- United Arab Emirates: Saturday, June 08 - 2002 at 12:21
Dubai's best Italian restaurant is probably the new BiCE at the Hilton Jumeirah beach, part of the worldwide BiCE chain. 'The name is actually the short name for my mother Beatrice,' says president of BiCE Roberto Ruggeri.
'Then in the mid-1980s Italian fashion went international with the big names like Armani and Versace, and that meant that a few people from the US came to eat in our restaurant. Some of them suggested that we should open a restaurant in the States so we opened in New York in 1987.
'For me the USA really proved to be the land of opportunity. We had done nothing for 60 years and suddenly we were expanding to Chicago, San Francisco, and Palm Beach. We now have 22 restaurants in the USA and from there we have moved on to Moscow, Paris, London, Tokyo, Santiago de Chile and many more cities. It has been amazing'.
Last October BiCE opened in Dubai's Hilton Jumeirah Beach. 'It is not difficult to export Italian food,' says Mr. Ruggeri. 'Everyone knows pizza and pasta. It travels well. We pioneered a new type of light non-fat, grilled cooking, and we keep on experimenting with new fusion concepts, expect to see Italian with latino spices soon'.
Perhaps it is not surprising that BiCE Dubai is already expanding, and a Sky Bar of BiCE will shortly grace the top floor of the hotel, and the present BiCE restaurant is extending on to the terrace.
'I am a big convert to the Middle East,' says Mr. Ruggeri. 'Dubai is like something I never thought I would see in my life. My friends who come here are always so impressed with this town, and I really feel that in five years' time it will be one of the top resorts in the world'.
Mr. Ruggeri also hopes to take BiCE to Abu Dhabi and has just returned from a fact finding trip to Jeddah. But he expects to stay with the Hilton group in Dubai. 'I just hope that they build something on Palm Island,' he says looking out to sea at the construction project emerging from the Gulf waters.
'We are very pleased that 70% of our client base in BiCE Dubai is from outside the hotel. That means that we are making a reputation and that people are prepared to travel to experience our food'.
But life is not always easy for this purveyor of the Italian good life. His seven restaurants in New York City saw tables empty after September 11th with business down 80%, and he was forced to lay off staff. 'It is now almost back to normal,' he says. 'Though more Americans are staying at home, and we do not get the European travelers'.
Nonetheless, Mr. Ruggeri has discovered the Middle East in this difficult period, and is delighted with his newest market. So expect to hear and see, and hopefully taste a good deal more of BiCE in the near future.
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