Wed, 03 January 2018
Paolo Arca first arrived in Bahrain to work for a restaurant in the late ‘90s. He moved on to Saudi Arabia, but Bahrain drew him back, and he started the famed Oliveto, that wowed guests with honest Italian fare.
Paolo headed back to Italy in 2014, but destiny has returned him to his much-loved Bahrain. “I am very happy to be back,” he says. “It feels great to be back at Oliveto and see all the familiar faces again.”
Oliveto is not just a concept that Paolo has put into action. Over the years, he has breathed life into the establishment, making it a food entity to reckon with. The restaurant has seen many a difficult time, even being gutted by fire. But it has always bounced back stronger and ready to give guests a fantastic Italian gastronomic experience.
Although it sports an upgraded look today, with a very contemporary-chic ambience, Paolo, with the help of executive chef Valter Piergiovanni, has ensured that the food retains its original charm. Paolo says: “Real Italian food is simple, not complicated like the food we find these days. It is minimalistic and must be respected in its true, original form.”
He thinks that Italian food is misunderstood by nouveau foodies today, and has lost its essence to the need for being ‘new and improved’. This is exactly the sentiment echoed by chef Valter, and together, they strive to serve people authentic cuisine in its original form. Chef Valter, who feels equally passionate about Italian food, says: “I have worked in 21 countries, and it’s very rare to find a restaurant like this.” He is intent on executing Paolo’s vision of serving Italian fare in its most elementary avatar. “When you want to serve fish, you have to make sure the fish is as fresh as can be. Then you don’t need to work hard to bring the true flavours to the table, instead of masking it with several different additions.”
Paolo adds: “No dried or preserved foodstuff is used here. We even grow our own basil to give our dishes the original taste.”
The restaurant is credited with introducing Bahrain’s dining enthusiasts to the Italian flavour profile, with porcini mushrooms, Sardinian caviar and burrata cheese, sourced from the finest farms in Italy. “Nowadays they are commonly imported, but it’s all about how you treat these ingredients. If you try a fusion of flavours, the hero ingredient is killed,” states chef Valter.
Like all Italians, the pair are fiercely zealous about their pizza. Paolo says: “Pizza is supposed to be light, and easy to digest, a favourite for adults and kids. But the dough needs to be made right, for it to not sit in your stomach a whole day after it’s eaten!”
Chef Valter rues the Americanisation of Italian trademarks, saying: “Our food is not meant to be burdened with butter, garlic and eggs, and topped with processed cheese. For instance, true Alfredo is simply tagliatelle tossed with good quality butter and parmesan – two elements for an outstanding dish.”
Oliveto is ready to impress its patrons with a new winter menu. Chef Valter is excited for diners to try the Fiorentina, a gorgeous Tuscan-style steak with tomatoes, onions and roast potatoes. Old signatures however, like the salt-crusted hammour, will be a permanent star. “Our guests complain when they don’t find it on the menu,” he says.
Adding his own personal touch by hobnobbing with his guests every evening, it is plain to see that Paolo brings a palpably positive vibe and energy to the restaurant, something that guests look forward to as much as they do Oliveto’s true Italian flavours.