A coffee with… Alessio Zappala

He is the one in charge of “feeding” the Italian Ambassador in Luxembourg. He knows her tastes and works hardly to delight the palate of the renowned personalities from Luxemburg and European political scene who frequent her table.

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His name is Alessio Zappala, known as Chef Alessio, he was born in Sicily, Italy, and he is a volcano of gastronomic knowledge, stubbornness and happiness. This might have been probably what impressed the Ambassador Mrs. Rossella Franchini, before choosing him for her kitchen. We met Alessio for a coffee at Caffé Torino in a sunny morning and ask him some questions, for the readers of Barefoot in Luxembourg to get know him better.


Angela
– Chef, what does it mean for a young chef to play such an institutional role?
Alessio – Working for the Italian Ambassador in Luxembourg is a mission. And not just for what you represent, but for the commitment it takes to promote Italian culinary culture in this country. Since I have been working for her, I had the opportunity to work toward my philosophy.

AN – And what is your philosophy?
AL – Here in Luxembourg, Italian restaurants do not lack, indeed, we can say that there are a lot. Despite this, finding who really respects the tradition and the high quality of our products is very difficult. And I understand it, because it is often more effective to meet local tastes and to choose products easily available rather than making efforts to keep up the pure, authentic Italian gastronomic proposal. So I commit myself and I fight for not coming down to these compromises. Each Italian recipe is made of typical ingredients, most of which are excellent. Let us use them, let people know, we don’t have to add elements that have nothing to do with our culture.

AN – You’re right. I am on your side. And tell me how the ambassador caught you?
AL – In 2014 I won the Bronze Medal at the World Cooking Championship at ExpoGast, an international haute cuisine event, in which I obviously represented Italy. That was followed by the silver medal during the period when I was in the Federation of Italian chefs in Belgium. These occasions are unique, you know, to make yourself known. Not to mention my commitment in Luxembourg to grow the Italian Chefs Federation.
So, coming back to your question, it was that one evening a few months ago, I received a proposal that I could not refuse 😉

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AN – And now you cannot get away from the one question: what does the Ambassador fancy to eat?
AL – The ambassador has refined tastes and is respectful of every single ingredient. It is for this reason that she does not like the excess of spices and sauces, to taste the most authentic flavor of the dish. She decides the main and the sides. And as she decides, there are no further questions.
As for her preferences, she especially loves game prepared with the typical Italian aromatic herbs and the sauce that is naturally released during cooking. Then she often makes herself the bread with which she delights family and guests.

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AN – Thanks Alessio, it’s always nice to meet people through their tastes. And tell us, where will we find you soon?
AL – This year, from 24 to 28 November, the Expogast is back, returning to Luxembourg every 4 years and featuring international culinary art. With a lot of competitions, between 46 teams of different nationalities for the “Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup”. Well, I will coordinate the Italian team.
So dear Italian readers (and not only!), come to cheer for us!

AN – We, at Barefoot in Luxembourg, will certainly be there. So now last question: What have you got up your sleeve?
AL – There is something in preparation on the menu, but I cannot announce anything yet. Readers will have to wait a few month, they have to stay tuned until next interview 😉

AN – Thanks for this pleasant coffee together, Alessio
AL – Thanks to you Angela for having given me the possibility to talk about my projects on the blog.

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If you want to follow Chef Alessio Zappala check his Facebook Page here.

Pictures are courtesy of Laura Iberti. Follow her Instagram account here.

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A new Italian in Bonnevoie: Moka Bar & Restaurant

Last couple of weeks have been awful and I am really looking forward to a break. The sudden changes of weather are killing me off this year and it is also a quite stressful period between work and private matters. This is just for saying that, after a very busy August, we have been slightly missing. We have a bit of backlog of reviews and we are going to bake them off soon. In fact, we did not stop trying new places!

Last week it was the turn of this tiny Italian restaurant located at the start of route de Thionville, coming from town, in Bonnevoie district. Moka Bar & Restaurant opened just the week before but I have seen so many people I know going there already that I decided to make it jumping at the top of my “to-try” list.

We arrived there around 8.30 pm on a Thursday night without reservation. During the evenings, you can easily park in the car shop slot just in front. The location, as said, is cozy, with a lovely interior design and a warm atmosphere. We were allocated at a table on the side of the room and we ordered some drinks to start – I had a Spritz with Campari while A. had a Diet Coke.

The owner came back after a while with a proposition of dishes: indeed the restaurant does not have a proper menu card, but offers daily dishes based on the market availability and on the mood of the chef. Several interesting options were anyway available for main, while as starter we were proposed a mixed Italian platter that was anticipated by a small pot of olives.

