The pinnacle of Italian fashion and food collaborations has arrived in Tokyo: Gucci Osteria di Massimo Bottura — the brainchild of Gucci, the biggest driver of sales for international luxury group Kering, and Chef Massimo Bottura, owner of world-praised three Michelin star Osteria Francescana in Modena.
“Eating at Gucci Osteria is like taking a trip to Italy without leaving Tokyo. A journey into Italian culture and culinary memory: Italian dishes, but prepared with Japanese ingredients.”— Antonio Iacoviello,
Executive Chef At Gucci Osteria Tokyo
The fairy-tale exterior and curated interiors are a special nod to the original Gucci Osteria in Florence, referencing the Italian Renaissance and Gucci’s eclectic mix of aesthetics. Unique elements that distinguish Gucci Osteria Tokyo include its wood flooring and hand-painted ceramics with antique-inspired patterns.
In a dazzling display of culinary excellence, Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura Tokyo, Headed by Executive Chef Antonio Iacoviello, has been awarded a coveted One Michelin star at the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2023 reveal event. The news is nothing short of breathtaking, considering the restaurant only opened its doors in 2021. What sets Gucci Osteria Tokyo apart is the innovative take on contemporary Italian cuisine, using niche Japanese ingredients and local techniques and recipes. As described by the Michelin Guide, this fairy-tale space with green as the unifying theme is a sight to behold. Under the expert supervision of Chef- Restaurateur Massimo Bottura and the creative genius of Chef Antonio Iacoviello, Gucci Osteria’s cuisine is a beautiful and abundantly creative experience that symbolizes freedom and beauty, just like the butterfly print.
“From a young age, I saw chefs, flames, and pots.”— Antonio Iacoviello
Iacoviello’s culinary journey, leading up to his exciting foray into Japan in 2021, all began in the charming town of Apollosa, nestled in the heart of Campania.
“When I was a child, I lived with my grandmother, who ran a trattoria. From a young age, I saw chefs, flames, and pots,” said Iacoviello. “Becoming a chef was a natural step for me.”
A step that would one day lead him across the globe, working with some of the most celebrated names in the culinary industry including the legendary Alain Ducasse at Byblos in Saint-Tropez; René Redzepi at Noma in Denmark, Ernesto Iaccarino at Don Alfonso 1890; Karime Lopez at Gucci Osteria Florence, and visionary restaurateur Massimo Bottura.
Reflecting on his cross-cultural experiences, Iacoviello shared valuable insights into his leadership style and approach to cooking. Despite his exacting standards, Iacoviello strives to inspire his team to learn the art of improvisation while staying focused and clear-headed. This involves cultivating a deep sensitivity to the raw materials they work with, which Iacoviello encourages by eschewing the use of timers. Instead, he believes in empowering his team to trust their instincts and develop a keen sense of timing. Through his unique approach, Iacoviello continues to push the boundaries of culinary excellence and inspire his team to reach new heights.
GIOVANNA: What is your signature dish at Gucci Osteria?
ANTONIO: The Parmigiana that wants to be a Ramen — A dish dedicated to the memory of my father: Eggplant parmesan was, together with spaghetti aglio e olio, his favorite dish. A pesto of sour and spicy eggplants, eggplant gratin with Parmigiano Reggiano, spaghetti aglio e olio with oxidized and fermented eggplant broth.
GIOVANNA: What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?
ANTONIO: I don’t have a favorite ingredient. I like experimenting and being as open as possible, as long as the products are seasonal and sustainable.
GIOVANNA: How do you approach creating a new dish or menu?
ANTONIO: The secret is to choose the products well. They are the real treasure of this country. And to choose them, you just have to listen to them; they have so many things to say! The menu proceeds like an orchestral piece: there is the overture, the adagio, the allegro, the minuet, and the grand finale (for me, the adagio is the most important part because it is whispered before the highest peaks). So, first, I think about the composition and only then about the individual dishes. Similarly, first, there is the team and then everything else: you must know how to build your team as you build the menu. The team is the real strength: alone, I am just Antonio.
For Antonio Iacoviello, tradition rhymes with imagination: A peer-to-peer dialogue between two countries. In phase with its own time, Italian cuisine is sublimated by niche products selected from land and sea across Japan. His creations present the sensual expression of great maturity that reveals the timeless balance of an enchanting, cross-cultural evergreen. For this virtuoso chef, collaboration is the key ingredient to creating culinary masterpieces. He works in harmonious connection with sous-chef Hayao Watanabe, with support from the Tokyo team, striving to push Gucci Osteria forward and promote their vision of a generous and innovative Italian cuisine with a borderless appetite.
GIOVANNA: Do you experiment with new combinations of ingredients and techniques in your dishes?
ANTONIO: Experimenting is part of my being. I don’t like to repeat the same things. In Japan, there are not four seasons but 72 micro-seasons, according to the Japanese calendar. Some vegetables can only be eaten for three days a year! I love this aspect and immediately tried to delve into it. I don’t know the names of all the ingredients, okay, but I taste everything and connect it to my memory. I try to think of an Italian dish and change it with local products.
GIOVANNA: What is your favorite cooking technique?
ANTONIO: Charcoal because it is an intimate, exciting, fun and lively cuisine. After all, wasn’t it fire that transformed food into culture for man? Grilling a fillet is one thing; studying every aspect of cooking with fire is another. Embers, flames and smoke bring most of the dishes at Gucci Osteria Tokyo to life.
GIOVANNA: What are some common mistakes that home cooks make?
ANTONIO: Making mistakes in the kitchen? It happens! The list would be too long. Often, the details separate a well-made dish from simply an edible one. That’s why chefs don’t become chefs overnight. They study a lot and constantly experiment. But as Bottura says: Cooking is primarily an act of love.
SEPPIA E PISELLI
Iacoviello’s journey is one of a traveler and explorer, constantly pushing the boundaries of his creativity and imagination. His youthful, contemporary cuisine combines his rich Italian gastronomic traditions with Japanese ingredients, techniques, and elegance.
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GIOVANNA: What advice would you give to chefs who want to work abroad?
ANTONIO: They should just go for it. You can even start without having a contact or a specific plan: all you need is determination and willingness. I believe that to work abroad in any place, a strong dose of adaptability and willpower is necessary. The first few months are always the hardest, and you have to grit your teeth, but it is precisely during this time that you have to be able to resist because it is normal for difficulties to arise that seem insurmountable at the time.
GIOVANNA: How has this experience in Japan changed you?
ANTONIO: It totally changed my life! At first, I felt like the ground was shaking beneath my feet. The differences between Italy and Japan are countless, and at first, I had quite a few problems with bureaucracy and social interaction. Japanese work culture is definitely different from ours as Italians. They like to follow strict protocol, while we tend to be more improvisational. Overcoming these difficulties gave me even more desire to represent my country and to share my personal contribution to a real change in Italian cuisine abroad.
GIOVANNA: What is your philosophy in the kitchen?
ANTONIO: Find what you love and let it kill you. I found this sentence between the lines of a story I read at school. Decisive. Beautiful. I think that when intense and little crazy passions happen in life, they are worth being lived. And for me, this profession is like that. Despite the frantic rhythms and the lack of certainties, I cannot but follow my passion for cooking and let myself be completely overtaken by it.
Images courtesy of Antonio Iacoviello and Gucci