BY Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 13 November 2018)
Stephano Rusticali is passionate about all things Italian. From the wines, antipastos and pastas to the cheeses, chocolates and prosecco valdo bbiadene, Stephano has brought them all from his homeland in order to open Nairobi’s newest Italian restaurant.
La Terrazza has a similar ambience, menu and tip-top service as his first Italian eatery, La Salumeria, which was located just behind Valley Arcade. But when the opportunity arose for him to relocate to the top floor terrace of the Green House Mall on Ngong Road, he couldn’t resist switching spaces.
Now at La Terrazza, one will find a similar savory menu to what Stephano served at La Salumeria. One will still find the most remarkable array of fresh pastas being served, from the fettuccini tricolore to the spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna and risotto. He will still be counting on his Italian chef Claudio Panico and his well-trained Kenyan staff, all of whom have been taught to prepare pizzas, antipastos, cocktail prawns and profitterole pastry just as well as any expert Italian could do.
But the most important feature that distinguishes La Terrazza is that all his key ingredients are flown in every fortnight from Milan.
Naturally, his fish is flown in regularly from the Kenyan coast; his vegetable are also brought in even more frequently from local farmers. But otherwise, his wide array of salamis are flown in from Italy and kept at just the right temperature. So are his cheeses, (including his buffalo milk), chocolates and coffees.
Stephano says that bringing authentic Italian culture and cuisine was his central purpose for coming to Kenya and opening his restaurant. “There are five components to creating a successful restaurant,” he says.
“There must be the ambience [or convivial atmosphere], the quality food, superlative service, unique and personalized style, and most importantly, the authenticity,” he explains.
Stephano admits he is not a chef himself. He leaves that to Claudio and to his matre d’ Murielle Minchella who he says keeps a close eye on every detail of every dish to ensure the quality of presentation as well as preparation remains high.
Stepano’s expertise is nonetheless multifaceted. For he is not only trained in financial management. He is also a wine aficionado, having been specially trained for three years in the fine art and history of Italian wines. His wine cabinet reveals the range of his cultivated taste for red and white wines coming from all over Italy.
But just as passionate as he is about wine, Stephano takes tremendous pleasure in seeing his guests enjoy their meals. For starters, we tried the Caponata de Melanze, sweet and sour which was a delicious blend of vegetables and the Arancine Siciliane, which were four fried rolls filled with meats, mushrooms and vegetables.
Selecting a main course was a major challenge since the menu (composed of both Italian and English explanations) is diverse. Not only are there multiple kinds of pizzas and pastas to try. There are also fish, chicken, beef and pork dishes to choose from as well. We finally settled on a baked Red Snapper served with exquisitely steamed vegetables and the fish ravioli. We both devoured our meal, although we nearly spoiled our appetite tasting the amazing Foccear bread which Stephano serves with two different creamy spreads, one made with avocado, the other with zucchini.
I was thoroughly satisfied with my delicious entrée, but Stephano insisted we try to Proffitole since it was made with Italian chocolate specially prepared in his kitchen and a bigne pastry that his Kenyan chef Tunje baked just as well as Claudio does. We could hardly protest since by now, we knew Stephano was true to his word.
The Proffitole was ‘to die for’. The pastry was super-light and filled with a fluffy whipped cream, all of which was covered in hot dark chocolate that was unspeakable divine.
But if that wasn’t enough, I requested a macciato (espresso with foamy cream), little knowing that our host wasn’t going to allow us to leave without tasting the Tiramasu. Oh my!
Who knew we weren’t full already? As if one dessert (split between us) wasn’t sufficient, the Tiramasu had to be tried. So one spoonful led to us finishing the whole dish in no time flat.
With La Terrazza upstairs from the Lounge and Art Gallery, the restaurant also has two cosy conference rooms making Stephano’s new space a perfect place for gatherings of two, twenty or even more. Currently, his art gallery is filled with super-realistic photographs by an Italian artist.