ROME: Traditional Saudi dishes took pride of place on a menu alongside food from Italy and Sicily at the closing event of the seventh edition of the Week of Italian Cuisine in the World, held in AlUla.
Staged by the Italian embassy, the recent culinary gathering was organized in cooperation with the Royal Commission for AlUla, the Italian Trade Agency office in Riyadh, and Slow Food, an organization based in Italy that aims to protect gastronomic, cultural, and biological diversity.
Italian chef Pino Maggiore, a member of Slow Food’s cooks’ alliance and owner of the Cantina Siciliana restaurant in Trapani, Italy, travelled to AlUla to work on the menu with chef Osama Ahmed Alswayah of AlUla’s Suhail Restaurant.
The pair tapped into the heritage of Sicily, Maggiore’s homeland island, which for historical reasons is heavily influenced by Arab culture.
They used Saudi ingredients from the “Ark of Taste” catalogue of endangered heritage foods, produced by the Slow Food organization.
Members of the Italian business community in the Kingdom, Saudi officials, and representatives of AlUla’s hospitality sector were welcomed to the event by the Italian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Roberto Cantone.
This year, Slow Food and the RCU formed a strategic partnership focused on building local capacity, promoting AlUla as a destination for food lovers, and exchanging the philosophy of Slow Food with the traditions of AlUla to raise awareness and preserve the national intangible heritage of the region’s cuisine and agricultural practices.
Cantone said: “The project opens a new chapter in the history of Italian-Saudi cooperation in the cultural field and the relevance of Slow Food’s philosophy to the Kingdom’s efforts to preserve its cultural heritage.”
Along with enjoying the culinary experience offered by Maggiore, guests were able to tour a “Food Heroes” photo exhibition showcasing the excellence of four Italian artisans; a beekeeper, shepherd, mussel farmer, and restaurateur.
Jointly produced by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Slow Food, the exhibition was designed to highlight the importance of the intertwined values of tradition and innovation at the heart of Slow Food’s philosophy.