Il Lido as well as other acclaimed Italian restaurants worldwide, speaks to My Paper about Italian cuisine and misconceptions people have about Italian food.

    How would you describe Italian cuisine?

    Simplicity with respect for the ingredients and an understanding of the cultural aspect of the dish.

    Is there a difference between the food in Italy and Italian cuisine in Singapore?

    Well, the only difference is that I have to be more careful of what I wish to put on the menu, as many ingredients are not yet available in Singapore.

    The flavours in Italy are perhaps a little bit more pronounced as well, as Italian seasoning itself is heavier.

    What is your signature dish or your favourite recipe?

    Very tough question to answer as I love to cook anything and everything, but I must say that I definitely have a soft spot for pasta in general.

    My signature dish would be spaghetti with sea urchin and bottarga, and crispy suckling pig.

    What are some common misconceptions that people have about Italian food?

    There are quite a few actually. Spaghetti bolognese is probably the world's most popular Italian recipe, but it is virtually impossible to find a restaurant that serves it in Bologna.

    In the home city of the Bolognese sauce, it is, in fact, eaten only with freshly made tagliatelle all'uovo.

    Spaghetti with meatballs is typically known in America as an Italian dish, but it is actually a dish of Italian-American origin.

    Risotto and pasta are sometimes served as side dishes. But in Italian dining, the pasta and - most of the time - the risotto are served as mains. The presentation of pasta as a side dish is common in several countries but, in Italy, it is seen almost as a sacrilege.

    Coffee and cappuccino are the pride of Italy, but coffee is usually consumed at the end of the meal, not cappuccino. The latter is usually sipped between meals, especially during breakfast, accompanied by a pastry.

    What will you be bringing to Gusto Italiano?

    We will be importing Italian seafood, such as grey shrimps, spider crab, Mediterranean octopus and sardines, smoked eel from Comacchio - a lagoon area south of Venice - and we will carry a few other surprises.


    Chef Pavanello will be taking part in Gusto Italiano's "The Romance of Venice with the wines of Santa Sofia" on Thursday at Otto Ristorante at 7pm. Tickets cost $208++ and are available at