The only thing better than Imàgo restaurant’s panoramic view of Rome is the food. The Michelin starred culinary oasis comprises the sixth floor of the legendary Hotel Hassler Roma, and chef Francesco Apreda has crafted a novel menu in celebration of the new season. Dolce Magazine picked the brain of the renowned gastro maestro to get the inside scoop on what Imàgo is dishing up right now
DM: What prompted the creation of three different menus? Why these specific styles?
FA: Each of Imàgo’s dishes tell a story. The Signatures menu was created because Imàgo wanted to continue to offer guests what they noted as their favourite dishes throughout the years. These are also dishes that represent my style and evolution and this menu changes a bit with each season. The “Flavours of a Journey” menu is my latest creation, and is literally a culinary journey through the cities that have been important to me and to the evolution of my style. The Vegetarian tasting menu is a tribute to an ever-increasing group of people that for various reasons have decided to avoid eating meat. For Imàgo it is important to respect this choice and a special menu was created to highlight delicious vegetarian creations in Imàgo’s signature style as well.
DM: This new menu places an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients. What are your words of wisdom to persuade those who have yet to jump on the “seasonal, local” wagon?
FA: Our menus always include ingredients that are seasonal, and we certainly also have a large selection of local ingredients, although our panoramic Michelin starred restaurant Imàgo does not actually focus on local ingredients. For such an important restaurant with such a high level of international clientele, it’s important to have an exceptional offering, and this often also includes products from other countries.
DM: Your skills have been seasoned while working in Japan, England and India — what’s the most significant thing you learned in each of these environments? How are those lessons applied to your work now and how can we see them in this new menu?
FA: I learned different things in each of these countries, but also one thing in common from all of them is how important Italian food is outside of Italy, and how important it is to represent it at its maximum level wherever I go. In each particular country I learned to appreciate its particular culture, including the respect for each ingredient in Japan, the organization and managerial aspect of running a restaurant in London and in India the use of their wonderful exotic spices.
DM: What do you love about Rome’s culinary landscape, and how does it feel to be a part of it?
FA: I love the fact that it maintains its traditional restaurants and culinary roots and I also love that it experiments with what is new. I feel perfectly at ease in the Roman “melting pot,” bringing a bit of my native Naples and my experiences abroad to such an elegant and prestigious establishment such as Hassler’s Imàgo restaurant.
DM: What is Imàgo bringing to the city’s dining scene that is particularly unique?
FA: Imàgo certainly sets the mark when it comes to extraordinary dining experiences, from the view to cuisine to the service — its offerings are truly unique.
Pomo d’Oro (Golden tomato)
Risotto, provolone cheese and black cardamom
Yellow tomato sauce
3 cups organic yellow tomato purée
Extra-virgin olive oil
Chop onion and sauté in a pan with olive oil without letting it turn brown; add the yellow tomato purée. Add salt to taste and slowly cook the purée until it becomes a concentrated, dense sauce and all of the water has evaporated.
2 cups carnaroli rice
1/3 cup white wine
8 cups Vegetable stock
1/2 cup shredded spicy provolone cheese
4 tbsp. butter
extra-virgin olive oil
Chop shallot and sauté in a pan with half of the butter and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil. Once softened, add the rice and stir constantly for a few minutes. Add the white wine. Add some salt and continue to let it cook, adding vegetable stock a little bit at a time. When the rice is almost finished cooking, add the heated yellow tomato sauce and take off the stove for two minutes. Place back on gentle heat, adding in the other half of the butter and the spicy provolone cheese, blending it until creamy.
Oregano-flavored yellow tomatoes
1 1/2 cups of yellow tomatoes
1/2 tsp. fresh oregano
Extra-virgin olive oil
Cut the tomatoes in half, season with salt and cover them with extra-virgin olive oil and oregano in a pan. Sauté for a few minutes until heated through. Let them cool. Once cooled, drain and reheat them slightly just before serving with the risotto.
Black cardamom powder
1/2 tsp. black
Extract the seeds from inside the cardamom pod and grind them in a spice or coffee grinder.
1/4 cup shredded spicy provolone cheese
1/2 tsp. gold flakes (optional)
Place risotto on the plate, covering the plate entirely. Cover with the provolone cheese shreds which will slightly melt with the heat of the rice. Gently place the tomato halves and dust with black cardamom powder and gold flakes.