Italian Dishes with a Georgian Twist
13 August, 2015
Italian Dishes with a Georgian Twist
An exclusive interview with a famous Italian chef
Italy and Georgia have many things in common – hospitable and friendly people, beautiful nature, delicious cuisine, and, of course, wine. A few days ago, Enzo Neri, a famous Italian chef who has been working in world-famous restaurants in England, USA, Dubai, Ukraine and other countries, has paid a visit to Georgia as well.
It was the experience of his close friend Riccardo Massi, who has been involved in the wine business
with wine-producing companies in Georgia for a long time, that inspired Enzo to visit Georgia. Riccardo’s company Prospero International has been providing Georgian winemakers with special equipment for years. The Italian businessman loves Georgia and calls it his second homeland: “My friends sometimes even tell me that I am more Georgian than Italian,” he says.
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Riccardo Massi and Enzo Neri
Aside from getting acquainted with Georgian culture and cuisine, the two friends wanted to introduce simple and delicious Italian dishes to Georgians. Chateau Mere, a stone castle hotel located in Georgia’s Kakheti region, hosted the event. The guests were able to enjoy a cozy, relaxing environment, attend the famous chef’s workshop and experience real Italian taste and flavor. The mix of medieval, vintage and rustic architecture of the hotel along with a beautiful yard and the view over green hills of Kakheti created an Italian microcosm in Georgia.

Enzo Neri prepared six Italian dishes and two famous desserts: panna cotta with peach compote and tiramisu using local Georgian products including the sparkling wine of Winiveria. Moreover, he paired each dish with a particular wine by Winiveria brand. It was difficult to single out any of the dishes, but among the most delicious were the gnocchi with acidic butter, the summer truffles and salmon Carpaccio with berries, apples and citrus that perfectly matched Winiveria’s Rkatsiteli, white wine.
“I was shocked in a good way because Georgian ingredients are fantastic and the products are organic.”
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Citrus marinated salmon Carpaccio with apples and fresh berries
“Our aim was to showcase proper and simple Italian cuisine with a Georgian twist. I prepared dishes using local vegetables, meat and milk. I was shocked in a good way because your ingredients are fantastic and the products are organic. During my stay in Baku, I was eating at a Georgian restaurant, and everything I have tried so far was delicious – be it your flatbread with che­ese called khachapuri or with beans, called lobiani. Also, your matsoni reminds me of thick creamy yogurt. I had it with marmalade and honey and it was amazing. I would compare it to panna cotta, an Italian creamy dessert. Now a few words about the Georgian national drink chacha as well. It resembles grappa, an Italian alcoholic drink that is made in the same way. Usually chacha should not be consumed in the morning, but I downed glass anyway to get rid of my hangover during my stay in Georgia.
“I liked the medieval architecture, especially the Narikala Fortress on the hill. The appearance of the city also reminded me of my hometown, Città di Castello.”
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Italian chef Enzo Neri enjoying chacha
As for the natural landscape, Georgia’s hills and mountains remind me of Umbria, my home region, which is the green heart of Italy. Besides the countryside, I also visited Tbilisi and was amazed. I liked the medieval architecture, especially the Narikala Fortress up on the hill. The appearance of the city also reminded me of my hometown, Città di Castello,” said Enzo Neri in an interview with Georgian Journal.

The famous chef said that he does not have specific plans, yet he does not rule out opening an Italian restaurant with a Georgian twist sometime in the future.

“The main goal of the event was to promote tourism in Georgia, since occasions such as this one will increase interest in Georgian wine and cuisine,” remarked Nino Gagua, one of the founders of Chateau Mere.

Overall, the evening and the culinary fest "Georgian Wine and Italian Food with Georgian Accent" turned out to be a huge success. All the guests were delighted to attend the event and enjoy the exquisite Italian dishes together with Georgian wines.
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Georgian Journal’s reporter watching Enzo Neri work

Photo courtesy of Amo Kinkladze

Author: Lika Chigladze

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