Scalini Dubai recently appointed Francesco Cortorillo as its executive chef, who is an expert in serving authentic signature recipes and new special dishes that strengthen the restaurant’s beautiful, Famiglia ambience. In this interview, he takes us on a culinary journey from Dubai to Sicily.
How did your Sicilian heritage influence your cooking style?
I draw inspiration from my heritage, grounding our culinary style firmly in the art of flavor. Notably, we celebrate the lively charm of citrus, skillfully integrated into our dishes to add a revitalizing zest. Being from Sicily, my approach to cooking prioritizes flavor above all else. Furthermore, I appreciate the visual appeal of our dishes. However, my main goal is to make sure that every bite is a delightful experience of taste.
What makes Sicilian cuisine unique?
Sicily’s rich history is a tapestry woven with Arabic, Nordic, Spanish, Greek and Turkish influences. Each civilization left an enduring mark on its culinary traditions, resulting in a fascinating blend. Furthermore, it is evident in many signature Sicilian dishes that reflect the various cultures. The region’s cuisine is a culinary journey shaped by these historical influences. Remarkably, within a mere 40 km, you can savor distinct cuisines. For example, what you enjoy in Messina differs from Palermo, which, in turn, varies from Catania.
Who inspired you?
At the start, I was inspired and guided by my uncle. He owned a restaurant and was my first employer. Today, my inspiration stems from a diverse group of individuals who I have the privilege of working with.
Your approach to cooking is unconventional. How is this reflected in your dishes?
My culinary philosophy embraces a non-traditional approach that breathes new life into the dining experience. It contrasts with the often-lengthy processes of traditional dishes. Thus, I like to enhance the natural textures and vibrant colors of each creation. Furthermore, I firmly believe that color and crunchiness are key in the ultimate presentation and enjoyment of a dish.
I integrate the best of both worlds by combining northern and southern Italian cooking techniques into my signature dishes. For example, my northern-inspired ravioli is crafted with a unique stuffing sourced from the richness of southern culinary traditions. In short, my dishes not only defy convention but also offer a delightful journey through the diverse landscapes of Italian cuisine.
As the executive chef at Scalini Dubai, how do you plan to balance maintaining the restaurant’s classic Italian roots with specialty dishes?
Although our special dishes may seem different from the traditional menu, we are firm believers in authenticity. I use traditional techniques and generational recipes, so even though the presentation might be novel, the core culinary experience stays true to time-honored methods. This way, we provide a dining experience that combines beloved classics with exciting innovations.