A Taste of Sun:
Chef Maurizio Locatelli Turns Sardinia's Cuisine Into an Explosion of Flavors
Along the island’s Costa Smeralda — Emerald Coast — the air smells of aromatic herbs, sea, sunburnt earth, spicy compounds and flowers.
It’s in the midst of this dramatic landscape that Executive Chef Maurizio Locatelli of Hotel Cala di Volpe, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Costa Smeralda, turns the simplest of meals into an explosion of Mediterranean flavors.
“I like to create enthusiasm in the palate, ” says Chef Locatelli.
For more than 50 years, the award-winning chef has embraced Mediterranean cuisine — as a young boy growing up in Northern Italy, his grandmother’s cooking piqued his curiosity and led him to pursue a career in culinary arts.
Today, his position overseeing Cala di Volpe’s restaurants and a team of 40 people means he is an ambassador of this culture in a region that provides constant inspiration.
“I fell in love [with the land] the first time I set foot here in 1981 … It makes me feel calm and inspired, and this gives me the open-mindedness to come up with new aromas and pairings,” he says.
Mediterranean cuisine, and Italian food in particular, places a focus on the perfect simplicity of each and every ingredient — a pinch of black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, a fresh sprig of parsley.
No dish is the same, from Bolzano to Sicily.
For a relatively small country, Italy’s culinary diversity is vast. The country’s 20 regions each offer a distinct food culture. “No dish is the same, from Bolzano to Sicily,” Chef Locatelli says.
It’s this unique heritage that Chef Locatelli says must be preserved in the future, and his passion for maintaining it is evident across the hotel’s restaurants.
According to Chef Locatelli, finding the perfect balance between flavors while highlighting each ingredient is an essential part of Italian cuisine. These are the details that make a difference, and Locatelli and his team are masters of finishing touches.
The Master of Finishing Touches
Sharing Sardinia with the world
At Cala di Volpe, his staff tends a garden of rosemary, parsley, oregano, basil, sage and Italian strawflower, an herb that grows naturally in this region. “It’s salty, and its hay smell represents Sardinia,” explains Chef Locatelli.
Chef Locatelli showcased this uniquely Sardinian flavor at the Porto Cervo Wine & Food Festival, where he prepared a sirloin steak with an aromatic crust of dried strawflower, bread and pecorino cheese crumbles.
When he’s attending international events, like those sponsored by Cala di Volpe’s Taste of Sardinia project, Chef Locatelli likes to offer others a taste of Sardinia and often features favorites like ravioli with fresh ricotta, stir-fried with asparagus and finished with bottarga shavings.
“We want them to feel like at home, entering their kitchen and cooking their own food,” Chef Locatelli says.
At Cala di Volpe, it is not just about receiving a piece of steak and eating it; Chef Locatelli wants diners to be a part of the process.
From his base in the Costa Smeralda, Chef Locatelli’s vision for Cala di Volpe’s restaurants is to strengthen the interaction between guests and chefs. He wants to give diners the ability to see exactly how their meals are prepared.
At the hotel’s seasonal barbecue restaurant, a chimney and 6-foot-long grill draw guests’ attention, and as guests approach the area, they are invited to choose their desired piece of meat or fish. In addition to preparing the meal in front of the customer, the chef will also address guests’ questions and offer suggestions.
As for his team of 40, Chef Locatelli stresses the importance of “growing the palate” and understanding the reasons behind creating a particular flavor. “For the last 10 years, it seems like becoming [a] chef is more about the image rather than the culture or knowledge.”
He wants his ragazzi to understand that Mediterranean cuisine is not only about the food. It also represents the Italian lifestyle.