Between one meeting and another during our last visit in Singapore, we managed to have a lunch together with Dalila Cecchetti, F&B group manager for her family restaurant with three venues spread throughout south east Asia.
Sitting down in front of a table set with Italian delicacies, her place Italian Osteria has the cozy atmosphere that you can easily find in local places in Italy; she shared with us her story and how her life, career and everyday reality changed while moving to Asia.
How did you get started?
Once I was told I was responsible, curious and friendly, three characteristics you can’t miss if you work in a restaurant. But of course, it’s not just it. It is also a family thing: a work and tradition started from my grandad and passed down to my mum and then me.
At the beginning I wasn’t working in the family business, then few years back my mum decided to start her business and moved to Singapore, opening up the first of the three restaurants we have now. I was the last one to move to Asia, I arrived here four years ago, and it was a big step for me both in my career and life, starting to work for my family and creating a new routine on the other side of the world.
Because Asia, especially few years ago, was a virgin market expanding and growing continuously, offering good opportunities to the ones eager to build up something.
The key is to understand the market, target the possibilities and offer something that is missing in the place. And this is what my mum did.
She arrived when Italian food with the concept of a more low-key approach was not so popular here. Singapore is filled up with fine dining and fancy places, so we decided to focus more on the real concept that is at the basis of our cuisine: authenticity.
The concept of an Osteria is a powerful and unique piece of Italian history and heritage.
To this end, our place is proud to have brought this great Italian tradition to Singapore, allowing customers to sample and experience the aroma and atmosphere of an authentic Italian Osteria with a few modern tweaks. A truly convivial location for family and friends to gather.
We offer regional cuisine with simple recipes, freshly homemade bakery and pasta, without making compromises with the local taste.
We want to act as Italian ambassadors, also by importing in Asia products from local producers that are too small to export on their own and we help them out…there are so many goodies!
You also opened two places in Thailand, what do you find different from Singapore?
Well, in Thailand the education and knowledge about food and wine is still very behind, the restaurants are mainly for foreigners and tourists and everything revolves around aesthetics and appearance. As a consequence, it is hard to establish a real relation with customers and have a feedback... they rarely express themselves.
In Singapore, the response of the clients to changes is faster and they have better preparation in terms of cuisine and different concepts of kitchen.
The struggle is that they have a thing for complain and sometimes it is very difficult to deal with that, in order to make them happy on one side and stick to our philosophy on the other.
The positive (and sometimes underestimated) aspect of this is having feedbacks, no matter if good or bad, that make us improve and strive for the best.
What do you like about your job?
I think the most fulfilling thing is being the spokesman of italianity and a point of reference here in Singapore. I want to make people understand how to approach the genuine cuisine we have here, bringing them closer to our reality.
I like establishing relations, with my clients, my suppliers and my partners; developing the business by founding and choosing small companies’ products to export …it keeps the bond with my culture alive.
Besides all of this, you also have a 100% Italian wine list …How did your interest in wine started?
When I was a student I started working in an Enoteca to scratch up some money. The owner was a nice couple, very young and with a strong passion and knowledge of wines.
They introduced me different labels, grapes and flavors and I became like a walking encyclopedia!
How did you meet with Keti and Certa?
A supplier we had in common told Keti to come and try the restaurant, so she came here on a Sunday, after a meeting she finished very late.
As soon as she stood foot in, she said she felt like home, that the place reminded her about family time… this is the best compliment we could get!
She sat down on a table in the coziest corner and we ended up having food, drinking wine and talking as if we have been knowing for ages!
And once again I had the proof that human relations make the difference, in business and in life!