Vito Mollica and his Chic Nonna Dubai
We learn more about the authentic and unique cuisine of the chef who has brought all his knowledge to Dubai
The international experience of Mine & Yours Group, leaders in made in Italy hospitality, the authentic, unbeatable cuisine of a chef like Vito Mollica, ambassador for Italian tradition around the world, and the cosmopolitan essence of Dubai. These are the ingredients that make the new Chic Nonna Dubai restaurant one of a kind. Opened shortly after its Florentine sibling, in a short time it has made a name for itself in a city dedicated to excellence and with an extraordinary upscale dining scene.
We are in the heart of DIFC. On the ground floor is the Osteria gourmet restaurant with Chef’s Table and open kitchen, while on the first floor, with stunning views of Burj Kalifa from the large windows and spacious terrace, is the restaurant space dedicated to lovers of seafood crudités – fresh tuna tartare, sushi, oysters, European blue lobster and Italian Calvisius. Also on the upper floor is the Cigar Lounge, designed to resemble an elegant Italian drawing room, where guests can carry on their evening in an updated art deco ambience that comes alive with music until late.
The menu is designed to strike a harmonious balance between Italian culinary tradition and innovation, including the sweet notes of the dessert menu, where torta della nonna, a warm shortcrust pastry tart filled with custard, caramelised pine nuts, and delicious lemon compote topped with homemade vanilla ice cream and candied lemons are always featured.
We were told about this innovative project by Vito Mollica, Group Culinary Director and Executive Chef, who passed on his philosophy to Head Chef Ilaria Zamperlin and the entire team, along with the secrets of his most successful dishes, based on respect and preserving the natural flavours of quality fresh ingredients, always measured, never vulgar or redundant, but which leave their mark in the memory of those who taste them. His is a perfect mix of professionalism and thoughtfulness which goes beyond the kitchen, creating the familiar environment to which the name of the restaurant refers, which for guests becomes a home to return to, certain to find the typically Italian welcome that makes a difference.
How did the Chic Nonna project originate?
Chic Nonna originated from the desire to create a refined Italian restaurant concept based on seasonality, where guests can experience real Italian hospitality. The authenticity of the cuisine is one of the cornerstones of the menu, as indicated by the use of term ‘nonna’ or grandmother as part of its name.
What kind of experience have you designed for your Dubai guests?
In Dubai, as in the rest of the world, everything that is Italian, from fashion to design to cuisine, is synonymous with excellence. We have therefore tried to offer what this type of clientele expects, using high quality seasonal raw materials, and with impeccable service able to recount our dishes and our origins in a one of a kind, elegant place with a truly iconic design.
What makes this restaurant unique?
Without doubt, the idea of designing a place where people come not only to dine but where they can also be entertained. In fact, both in Florence and in Dubai, in addition to the restaurant, there is the upscale lounge with sophisticated design, lighting and music, where you can find the same quality of food and service typical of our restaurants.
Something that was a nice surprise in Dubai?
An encounter that amazed me was with the owner of a farm. A grower of vegetables, especially of those native to the Maghreb, who has chosen to locate his farm in the middle of the desert. And they are truly excellent products.
Let’s browse through the restaurant’s menu – the cult dishes, the one for lovers of tradition and the one for the more adventurous.
We have included many Italian traditional classics on the Chic Nonna menu, such as crêpes or raviolini del plinal tavogliolo (stuffed pasta shapes served in a napkin), but also many of my signature dishes such as cavatelli (pasta shells) with prawns and squid or garlic and oil with prawn tartare. We also brought Recco focaccia - difficult to find even in Italy outside of Liguria - which is enjoying great success. And then there are the gourmet dishes like our quail stuffed with livers.
Chic Nonna is also present in ‘your’ Florence. How does it feel to work on the one hand in a fifteenth-century building and on the other in a hyper-modern environment like that of Dubai?
The two places give me a different energy. In Florence, I feel the responsibility of being in the heart of a historic city rich in art, inside a place where illustrious personalities lived over the centuries. Being able to be custodians of this building, enhancing it through a multiplicity of experiences, is the real purpose and objective of the project. Dubai, on the other hand, is a city that never stops, a city of the present and the future. Here the atmosphere is very engaging and there is great competition in terms of quality of food, services and entertainment. There is continuous striving to meet the expectations of a very demanding clientele that chooses as different restaurant every evening, and so has to be amazed each and every time.
What do you love best about Dubai?
Most of all the architecture, the buildings, the design. I often stop to look at these imposing buildings from outside and in. Every time I’m enchanted and think of the brilliance of the architects who designed them.
What are the next steps in the Chic Nonna project?
At the moment we are consolidating these two projects in Florence and Dubai, but the goal is to develop new openings in other destinations around the world in the not too distant future.