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After 50 years of Preparing, Da Vittorio Arrives in Saigon’s Dining Scene

Can any country go toe to toe with the regional variety, complex flavors and multitude of ingredients found in Vietnamese cuisine? Italy may be one of few able to do so and one of its most celebrated restaurants is poised to open in the center of Saigon. Da Vittorio provides the city with a rare Michelin pedigree.

Bergamo, a town of 110,000 people about 40km northeast of Milan, is known as a well-rounded epicurean paradise famous for its cheese, meat, and desserts. It proved to be the perfect incubator for Vittorio Cerea, who, on April 6, 1966, opened the doors to Ristorante Da Vittorio on the town’s outskirts.

During the last 50 years, the restaurant has earned three Michelin stars and brought authentic Italian culinary heritage to eateries across the globe, including in Switzerland, Shanghai and now Saigon.

Potato and Mushroom Cappuccino with Black Truffle, Mini Savory Croissant.

Since its first day, Da Vittorio has been a family business in terms of staffing and character. While family members hold senior positions throughout the company, they are supplemented by other like-minded individuals who represent the brand abroad. In Saigon, this is Chef Matteo Fontana who has been working in Michelin standard eateries such as Le Cirque throughout his career and now serves as an unofficial culinary ambassador between Italy and Vietnam.

Chef Matteo Fontana.

Chef Fontana leads the kitchen at Da Vittorio Saigon which is housed within The Reverie Saigon - a partnership made possible by shared values and passions for food. Hailing from Milan, Fontana’s work has taken him across the world and he sees each stop as an opportunity to expand his professional horizons. When he arrived in Vietnam this April, he spent nearly two months traveling across the country to learn more about what ingredients could be used to execute his ambitious menu which changes twice per year. Fontana speaks almost daily with other chefs in the company to keep a general standardization of Da Vittorio’s offerings. But each branch is encouraged to add subtle local flairs when determining which dishes to create.

Pan Seared Black Cod, Pumpkin Crème Brulee, Wild Mushroom Broth (left). Mediterranean Turbot, Coconut, Caviars, Rucola Infused Oil (right).

Though most of the ingredients at Da Vittorio Saigon are imported, whenever possible Fontana relies on local fruits, vegetables and herbs to supplement the Mediterranean langoustines, Royal Oscietra Caviar and other delicate morsels brought in from abroad.

Langoustine, Beetroot, Burrata (left). Egg "à la Egg" with Superior Oscietra Caviar (right).

The restaurant's signature dish, “Vittorio” style Paccheri Pasta relies on fresh tomatoes for its sauce. While specialty pelatti tomatoes from Puglia in southern Italy are used to start it, Chef Fontana was delighted to find sweet yellow and red tomatoes on his travels to Da Lat which are added towards the end of the preparation to bring out bright flavors that balance the dish.

“Vittorio” style Paccheri Pasta.

Beyond the food, the ambiance is a key element of the refined but relaxed experience at Da Vittorio Saigon. A plethora of highly-trained staff who know every detail about each dish and bottle of wine available help set a comfortable mood. Rather than standing in the shadows or being overly attentive, they are active participants in the journey, adding color and context to each item served. Additionally, they go over the top to make dining at Da Vittorio Saigon special, making wine pairing recommendations and bringing out perhaps the highlight of anything to come out of a bottle (at least for this writer): 30-year-old balsamic vinegar hand-carried from Italy.

Private booth at Da Vittorio Saigon.

Da Vittorio Saigon isn’t meant to replace the many casual Italian eateries that dot the city nor contend with local Vietnamese food. It is instead for those looking to celebrate a special occasion or simply spoil themselves with an experience that Saigoneers would have previously had to take a flight to another country to enjoy.

Tiramisu’ in The Chocolate Sphere, Dark Chocolate and Kahlua Sauce (left). Passion Fruit Semifreddo, Coconut Ice Cream, Bourbon Vanilla Sponge (right).

The entrance to Da Vittorio Saigon.