I had a dish of octopus “alla Catanese” accompanied with vegetables – the initial dish was proposed with spaghetti but I am not a fan of pasta as side dish – while my friend had strozzapreti (a kind of fresh pasta) with lobster and shrimps.

During the dinner, I drunk couple of glasses of Montepulciano and we concluded with an espresso and two digestifs that were offered by the house.

Total bill (1 Campari Spritz, 1 Diet Coke, 2 glasses of red wine, 1 mixed starter, 1 pasta dish with seafood, 1 seafood main) read 65 Euro.

Find the pictures of our dinner and my final considerations.


What I loved about Moka Bar & Restaurant:

  • The atmosphere is great and you feel “like at home” as the service is smiling and polite. We were asked several times during the dinner how we enjoyed the night and the owner stopped at the end to explain us a bit the concept of the restaurant. At the same time, I find the decoration were accurate, from outside the place does definitely not look like the neighborhood’s trattoria, but a more refined restaurant.
  • The food was very tasty and the presentation is amazing for this kind of place. I enjoyed both the starter and my main and I am looking forward to come back to try other dishes ( I heard steak with truffle and I regret not having it as well!). You can feel ingredients were really fresh and the preparations “like in Italy”, with the right aromas and spices.
  • The bill was surprisingly fair: right, we did not have a lot to drink, but still, I think I fail to pay 32 euro for my meal even at Burger King’s – and we had fresh sea food!

What I liked a bit less about Moka Bar & Restaurant:

  • While dishes were presented and explained in details, on the wine side I was slightly deluded. I asked for red wine and they just asked me if I wanted it strong or light (guess what). Then they got my glass and I had to stop the waitress to ask which kind of wine was it. It was a Montepulciano, as already said, and it was pretty fine – unpretentious, but fine. I definitely liked it at the end but don’t have too many expectations on the wine by glass I suggest. We did not ask for bottles, I suppose it will be definitely different in that case.
  • This is not a negative point – there were no indeed in our evening, even the note about the wine above is one of the picky things from me – but more a recommendation: I lived in Bonnevoie for more than 10 years – and I will be back sometimes soon, finally! – and I have seen several of this kind of places opening their doors. I don’t name them, but I suppose if you are familiar with the area you might guess at least two. The formula was really similar – no menu, just daily dishes. At the beginning the quality was amazing and the prices extremely fair. Going on, as customers were more and more, they started to cut drastically on the quality (frozen food, microwaved dishes, cheap ingredients) and increasing exponentially the prices (last time in one of them, we paid 80 euro for 2 beers, a mortadella starter and two pork sausages mains without side). I really hope Moka will stay like it is as I found one of my perfect places.

In conclusion, Moka is the kind of place you might go when you don’t want to cook, but it is definitely lovely as well as for a date or for a friend’s dinner. Fresh products, an extremely nice service and reasonable prices are making it for me one of the best Italian in Bonnevoie at the moment.

 

 

A new Italian wine bar in town: 14 Degrés and more, Luxembourg city

Touching down in Luxembourg just for one night, I organized an after-work drink – that soon became a big night out  – with my girlfriends. Fancying something informal but refined and very deluded by the last place of this kind we tried recently, we booked a table at 14 Degrés and more, a new eatery and wine bar that has recently opened in the city centre, just in front of Le Royal Hotel.

The concept of the place is really easy going: they serve a daily menu for lunch, they have Italian products to purchase or you can simply sit down, have a glass of wine and some nibbles.

The place is tiny inside, but well decorated and impressive in the details. The outdoor table are overlooking a busy boulevard Royal, but after a while you really don’t care. The terrace is wide and is perfect if you want just to relax.

We got there around 6 pm and welcome by the owner. Started with a glass of bubbles while waiting for the squad to be completed and went then for a bottle of Fiano followed by a Primitivo one.

We were offered some snacks – vegerables, garlic crème cheese and olives – and we then ordered a mixed platter of charcuterie and cheese. With the red bottle we had as well some more cheese.

Some quick pictures followed by my usual impression.

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What I liked about 14 Degrés and more:

  • Amazing level of service: even if the place is very informal, the owner was checking on us to see if everything was going fine and was available to suggest us wines and give indications about the food.
  • Food and wine are simple but good, wines served at the right temperature and platters prepared with care.
  • The location is very relaxing and perfect for end of summer gatherings.

What I liked a bit less about 14 Degrés and more:

  • The space inside is not ready for the cold Luxembourg winter and will not yet be able to welcome many people. Anyway we talked with the owner and he confirmed he has already plans for the forthcoming months, including a covered terrace.

In conclusion: 14 Degrés and more offers Italian products for lunch and after-work. For me, it was the perfect place to share a bottle (or more!) of wine with my friends and I really looking forward to come back to try other dishes.