Mon, 25 September 2023
Oliveto Bahrain has long been renowned in the Kingdom for its authentic Italian fair and luxury interior décor. Recently, the restaurant appointed a new Head Chef, Antonio Mancini, to oversee its culinary operations and Kristian Harrison sat down with him to find out more.
When you have a pedigree like Chef Antonio’s, it’s not difficult to see why he was in high demand and was snapped up willingly by the trendy outlet located in the heart of Adliya’s Block 338.
He started his career at catering college in Bari, Italy before leaving his native homeland to alternate between summer seasons in Sardinia and winter in the Dolomites. At the age of 19, he left for London and worked at the famous Savoy hotel under the stewardship of Silvino Trompetto.
Further stints in Monte Carlo, Monaco and Okinawa, Japan followed where he learnt new techniques and ideas, before settling in Manchester, UK where he ran his first five-star hotel.
“My first experience as an Executive Chef came in Manchester, and it wasn’t easy!” reminisces Chef Antonio. “I was 28 years old with a team of 40 chefs, and was responsible for six restaurants and banqueting facilities which were the largest in north-west England, capable of seating 1,000 people. For someone so young, it was tough to gain respect but I worked hard and eventually they accepted this young guy!”
After four years, he moved to the Middle East in 1993 and ran the famous Al-Sanbok seafood restaurant in Khobar. He built it up to become one of the most celebrated restaurants in Saudi Arabia, winning multiple awards.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, he returned to Europe with a hotel in Berlin, Germany, before the opportunity to take up the position at Oliveto came and was too good to turn down. Now, he’s preparing to revitalise the menu.
“Oliveto is and was very well known, even in the late 1990s when I was in Saudi,” Chef Antonio explains. “It had a great reputation which I want to retain while adding some classical Italian flavours with some new presentation.
“I feel as an Italian restaurant, it has history and tradition to place it among the elite in Bahrain. What really appealed to me was the reputation it the place had and I felt it was the right location for me to express myself.
“There are little things we can improve, certainly. I’ve been here for a couple of months so I’m having a look at what the team is doing and looking at where I can add a few new ideas to fit in with modern times.
“Later in the year when the season kicks in, we hope to have a wide range of ideas for our guests to try. Right now, we’re experimenting with a few special dishes to gauge the responses.
“One of the key goals is to elevate the fine dining experience, to respect the taste of Italy. We have a strong belief in Italy to not over-complicate dishes; a maximum of five or six ingredients is all that is necessary, so we want to maintain simplicity and authenticity and of course make it look pretty at the same time.
“It’s part of my family upbringing, from our family home, when my mum would teach me not to mix too many items. That’s how I maintain authenticity, and of course I also use local products to transform wherever I go into an Italian kitchen.”
With a team of 10 highly-experienced chefs in the kitchen, Chef Antonio is taking their feedback, observing their work and holding regular consultations in order to set goals and establish where he wants the restaurant to be in a year’s time.
What’s for definite, though, is that a night at Oliveto will replicate the feeling that you’re in Italy and getting a taste of home.