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Massimo Bottura reveals the emotional story behind his new Dubai restaurant Torno Subito

Words by Rob Chilton

Childhood holidays spent eating gelato in Rimini were the inspiration for the star Italian chef

Massimo Bottura is smiling and remembering a treasured polo shirt he wore as a kid. “It was sky blue and it had ‘Sea Wolf’ written on the front,” he laughs. “I wore matching blue Bermuda shorts and white Adidas trainers that I was crazy about. Oh, you’re really taking me back to those times now…!”

Bottura, the acclaimed chef whose restaurant Osteria Francescana in his hometown Modena, Italy has had three Michelin stars since 2011, is reminiscing about childhood holidays in Rimini on Italy’s Adriatic coast. These trips with his mother and sister in the late 1960s are filled with memories of beaches and gelato and acted as the starting point for Bottura’s new Dubai restaurant.

Bold colours at Torno Subito

“I asked myself, what was the happiest period of my life? The answer was having fun on the seaside in Rimini in the summertime. Those memories were the inspiration for this concept.”

The concept Bottura is talking about is Torno Subito at W Dubai - The Palm, a mad, colourful, sunny restaurant with giant beach balls hanging from the ceiling. The name comes from the message Italian shopkeepers would place on their shop door when taking a break: ‘I’ll be right back.’

Bottura greets diners at Torno Subito

“Rimini was glamorous, it was [the movie director, Federico] Fellini, the Grand Hotel, and everybody got really dressed up for dinner,” recalls Bottura. “I ate gelato constantly – three times a day. There were only four or five flavours: lemon, strawberry, chocolate, pistachio, hazelnut. Guys would walk on the beach with a trolley, calling out ‘Gelato, gelato!’. We always hoped he would have our favourite flavours.”

Bottura stops and looks around Torno Subito and smiles again. “They tried to force us into a very dark, low light style of Dubai restaurant,” he explains. “I really hate that kind of stuff. I wanted to create something that reminded me of where I came from and who I am – a place with colour, fun and excitement where everyone feels comfortable.”

Giant beach balls on Torno Subito's beach terrace

Along with his black New Balance sneakers, Bottura is wearing a black polo shirt and black sweater from Gucci. On the left cuff is an embroidered bee and his initials MB. Bottura is old school friends with Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzarri and has become pals with the brand’s visionary creative director Alessandro Michele.

“The first time we met, it was shocking in a good way,” says Bottura of the designer. “I saw that he was doing with fashion what I was doing with food, it was exactly the same. He was keeping the past but bringing it into the future.”

Bottura attends Gucci's fashion show at Paris Fashion Week

In January they will collaborate on a new restaurant, Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura on a terrace above the Gucci store on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Fashion designers, Michelin stars and Rodeo Drive – Massimo Bottura’s come a long way from eating gelato on a beach as a kid.

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