The New Rebels of Italian Cuisine
As beloved as Italian cuisine is around the world, its authenticity can sometimes get lost in new or hasty interpretations. On a mission to reclaim the honest origins of Italian cooking is Cucina Ribelli, the new gastronomic concept of the 25hours Hotel at MuseumsQuartier in Vienna. Welcome to the ‘peaceful revolution’ you can taste.
From antipasti to zabaglione, the mere names of Italian culinary staples are enough to make mouths water. In every corner of the world, Italian food culture—from the tradition of aperitivo to long, lazy family lunches—evokes indulgence, simplicity and a sense of the good life. When a culinary tradition is so rich and enduring, what is left to reinvent? According to the team behind Cucina Ribelli (Rebel Kitchen), the new gastronomic concept of 25hours Hotel at MuseumsQuartier in Vienna and soon to be opened at Zürich West too, the answer is: plenty. ‘The idea of Italian food is very popular, but authenticity is really hard to find,’ explains Vincenzo Carnemolla, Ribelli’s Sicilian pizzaiolo—the pizza maker. ‘Everywhere you get pasta dishes with cream or butter added to improve the texture. This has nothing to do with what our grandmothers did—in the south of Italy, all they had was some olive oil from their own land. And they created the best dishes with it.’
It’s this spirit that Ribelli was established to reclaim—by reinterpreting simple, popular cuisine and rediscovering the heart of Italy through its food. What keeps that heart beating is heritage, diversity, produce, and craft. ‘A drop of balsamic vinegar and a basil leaf don’t score points for authenticity,’ according to the team. Instead, ‘Italian cuisine is all about choosing the right ingredients. We aim to just do the bare minimum that is necessary to bring out the quality of products,’ explains Taku Tabuchi, formerly the Head Chef at Italian restaurant S’accapau in Tokyo, who left Japan for Italy at age 18 to learn the secrets of Italian cuisine directly from the source.
Now, he, Vincenzo and the team behind Ribelli draw upon their close connections with small, passionate producers all around Italy, who they visit personally. ‘Our real chefs are the farmers, butchers, cheesemakers that supply our ingredients,’ Taku says modestly. ‘In the kitchen we just have to be careful to bring their work to completion.’ Guests at Ribelli can expect to begin with antipasti platters—cured meats and aged cheeses sliced fresh from the restaurant’s in-house salumeria, to be enjoyed over aperitivo. Forgotten or lesser-known Italian staples await on the Piatti dal Forno menu (dishes from the oven)—sizzling stews, casseroles and hearty pasta dishes. Naturally, the wine, alongside carefully-selected Italian craft beer, flows freely.
Then there’s the pizza—Neapolitan of course, with crisp bases smothered in San Marzano tomatoes and topped with oozing rounds of mozzarella. The best part is, you don’t have to stick to just one kind. ‘Conviviality is the essence of Italian life, and we want to bring this experience we Italians grew up with to our restaurants. That’s why we had the Giro Pizza concept in mind for Ribelli,’ explains Vincenzo. ‘When a group of friends in Italy decide to go to the pizzeria together, no-one each orders their own pizza just for themselves! Pizzas will always come to the table one after the other to be shared among everyone.’
And for those who are so enamoured they want to re-create the experience back home? Given that the pizza made at Ribelli is difficult to reproduce in standard kitchens—‘unless that oven heats up to over 500°C, as our pizza oven does!’ as Vincenzo exclaims—the chef asked his mother to share her recipe for the pizza she used to make for him and his sister. The key to Neapolitan pizza perfection, he says, is knowing your ingredients, learning to ‘read’ the dough, and understanding what it needs to develop the right lightness, fragrance and taste. But most of all, it takes love and passion—amore e passione!
Makes 4 pizzas
For the dough
- 850g soft wheat flour
- 550g water
- 20g salt
- 5g fresh yeast
For the topping
- 1 can organic Italian pelato tomatoes
- 100g fior di latte mozzarella
- 2-3 basil leaves
- Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, aged for 24 months
- extra virgin olive oil
- Dissolve the yeast in the water. Then add 800g flour and mix together with a big spoon. Add
- the salt and start kneading energetically, adding the remaining flour little by little. When the
- dough is perfectly smooth and free of clumps, let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Form a ball and let it
- rest for another 30 minutes. Then divide the dough into smaller pieces, each weighing around 350g.
Put each piece of dough in an oiled baking pan, cover with foil and let them rest for 8-12 hours in a warm place. Place each piece of dough on an oiled baking tray. To create the classic pizza shape, press down with you hands from the center towards the rim. Cover the pizzas with the tomatoes, followed by finely-sliced rounds of mozzarella. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Cook in a preheated oven set to the highest temperature for at least 6 minutes. Check the underside of the pizza to see when it is ready. Finally top with a drizzle of olive oil and a couple of basil leaves—buon appetito!