In an interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM Andrea Luri, the General Manager of CastaDiva Resort & Spa on Lake Como, has spoken about the novelties guests can expect this year, including the collaboration with Chef Gennaro Esposito.
1. What motivated you to partner with Chef Gennaro Esposito? Why him?
2015 was an exceptional year for CastaDiva, we were fortunate enough to perform beyond our expectations both economically and in terms of Guest satisfaction. In October I felt that we had achieved one of our goals which was to consolidate the position of CastaDiva in the niche it belongs and that we could move on to the next phase which is to concentrate on delivering an outstanding performance in the quality of our F&B offer. Up to last year we were at the same level of many other 5 star deluxe resorts in terms of gastronomical experience so of course we felt the urge to stand out. This is why I turned to Gennaro Esposito. I am sure he is the perfect fit for us: the style of his cuisine is genuine with fresh and flavorful ingredients. There is not even a hint of the molecular gastronomy – very popular, but so distant from what are the expectations on Italian food, but most of all Gennaro is the incarnation of the Mediterranean cooking.
2. How will the collaboration be implemented? Do you still keep your Executive Chef
Our agreement is not a classic consulting gig where Gennaro puts his name on the restaurant and then never shows up. I honestly would not have accepted these terms and Gennaro is the sort of perfectionist which also would have been contrary to just branding an outlet. So, the collaboration is heavily based on his presence in CastaDiva. He has stayed quite a long time with us prior to the opening to train the staff – both kitchen and service- and his presence is certainly necessary because a hotel is largely different from a restaurant. Here we are open 24 hours 7 days a week and food is not only served in the restaurant. Gennaro also takes care of room service, bar, and external catering, making sure that all that we offer is of the highest level and worthy of a 2 michelin star Chef, from breakfast all the way to the snacks you will find in the minibar.
To help him in this task Gennaro has brought with him 3 excellent professionals Massimiliano Mandozzi, our Resident Chef, Elnava DeRosa our Pastry Chef and Paolo Paciaroni our Sous Chef who also creates all of our bread. These three bright chefs have a quality which I am always happy to find in any individual, they love their job which makes them very proactive
3. Chef Esposito already runs a two Michelin starred restaurant near Naples. What shall we expect from his menu at Casta Diva?
We will obviously see the style and recognize his hand. However we are focused on creating a different menu from the one he serves in La Torre del Saracino.
4. Tell us about the ingredients Chef Esposito will be using.
Ingredients will obviously be fresh and flavorful; dishes will be composed with products which ideally shall come from the area, except for those necessary ingredients which cannot be found locally.
5. What are your expectations from the partnership with Chef Esposito? To what extent you expect to attract local patrons for the restaurant?
We have very high expectations. Of course I see a potential in increasing revenue not only at the restaurant but in all our outlets, though one of our objectives for 2017 is the Michelin star. I am certain that we now have the right team on board to achieve it. As far as local patrons are concerned we are already seeing the benefit of this partnership: despite we have been open for the season for only a month we have had a spike in transient Guests and the feedback is extremely positive.
6. Your Spa is part of your unique selling proposition. Tell us more about the novelties for the 2016 season.
Indeed we are fortunate enough to have the most unique spa on Lake Como we have 4 spa suites themed after the four elements: water, air, fire and earth which are uniquely designed and available for couple treatments, equally marvelous is or heat experience which offers a huge indoor pool, a design award winning Turkish bath, Sauna, Mediterranean bath, Kneipp experience, a selection of emotional showers and an incredible salt room where blocks of salt are micronized through the air.
We therefore needed to couple this astonishing offer with product lines of very high level and chose Sodashi which offers a range of products that work holistically to nurture the skin and enhance overall wellbeing. La Vallée is another partner and is an esteemed Swiss brand, deemed as a skin expert using natural botanical ingredients for which CastaDiva SPA is the exclusive distributor in Italy. Aromatherapy is our third partner, a truly British brand, specialised in harnessing the natural healing powers of the finest natural ingredients, so as you can see the hidden theme is natural and organic.
7. What is the profile of your guests? What is the split by nationality.
We have a relatively young age bracket, our guests are on average between 35 and 55 and between these two age groups run two completely different worlds to which we have to cater and as we continue moving forward we have to anticipate and adapt to what tomorrow’s market will be like. This is an advantage of being small: economies of scale are totally different and we can afford the luxury of being flexible and fast. What is seen as luxury today is something that will be expected minimum standard tomorrow.
As far as nationalities go, our largest is US immediately followed by Russia, UK, GCC, Germany and France. We are investing heavily on what are new markets for Lake Como such as India and China so much that we actually opened a temporary restaurant in Mumbay last year in winter which is paying off very well.
8. Which are the various types of vacations discerning guests can opt for at Casta Diva?
Today’s traveler has a completely different focus while on vacation compared to how things used to be even only 20 years ago. Our clientele is certainly rich in money but poor in time, so we see a relatively short average stay (4 nights) and a Guest which is avidly seeking to pack in as many experiences possible in this little time.
The days in which guests would lounge around the property looking at the scenery are over, so we offer various experiences which cater to different tastes. These range from spa days to cooking classes, to whiskey and wine tastings to excursions, to shopping in Milan, Como and Lugano, to taking a hydroplane at the resort’s pier and flying to St Moritz for the day, and of course, being surrounded by mountains there are a number of trails which the more active folk can follow, one thing which is very popular are our event seminars where we have our resident butlers hold sessions on how to host dinners, cocktails, luncheons, teas, etc where we not only provide advice on how and what food to prepare and pair it with wines and spirits, but also suggest table styling, flowers all the way down to the dress code. This year we also have our own boat which offers boat tours during day and dinners on board during the evening. There really is no chance to get bored with everything you can do, though I always suggest our Guests that for one day they really should do nothing and let our staff pamper them!
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