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Italy's movable feast

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2016-04-26 08:02


Italy's movable feast

Mauro Portaluppi, head chef at Beijing's Tavola restaurant.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A Milan chef takes Beijing diners on a virtual tour of his country, one bite at a time. Mike Peters steps in for a taste of Venice.

Ask Italian chefs where they are from, and the response is rarely "Italy". The more likely answer is Rome, or Lombardy, or Sardinia, or whatever town or region they claim as home.

Mauro Portaluppi, head chef at Beijing's Tavola restaurant in the Liangmaqiao embassy district, is no exception, proudly hailing from stylish Milan. Born in 1975, he was intrigued by cooking as a child-one uncle owned four restaurants in the city. Unimpressed by the food served at their school cafeteria, 8-year-old Mauro and his twin brother would go home at midday and cook pasta or pizza themselves for lunch. At the age of 16, he enrolled in the well-known Carlo Porta Professional Hotel College in Milan.

But while Portaluppi is firmly rooted in his regional foods, he is also eager to show China the big picture of Italian cuisine. So soon after he took the helm of Tavola's kitchen last year, he launched a culinary tour of his country, starting with Puglia, an agricultural region that produces about 40 percent of Italy's olive oil. Also famous for its wines and a long coastline with a rich tradition for seafood, Puglia came to Beijing customers on plates that featured deep-fried mackerel fillets with cucumbers in vinegar and mint, sauteed mussels with clams and cherry tomatoes, and squid stuffed with focaccia bread.

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