Alessandro Ramella is an Italian chef from Lombardy who currently works as Executive Chef at Terrazza 241 rooftop bar & restaurant inside Hilton Lake Como. Alessandro currently oversees all culinary offerings at the Hilton Lake Como from all-day dining at Terrazza 241, the room service menu, breakfast at Satin restaurant, food at the hotel lobby bar as well as the street food concepts.
To start the story of his journey with food, Alessandro remembers that from an early age, he was more interested in playing with pans than car toys like his peers. He started by making biscuits with his mother and helped her cook Sunday lunch by preparing classic dishes like risotto and lasagna.
At the young age of 13, Alessandro went to culinary school in Ponte di Legno to begin his formal training. Here he lived, worked and trained in a place he described as 'a hotel for chefs'. After qualifying at the age of 18, Alessandro landed a placement with Chef Gualtiero Marquesi at his 2 star restaurant Erbusco in Francia Corta. Erbusco is where he learnt real discipline as a chef and mastered French and Italian nouvelle cuisine. The restaurant had 40 covers and the kitchen ran with 20 chefs - that's one chef for every 2 diners so you can imagine the quality that was coming out of the kitchen. Following a one and a half year stint at Erbusco, Alessandro moved on to a 1 star Ristorante i Castagni for one year. Wanting a change, the young chef took a side step into a hotel kitchen at Hotel Waldorf in Emilia Romagna on the north east coast of Italy. Here, he discovered the world of hotels and fell in love with the variety and quick evolving nature of this business. This led him to Hilton Molino Stucky Venice where he worked his way up to Executive Sous-Chef before taking up the role of Executive Chef at Hilton Lake Como 2 years ago. So let's begin the interview.
Q. First of all, can you tell us how you got into cooking?
Since childhood, I was passed on the passion for cooking by my mum. Every Sunday we made lunch together and she taught me how to make fresh pasta. Right from that moment, I knew I would turn my passion for cooking into a career.
Photo (Brush Mag's own): Beef tartare in black squid ink cone
Q. How would you describe your style of food?
What I try to convey on a daily basis is my passion for what I do, so I would describe my cuisine as a mix of emotions, heart and Italian culture. In fact my food always has references to my 'Bel Paese' - my beautiful country of Italy. Creativity, taste and international flavours are my three main priorities when it comes to my style of cooking. International because of our guests - we have to present a menu that is both Italian and will suit the palate of guests globally which is why we like to play with fusion. My girlfriend is from Venice and so I like to have eel on the menu as a culinary expression of the city. I like to let it sit in rice vinegar, then I cook it in a pan with butter, garlic, lime onion. I top it with a beurre noisette, chopped spring onions, bonito flakes and sun dried tomatoes. You can find some asian influences in this dish as Venice was historically the hub of the West on the Silk Road from Asia.
Photo (Brush Mag's own): Pasta fresca with fresh caviar
Q. What are your favourite ingredients and why?
One of my favourite ingredients is definitely pasta. Firstly because it reminds me of my childhood and also because it best represents my country. Another ingredient I care a lot about is eel, in memory of my partner and because it is also a very versatile and tasty ingredient. Finally, I can't forget chocolate.
Q. What is special about the food offering at the Hilton Lake Como? Please explain the menu, the ingredients and the atmosphere at Terrazza 241
Terrazza 241 is the Rooftop restaurant & bar at Hilton Lake Como. The culinary proposal of Terrazza 241 focuses on the reinterpretation of great Italian classics in a modern way. The focus is on elegant and innovative presentation, a leading theme that complements the concept of the hotel as a whole. It is a modern and stimulating place to socialise, relax, dream and celebrate. With uninterrupted views over the first basin of Lake Como, Terrazza 241 offers a unique location from which to admire the panorama.
Photo (Brush Mag's own) : Cod with yellow pepper sauce, crispy onion & foraged herbs from the lake
Q. What is the secret to running a successful restaurant in a hotel?
I don’t really have any secrets. I think that what allows me to successfully manage the restaurant is definitely the support of my team as without them I could not achieve any goals. I like to put myself firmly in the centre of our team and like the mentality that hard work will achieve results whilst still having some fun and enjoying each day as much as possible. In the kitchen, I like to foster a warm, down to earth environment where my team's input is always welcome. When it comes to our diners, for us, there is no distinction between hotel guests and external guests, in fact our aim is always to ensure a unique experience however long our guests are staying.
Photo (Brush Mag's own): Dessert, Tomato sorbet and cannoli
Q. How is the location (Lake Como) reflected in the food you serve at the hotel?
Lake Como is the centrepiece of our diners experience and the primary source of inspiration for the realisation of the menu, for example I decided to utilise locally foraged herbs from the lake within the cold pasta dish on our summer menu to personally pay homage to the lake.
Q. We’ve heard that your hotel is popular all year round. How do you adapt the menu to the changing of the seasons and can you tell us when is a good time to visit Como outside of the summer season?
The menu is created with strict respect for seasonality and fresh ingredients. Each season, inspired by the produce available, I create a new culinary proposal for guests. I would say that every season is perfect for visiting Lake Como. During spring and autumn the mild temperatures allow you to practice water sports, to escape the city for a long weekend while enjoying the fresh air of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Winter is perfect for those who like to take in the magic of Christmas with the family, or to enjoy the romantic atmosphere of the lake with a loved one.
Q. How do you see the hotel & restaurant scene changing over the next decade?
In my opinion, in the next few years, people will increasingly be looking for dishes that evoke the territory in which the restaurant is situated, i.e. prepared with local products and linked to tradition. At the same time, the trend is to try more and more refined dishes that satisfy the palate as well as the eye.
Q. What are the highlights of Hilton Lake Como and the Hilton Brand as a whole?
I appreciate this question because there are so many answers! Hilton Lake Como is a wonderful place where my heart and soul feels satisfied. The beauty of the lake, the architecture, the breathtaking view that you can enjoy from our beautiful Terrazza 241 are a constant source of inspiration, but in addition to the beauty of this fantastic hotel what makes it truly exceptional are the people who work there. The team is the engine room of the hotel that pushes it forward by always giving their best.
Photo Left: Chef Alessandro Ramella; Right Vincenzo Sulmona, Rooftop Manager making signature cocktail
Thanks to Chef Alessandro Ramella
for taking part in this interview
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Hilton Lake Como
Via Borgo Vico 241