Diriyah through young eyes: ‘It’s the jewel of Saudi Arabia’

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Helena Inzerillo in front of Salwa Palace in Diriyah
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Helena Inzerillo
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Meet the Inzerillo's: The family gathered to celebrate the royal inauguration of Diriyah.
Updated 22 November 2019

Diriyah through young eyes: ‘It’s the jewel of Saudi Arabia’

  • Helena Zakade Inzerillo: “Everyone has to come and see this place”

RIYADH: King Salman’s royal inauguration of the Diriyah Gate project — a crowning moment in Kingdom’s plans to showcase the cultural icon to the world — was watched by members of the royal family, officials and a host of international visitors.
But for one guest the spectacular opening was very much a family affair.
Helena Zakade Inzerillo, the 13-year-old daughter of Diriyah Gate Development Authority CEO Jerry Inzerillo, flew into Riyadh from New York to watch the launch of a project, and visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site and birthplace of the Saudi nation.
“Everyone has to come and see this place,” she told Arab News.
“Diriyah is an incredible place. It has so much culture and history that the world needs to know about. It’s the jewel of the Kingdom.”
Inzerillo’s middle name Zakade was given to her by her godfather Nelson Mandela. In Mandela’s Khosa language, it means “the one who took a long time to arrive.”
She is proud of her father’s work to transform the city “with his heart and soul.” 
On only her fifth visit to the Kingdom, Inzerillo said she that was “taken aback by the sheer beauty of the place.”
Jerry Inzerillo has spent decades working in the leisure, tourism and hospitality sectors. He was CEO of the Forbes Travel Guide from 2014 to 2018, president and CEO of IMG Artists from 2012 to 2014, and president of resort giant Kerzner International from 1991 to 2011.
He has worked on the Diriyah Gate project for the past two years and told Arab News the site “has always held a special place in my heart.”
“There is only one Diriyah,” he said with a heartfelt smile.

 

 


LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 15 December 2019

LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Madeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Madeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne amadeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Amadeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Madeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Madeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne Amadeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.