The French-Italian connection with chef Mamo Pepino, founder of Mamo Michelangelo

The French-Italian connection with chef Mamo Pepino, founder of Mamo Michelangelo

We sat down with the chef behind the famed restaurant Mamo Michelangelo to learn more about how he is bringing a piece of France and Italy to the Saudi dining scene.

How would you describe your culinary journey?
The story starts in Calabria, Italy, where my grandmother encouraged her grandchildren to participate in making gnocchi. Grandmothers take much pride in continuing the family legacy of making fresh pasta. As we grew older in the south of France, we continued these traditions, with everyone getting involved at our family gatherings.
The warmth of my childhood has made me even more passionate about food. Furthermore, my Italian roots and memories have influenced the way I see the world and my approach to hospitality. I have been successful in many business ventures in my life, but nothing is as satisfying as giving people a reason to smile. That is why, after all these years, I am still filled with joy when I welcome guests into my restaurants.
We started Le Michelangelo as a pizzeria over thirty years ago and slowly evolved into Mamo Michelangelo. We effortlessly became a celebrity hot spot on the Cote d’Azur.

What are the latest food trends when it comes to Italian food?
Italian cuisine is the best in the world because it’s simple and product centric. As Italians, we are inspired by nature. The world always ends up coming back to Italian food after growing tired of the latest food craze because it is considered the crème de la crème of comfort food.
In short, Mamo Michelangelo is all about passion and generosity, and these things will always be in fashion. Nowadays, many people are seeking healthier options, more salads and fresh food that keeps you going. Italian food has always been considered balanced, as shown in Mediterranean diet trends. As Italians, we believe that the secret to great food is having the best and freshest ingredients.

What are the differences and similarities between the culinary identity of Italy and Saudi Arabia?
Saudi traditional dishes and Italian food share a common value; food is prepared with love and with the intention to nourish the body and the soul of family members. Recipes are passed down through the generations with pride.
The act of sharing is common among all types of cuisine; it is part of the human experience that binds and strengthens family bonds. Love is expressed in the food.

What can guests look forward to experiencing at your restaurant?
At Mamo Michelangelo, you can experience the best of Italian and provincial French food. Our philosophy is simple at the restaurant; we welcome guests into our home. We love to share the spirit of Italy through a multisensory journey, from the terracotta tiles that we brought from France to the individual hand-painted clay plates we use to serve our dishes. When guests come to Mamo Michelangelo, they are transported to the South of France.
Year after year, Mamo Michelangelo searched for the best products available in the South of France and Italy, and we found many small producers who put their hearts into their work. Good food starts with quality ingredients and consistency. We believe in providing our guests with the same perfect experience time and time again.

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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