It’s no secret there are a plethora of superlative restaurants to dine at in Dubai, but finding something that has a family-like feel to it can be a rarity.
Bella restaurant, which launched late last year, is one such restaurant that guarantees exceptional Italian cuisine, also delivering excellent dishes and service, which comes from classic Italian hospitality creating a true homegrown ambience.
Leading the way in exceptional service is Bella’s restaurant manager Stefano Bassanese. Putting himself at the heart of the restaurant, Bassanese ensures his guests don’t just have dinner, they have an entire dining experience from the moment they walk through the door, to the moment it’s time to leave.
As he says, at the foundation of the job which he and his team embody are “integrity, values and culture”
Emirates Woman sat down with Bassanese to discover the true essence of Bella and what it truly takes to succeed in creating an exceptional dining experience from start to finish.
Can you talk us through your career history?
It is safe to say that hospitality runs in my blood. Four generations before me ran a family restaurant. I was born with a white jacket and black pants – that’s what the waiters traditionally wore in the late 1970s when I first walked through the door of my family’s restaurant.
I then travelled all over the world and worked on four different continents for some of the most prestigious brands in the hospitality industry.
What inspired you to go into the F&B industry?
Since 1977 I started to spend my summers and my school holidays with my father and his waiters in their white jackets and black pants. I was extremely impressed with the beauty of the service, starting from the silver cutlery, the wine poured in the crystal glasses and linen tablecloths.
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What do you love about what you do?
I love Bella because my team and I put in place the foundation of this job which are: integrity, values and culture. Every decision is made following the sense of what will make the guest feel welcome at Bella.
What eventually brought you to Dubai?
Even with businesses in Italy, in 1998 I started to travel the world, following my wife Lorena, who in 1996 won the Best Hairdresser in the World Championship. From there 20 years have passed on three different continents and now I’m discovering the fourth one.
How does the food and beverage industry here differ from other places around the world?
I think a substantial difference doesn’t exist because it is about emotions. I know that working in different outlets with Italian cuisine and everything that belongs to Italy is in one way or another fascinating to everyone around the world, as it is the most diverse country that exists.
Bella opened late last year. Can you talk us through the story behind the restaurant?
Named after its owner, Bella is Dubai’s ultimate Italian dining destination. Traditional and caring in terms of service, contemporary in its interpretation of the popular culinary fare, bold and disruptive in its atmosphere. Bella is an infatuating social hotspot with unrivalled views over the Dubai Canal, the city skyline and iconic Burj Khalifa.
With its relaxed yet elegant décor, Bella pays tribute to great Italian classics infused with light Asian influences.
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What sets Bella apart from other restaurants in Dubai?
Bella is a constant imperfect outlet, every day, with passion and enthusiasm, we are improving, with the hope, one day, to achieve perfection.
What are the hero dishes, in your opinion, at Bella?
All the ingredients are protagonists and the hero of our dishes and what makes them special is the preparation made with passion in our kitchen by our chefs and finishing them in front of the guests. Giving an extra touch that personalizes the culinary journey, giving the guest the feeling of being back in the ’80s.
What has it been like opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic?
It is in challenging periods that we are called to give our very best, to reinvent ourselves, and in these moments, magic can happen. A rainbow of unexpected opportunities are often born during important times, in fact … BELLA was born! Our aim will be to create memories, special moments for our guests to treasure always. We want to bring care and love back into the game, placing our guests at the centre of the conversation and making sure Bella becomes that haven of comfort and joy, like a home away from home!
What does a typical day at Bella look like for you?
No two days are alike for me, although there are definitely a few things that are part of my daily routine. Every morning begins by monitoring the reviews our guests leave on TripAdvisor – it’s my addiction. I like to see how Bella is doing and address anything negative asap. Because of my role at Bella, I often see my name appear in the reviews and thankfully, they’re usually great, which gives me a bounce in my step for the day ahead.
The first and probably most important meeting of the day, a meeting with Abigail our CRM to go through bookings – we like to make sure everyone is well looked after at Bella, so if there’s a special occasion, we want that guest to feel like royalty. I then go to Chef Alessandro, to tell him that I love him, this isn’t a joke. Our relationship is incredible. We are the perfect duo & have worked together for years. Of course, things can get intense during service, but we tell each other we love each other every day – then he tells me to leave his kitchen!
The rest of the day is a balance of meetings with my team and then spending time on the floor for service. I still get nervous even now, it’s the nicest feeling to welcome new guests like they are our long-lost families! That special touch of magic is what people love about Bella most.
What are the hurdles you’ve experienced during your career?
Navigating in the F&B and hospitality industry with the difficulties that Covid-19 has presented has been the most challenging hurdle of my career, but it gave me an opportunity to learn to adapt to every obstacle. They say you are never too old to learn new skills and learning to adapt operations in line with government restrictions to keep both my team and our guests safe whilst enjoying their experience at Bella, has been both challenging and rewarding at the same time.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum, what are the milestones?
The greatest honour in my career was being appointed a Knight of the Italian Republic. This distinction was for special merit in the promotion of friendly relations and cooperation between Hong Kong and Italy and the promotion of ties with Italy. This appointment was given by the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.
What do you see next for Bella Dubai?
Bella is just getting started. In the coming months, we will be introducing a new experience for our guests in the Bella Lounge with a full entertainment program. Alongside this, we will soon be opening Bella’s Private Dining Room with bespoke experiences with Chef Alessandro Miceli. This “secret room” will only be available for a select number of guests a few days a week and will be a completely customized experience for them, giving them a culinary experience that they will only be able to get at Bella.
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Images: Bella Restaurant Instagram