One does not need to travel to Italy anymore to have a taste of its sumptuous traditional dishes and feel the elegant ambience of dining in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. In the heart of Dubai, lies a restaurant that can satisfy your Italian cravings, The Artisan II Ristorante.
Heading up the Michelin-selected ristorante with a passion for perfection along with each dish thoroughly curated for the cosmopolitan palate, the young and masterful Chef Francesco Magro serves patrons a glimpse of true Italian heritage.
Chef Francesco’s love for food and close to 15 years of culinary experience has paved the way for him to work globally, mainly from Italy to Germany to Belgium and now, to Dubai. His remarkable expertise has led him to work in some of Dubai’s most iconic restaurants like The Atmosphere in Burj Khalifa and The Address Boulevard Hotel’s The Restaurant.
Let’s take a look at what it’s like to be in the shoes of a young and talented chef, like Francesco.
Is cooking really your passion? What got you interested in the culinary arts?
Yes, culinary arts is my passion. I’m very lucky because I do what I really love. I spend a lot of hours here in the kitchen and I consider myself lucky because when I was 12, I decided that I wanted to be a chef. I wanted to travel the world and find a job that gave me the chance to explore the cultures I was immersing myself into. Hence why, becoming an Italian chef was the best fit of all!
The restaurant’s name, The Artisan, is unique in its own way. What is the concept behind it?
Everything that we put on the table is handmade. Everything is made by us in-house or sourced by our special suppliers all the way from Italy. We ensure our ingredients are fresh and authentic to give our customers the best, most authentic Italian experience. Even the olive oil we use at The Artisan is made especially for us by our suppliers in Italy!
We have a lot of Italian restaurants here in Dubai. How do you elevate your Italian way of dining?
We are attached to our true heritage and traditional way, like how the food is supposed to be. We are focused on the flavour, especially on how it’s supposed to taste authentically. The most important thing for me and for the team is to let the guests understand how the dish is supposed to be traditionally and how they would have it in Italy. Simple and authentic is our philosophy!
You are at the forefront of bringing Italian cuisine to Dubai’s table. How is The Artisan different from other Italian restaurants in the metropolis?
We are different because of our consistency. It is one of our main focuses – in particular with the quality of our food, service and ambiance. I believe this is one of our secrets that sets us apart from any other restaurants.
What does the Michelin Guide mean to you considering that The Artisan has made it on the list of the first ever edition of the Michelin Guide Dubai?
This was really a great achievement for us and for those working in hospitality. All the hard work that we did all paid off. It is a dream come true because two years ago when we opened, we did not imagine the Michelin Guide would be in Dubai, let alone feature The Artisan on it. We are very proud of what we have achieved in such a short period of time.
What are you most passionate about being a chef?
You know what, when I was in school, one teacher told us something that I will never forget. He said, “Today is the first day. From the first until the last day, in this industry, you will never stop learning”. So, learning is something that I like and what he said is actually true because every day, you can learn from yourself and from your colleagues. Positions don’t matter because somehow, there’s always an opportunity to learn.
Where do you get your inspiration mostly when it comes to curating menus?
I get inspiration from the ingredients. Specifically, from the main ingredient, we then elaborate on the rest of the dish. I basically make use of my experience and I make the dish how I want it to be. I think of what techniques I need to use to achieve this idea and then I start to elaborate. I first select the ingredients, contact the supplier and then start in the kitchen. Sometimes, I’m lucky that the first time I try, a new recipe is born.. However, sometimes there isn’t a revelation! This is totally acceptable as again, there will always be a learning to take away from the experience in some way.
What are the key ingredients to the success of The artisan?
The key is the team, because the team will really make the difference. Here in the kitchen especially, most of the key people have been here from the beginning. We made this restaurant a part of us. We established The Artisan from scratch. We have known each other for a long time now so it’s easy for us to understand each other and we know the standards of The Artisan and its importance to the brand. This is really one of the key ingredients of the success of this restaurant. We have a strong team. We are around 20 employees so it’s like a small family.
Your pizza is hailed as one of the best in the city, is there any hidden ingredient?
Psst! Don’t tell anyone! The secret of our pizza is in the long fermentation of the dough and the ingredients of the flour that we use. The mozzarella that we buy and the quality of the oven is also one of best kept secrets, well, not anymore I guess! We tried and tested many versions of the dough recipe to achieve this result. Another secret is really the hard work too!