A decade ago, Emanuele "Lele" Nardoni and Melissa Arroni were on holiday in San Francisco and, as you do, they turned to Google to find a place to eat soul food – a cuisine that draws its influences from the American Deep South and Native American cultures. A few hours later, the couple found themselves in Oakland, in the garage of a Creole family alongside eight strangers.
“We shared the table with these nice people, we ate great homemade food and we had a lot of fun,” say Lele and Arroni, who worked in graphic design and the fashion industry. The meal also gave root to the idea to launch their own supper club back in Milan, and Ma’ Hidden Kitchen was born in April 2012.
Bringing a pop-up supper club to Dubai
"It was founded inside our Milanese loft, where we host acoustic concerts, plays and an annual yard sale, during which we sell the stuff that comes from our travels, as well as cooking classes and social dinners," says Arroni. "We thought it was a great idea for a city where everybody is always in a hurry and does not have many chances to meet people outside of the classic social networks." She could well be talking about any metropolis in the world.
Accordingly, the gastronomic team behind Ma’ Hidden Kitchen will bring Menu39 to Dubai, for a pop-up supper club. The dinner is held in collaboration with The Italian Way, the regional campaign of Peroni Nastro Azzurro, which seeks to bring curated authentic Italian experiences to Dubai.
The "39" refers to the number of ingredients the chefs will work with to prepare the five-course paired menu. Also, the supper club's 34-seat community table will be set up on the previously inaccessible 39th floor of the InterContinental Dubai Marina.
The menu will be created by Stefano Ratti, whose storied career has seen him work with Michelin-starred venues and chefs, including Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Pierino Penati in Lecco, Carlo Cracco and Andrea Aprea in Milan, and Gordon Ramsay in London.
While the dishes are being kept under wraps, the ingredients have been cherry-picked to represent the best of Italian cuisine, which is known for its fresh produce and straightforward cooking techniques. "Nowadays, simplicity together with creativity is essential in a meal – distinct flavours so you know what you are eating without having to ask what's on the plate. Surely, it's more sustainable also," Arroni says. "Think gamberi, sedano, pomodoro and mandorle."
Prawns, celery, tomatoes and almonds aside, the ingredients list also takes in herbs such as sage, basil, chives and saffron; ricotta, Grana Padano and burrata cheeses; flavourings such as vanilla, licorice and lemon; and, of course, extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. "We will use them to give each dish a distinctive flavour, so that for guests it will be like a journey to Italy," Arroni says.
Creating their own community
The UAE is no stranger to limited-edition menus served in various restaurants by acclaimed chefs from all over the world. For example, chef Matteo Rizzo will visit the UAE from Verona, to prepare a four-course dinner at the newly opened Leonardo in Dubai Marina, from March 25 to 30. Meanwhile, Boca in DIFC is hosting a three-course meal on March 22, which will be put together by in-house chef Matthijs Stinnissen and Billy Baroja, who is being flown in from Spanish island Formentera. Earlier this year, the restaurant also served the Taste of the Gulf menu in collaboration with Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi.
However, what sets the Hidden Kitchen experience apart, say Lele and Arroni, is that: "A supper club is not a restaurant. It is a community event to celebrate hospitality and conviviality – a feast of people and food, where flavours, consistencies and scents combine to create a shared experience, in a relaxing ambience where you can socialise while tasting homemade food."
The Ma’Hidden Kitchen and #TheItalianWay supper club will be held at the Inter-Continental Dubai Marina from March 19 until March 23. The five-course menu is priced at Dh350; visit www.intercontinentaldubaimarina.com/thesupperclub for more information or to book your spot