Gucci Osteria Tokyo takes you to a culinary wonderland
There’s a fairytale quality to Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura’s Tokyo outpost, which opened – after a nearly a year delay caused by a pandemic – on October 28 in Ginza.
As in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, a smiling cat leads the way. The entrance to the restaurant – located on the fourth floor of the fashion brand’s second flagship in Tokyo – is adorned with an eye-catching mural of a cat in a red dress and white socks wandering through a lush garden while carrying a handbag yellow.
Beyond, a splendid corridor, painted in a vibrant shade of olive green and decorated with antique mirrors, evokes the home of a magical palace. The elevator opens onto a bright space, with an open-air screened terrace preceding the main dining room. Tall benches covered in peacock-colored velvet complement the hand-painted flooring and floral-patterned tea cups. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a Florentine high Renaissance fantasy, with marble tops and woodwork woodwork decorated with verses of poetry written by Lorenzo de ‘Medici.
All of this style is backed up by a culinary substance. Imagined by chef Massimo Bottura, of the three Michelin star Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, the concept of Gucci Osteria brings together the worlds of haute couture and haute cuisine to offer a relaxed and elegant expression of Italian culture, tinged with international twists.
The first Gucci Osteria, led by Mexican-born chef Karime Lopez, debuted in Florence in 2018 and earned its first Michelin star the following year; the Beverly Hills outlet, which opened last February with Mattia Agazzi at the helm, received the same coveted honor this year. The third child of the Gucci Osteria family, the Tokyo branch, is led by up-and-coming chef Antonio Iacoviello.
Originally from the Campania region in southern Italy, Iacoviello has worked with chefs such as Alain Ducasse at Cucine Byblos in Saint-Tropez and René Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen. Before taking the reins of Gucci Osteria Tokyo, Iacoviello trained with Lopez in the Florence branch of Gucci Osteria, then joined Bottura and Osteria Francescana’s sous chef, Takahiko Kondo in Modena, to prepare for the new role. before moving to Tokyo earlier this year.
“Each Gucci Osteria has its own story and its own identity which are very much linked to the cultural history of the city in which it is located,” says Bottura. “You could say that Gucci Osteria is more than my Italian grandmother’s pantry; they are multiple grandmother’s recipes, treated with a touch of nostalgia, a dash of irony and a desire to make guests feel at home, wherever they are.
Until relatively recently, food and fashion were considered unlikely bedfellows, but the collaboration between Bottura and Gucci “has developed almost organically,” said Marco Bizzarri, chairman and CEO of Gucci.
“Massimo and I went to school together, sharing the same office, having fun and laughing every day. When we discovered our respective vocations, it seemed quite natural to end up collaborating, ”recalls Bizzarri, explaining that the hope is to share their vision of beauty with a global audience. Plans are already underway for a fourth site in Seoul.
While Bottura works closely with all of the Gucci Osteria teams, the young chefs who run each restaurant have the freedom to craft menus that reflect the culinary culture and character of each city. With the help of sous chef Hayao Watanabe, who worked with Lopez at Gucci Osteria Florence, Iacoviello immersed himself in the culinary culture of Japan by visiting markets and meeting local farmers and vendors.
“It’s a steep learning curve and a big responsibility, but I’ve always been motivated by challenges. Once you’ve escaped the fear, you can focus on pushing boundaries, ”says Iacoviello.
The food, he says, will be a meeting of the cuisines of Italy and Japan – a reflection of the intercultural dynamics in the kitchen.
“I taught the team the basics of the Italian pantry – what gives the kitchen its ‘Italianity’ – while learning about Japanese cuisine through them,” he says. “We have discovered that there is a great affinity between Japanese and Italian cuisine.”
While the a la carte menu offers a handful of Bottura signatures – such as the classic tortellini with Parmesan and a succulent dense beef slider with umami stuffed with parmesan and topped with green salsa – Iacoviello aims to include “elements of his personal journey” in new recipes.
Drawing parallels between the tradition of fermentation in Japanese cuisine and his experience at the Noma fermentation lab, he introduces creative fusions such as “Parmigiana that wants to be a ramen”. The dish is an imaginative fusion of two iconic Italian staples – eggplant parmesan and pasta with garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes. Iacoviello’s version uses the juice extracted from salted and smoked eggplants to make a flavored broth with shio-kôji and toasted sesame oil.
For dessert, a daring composition goes well kabocha pumpkin with citrus ice cream and raw scallop seasoned with konbu kelp and Disaronno. The meal is a delicious interpretation of contemporary Italian cuisine. Iacoviello weaves an edible story full of unexpected twists and takes guests on a world tour centered on his country of origin, Italy.
When asked what makes a dish typically Italian, the chef pauses for a moment.
“The key ingredient in Italian cuisine is love. There’s an element of joy that we try to convey from cooking, ”he replies, a smirk in his voice. “There is also a little element of surprise.
Ginza 6-6-12, Chuo-ku 104-0061; 03-6264-6606; gucciosteria.com/en/tokyo; open Mon-Sat lunch 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, aperitif 4 pm to 6 pm, dinner 6 pm to 11 pm, sun lunch 11:30 am to 3:30 pm; menu from 10,000, also à la carte; nearest station Ginza; non-smoker; main cards accepted; Spoken English; english menu
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