The Netherlands: a journey into Italian flavours – our interview with Nicoletta Tavella

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Born and raised in Italy, Nicoletta Tavella moved to Amsterdam 31 years ago and today she is a well-known chef and F&B; personality in the Netherlands. From 8 to 10 January 2018, the self-taught chef and founder of Amsterdam-based cooking school “La Cucina del Sole” ( “The Sunny Kitchen” in English), will be at Bellavita Expo Amsterdam to run workshops and live culinary demonstrations. In this interview, we asked Nicoletta her point of view on the latest trends in Italian cuisine and the evolution of Italy’s F&B; products in the Netherlands.

What are the bestselling Italian products in the Netherlands?
Pasta thanks to its simplicity, speed and versatility. Also prosecco has become very popular in the past few years, a real boom… and then coffee – it was terrible when I first arrived! But now you can have a good quality espresso and cappuccino pretty much everywhere, especially in big cities. In addition, Dutch consumers love our cheese: parmesan, mozzarella and gorgonzola are the most popular but burrata is also in high demand.

What are the culinary trends that have grown the most over the years?
There has been a desire to go back to authentic and genuine food, with inspirations from all over the world, including Italy. Healthy and balanced cuisine is a huge trend right now and the Mediterranean diet is perfect in that sense. I have witnessed a true discovery of olive oil and its beneficial properties, not just as condiment but as an ingredient to cook with. Also organic F&B; is gaining popularity at more attainable prices, both in the GDO and in specialised shops and restaurants.

How are Italian cuisine and F&B; perceived in the Netherlands?
I have noticed a great evolution in the perception of Italian cuisine and its variety. When I first came to Amsterdam 31 years ago, many people had never eaten olives and I still remember the first time I made gnocchi and offered prosecco to my students – everything was a big novelty! Nowadays there is more knowledge of our products, also thanks to the trips and holidays the Dutch often spend in Italy. The next step is to educate the public around the origin and regionality of each product, linking the culinary experiences people have on their travels with the dishes and specialities they can now also recreate at home.

Why are you returning to Bellavita Expo and what are you expecting to find?
I enjoy promoting and educating people on our cuisine, not just in my workshops but also in collaboration with other chefs and organisations, and Bellavita is the perfect platform to do so. At this edition of the event I am hoping to find more organic products and I look forward to discovering new regional products with clear labels and “green” certifications.