The Assisi, Perugia, native landed at Eden Roc in 2018 and hasn’t had much time to travel since. “The hotel was really busy, I worked the pandemic time, then the flights were closed,” he says.
His first opportunity to venture out was The Little Nell’s new festival, where he joined a roster of stellar Relais & Châteaux chefs (including Zachary Ladwig from The Inn at Dos Brisas near Houston and Josh Holt from Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego) to cook up three days of meals in the mountain town. Some of Venturini’s most memorable fest bites came from his oyster bar, where he topped fresh bivalves with sweet watermelon and ginger sauce, flavor-popping basil and coconut sauce, and a delightfully refreshing gin and tonic granité.
The oysters showcased Venturini’s less-is-more cooking philosophy, which he also employs at the Mediterranean-inspired restaurants at Eden Roc, a boutique jewel of a hotel tucked inside the exclusive Cap Cana enclave.
He also uses this philosophy to guide the hotel’s new wellness program, Eden Roc’s Lifestyle. The program integrates wellness into each experience, including exercise (there are HIIT, tai chi, dancing and yoga classes), self-care (meditation and skincare classes) and nutrition — which is where Venturini brings in local, sustainable ingredients and leaves zero waste. The wellness dinner menu, for example, offers dishes like buckwheat gnocchi with pea cream, vegetable curry laksa, and a strawberry and lime tart with a macadamia nut crust for dessert.
Venturini sat down with us to discuss wellness, why simple food is better for society and how living on a Caribbean island helps you think better about the needs of our environment.
How would you describe your food?
Simplicity. I mean, this is the keyword. A lot of chefs are mixing a lot of flavors, they are mixing a lot of techniques. I think the guests want to come back to simplicity. Simplicity is really difficult. With simplicity, the margin of error is very high. You can’t cover the error. That’s why I think that you have to put value in the product and make sure with the new and modern technique, people can still taste the flavor.
How do you think the pandemic is shaping fine-dining restaurants?
We’re really into using local farmers much more than before, and it’s back to simplicity in the dishes.
This will be very good for the next couple of years for our sustainability. And I’m very happy that all the restaurants, gourmet and Michelin, around the world are working on this because this will be the beginning of [a new approach on] how to build restaurants.
It will be the new trend overall for society. It’s time to change and go back to nature. When I came to the Dominican Republic, I really understood we have to respect nature. We have to respect what we receive from the ground. This is really important.
What makes Eden Roc Cap Cana so special?
People who arrive here are so happy to enjoy a quiet place, the simple food and the high quality we give to them. And we have all of this open space.
After the pandemic, people really appreciated our property. Our property was busy for the last four months. People are discovering a new way of balanced life. And Eden Roc can give them this type of balance because we have an amazing spot, amazing food, you can play golf on amazing courses, and Cap Cana is an amazing place to live. A lot of guests want to buy property.
Tell us about the new wellness program.
At La Palapa, the restaurant on the beach and the busiest restaurant at the resort, we try to make a Mediterranean bistro with a lot of fresh pasta and fresh fish, and a lot of salads because we have a wellness program. We are working on this with our spa.
We give the guests the [opportunity to participate in] our wellness program on the menu combined with spa treatments and spa activities. Our spa is very active on the daily activities part as well.
We are the ambassador of Wellness Day in the Dominican Republic. [Recently,] we had Wellness Day in Cap Cana with like 2,000 people coming. It was an amazing program of two days, like 20 activities a day.
What else are you working on at Eden Roc?
We are working on a new look and feel for Blue Bar + Grill, and a new Mediterraneo menu for the season. I have a new chef who is coming from Don Alfonso, a three Michelin star in Italy. We are going to push the [envelope] on the restaurant. It will be something different.
When you aren’t cooking, what do you like to do on the island?
Beach. I don’t have a lot of time to go [out], but when I’m stressed or tired, I take my car and we go with the kids to Macao, this amazing wild beach [on the northern end of the Punta Cana region]. Sometimes I go surfing. And with my kids, I spend my time there until the sunset.
Las Terrenas is in the north of the country. It’s a touristic place but still very wild. And it has an amazing beach — super wide and a nice spot to take a beer or cocktail. I can relax like this.
It was always my dream to come to a Caribbean island to spend my life, and I am so happy I could bring my kids. It’s an amazing present for them at this age. They are 4 and 7 and can spend their youth in the Dominican Republic.
Before coming here, I was in Milan, London, Paris. I think it’s better for kids to grow in a place like this so they can understand what is nature, what is a balanced life. Then after they have time to go to a stressed and busy city.
Where are you traveling to next?
I go back to Europe in August. We will travel around Europe — Germany, France.
What’s on your post-pandemic bucket list?
Japan. Next year — if everything is okay — I will take three weeks and go with my family.
Japan is something that I’m missing and really want to try because it’s important for my background. I am a little bit [disappointed] I did not have the [chance] to work in Japan. I think this will be a great experience for me.
What are your favorite food cities?
In Europe, I like London and Paris. Even Nice.
If you want variety and something new, you have to go to London and Milan. Milan has a lot of concepts, and every month it opens new restaurants. It’s very strange for Italy because Italy is not like this. But Milan, after the [2015 World Expo], grew a lot.
In Asia, I like Hong Kong—it’s an amazing city for eating. There’s a lot of choices. In the USA, I think New York and Miami are the best.
What are the must-try dishes for first-time Eden Roc visitors?
Go to La Palapa and if you want Dominican dishes, you have to try the boca de chica, a super-fresh snapper with avocado and plantain chips. It’s amazing.
Then I suggest you try our pasta in La Palapa because we are really into this, and it’s super high-quality, simple food. See the sunset and enjoy our Mediterranean menu.