La Festa Italiana

La Festa Italiana

The month of September takes on an Italian flavor at the Four Seasons hotel


Originally published on on August 2009


Tokyo hotels are known for their creative promotions, but it’s safe to say that none has ever involved a Lamborghini test drive, tableside opera, or a menu based on the historical research of a leading chef. Yet all that and more—lots more—is in store at La Festa Italiana, a month-long celebration of cuisine, art and culture at the opulent Four Seasons hotel in Chinzan-so.

The event originated as a tie-up with the Italian Embassy in Tokyo, which is holding its own autumn-themed festival during the first week of September. But thanks largely to the efforts of Leonardo Di Clemente, the executive chef at the Four Seasons’ flagship Il Teatro restaurant, La Festa Italiana has grown into a wide-ranging series of activities spread out over the entire month.

That someone who is more familiar with a saucepan than a spreadsheet could oversee an event involving more than two dozen sponsors and food-related promotions, plus art exhibits, film screenings and concerts, is surprising to many—not least Di Clemente himself.

“It was a little bit challenging because a lot of this was so new to me,” the boyish chef tells Metropolis. “But at the same time, it was a good chance to learn something new.”


As you might expect of an event organized by a chef, La Festa Italiana is heavily focused on food. Di Clemente has enlisted the talents of his counterparts from the Four Seasons’ two Italian properties, in Milan and Florence, for a series of regionally focused menus throughout the month.

First up, however, Di Clemente himself takes a turn showcasing the flavors of his native Puglia. Although Il Teatro features dishes from the region throughout the year, Puglia Week (Sep 1-9) will be given over to more traditional—and personal—recipes from Italy’s Adriatic coast. Highlights include fava bean soup, orchiette with mussels and sea urchin sauce (above), and cuttlefish stew with spicy ricotta cheese (¥7,000 lunch/¥16,000 dinner).

“This is the kind of food my mother cooks for me when I go back home,” says the chef.

The following event, Tuscany Week (Sep 10-16), highlights regional classics alongside the wines of Pisan vintners Marchesi Ginori. On the menu at lunch (¥7,000) and dinner (¥16,000) is panzanella tortino with mozzarella and smoked duck, steamed scampi cacciucco, and a trio of dishes beloved by Tuscan composer Giacomo Puccini.

“People at Marchesi Ginori mentioned that Puccini liked [their] wines,” Di Clemente says. “So I started to study a little bit about what kind of food he liked as well.” The chef’s research led him to recreate favorites like braised pigeon and sbrisolona crumb cake with rum and dark chocolate cream.

For the festival’s final two weeks (Sep 17-30), the hotel welcomes Sebastiano Spriveri, the renowned chef from Il Teatro’s namesake restaurant in Milan. Menus at lunch (¥7,000) and dinner (¥18,000) promise “sophisticated Milanese flavors,” which Spriveri will also demonstrate in a cooking class on September 17. Gourmands and students alike can enjoy eggplant parmesan with basil-tomato fondue and red tuna tagliata with capers, orange and buffalo mozzarella.

Diners on a more limited budget will still find a lot to look forward to. Lobby lounge Le Jardin offers up a ¥3,000 lunch with signature dishes from the Milan hotel’s La Veranda restaurant, as well as a platter of cold cuts (¥3,000 with wine) and a pair of dessert sets (¥1,200). The casual Seasons Bistro will also feature menus from La Veranda (¥4,800/¥6,800), and even Japanese restaurant Miyuki is getting into the spirit—the “Tricolor” lunch (¥5,000) boasts the red (tuna steak), white (fish carpaccio) and green (matcha soba) of the Italian flag. Other food-related events include a mozzarella cheese making demonstration (Sep 4), a dessert cooking class (Sep 22) and an “Italian Cinematic Cocktail Collection” at Le Marquis bar.

But food is only part of the story at La Festa Italiana. “The main idea is to make the guests feel like they are part of the culture,” Di Clemente says. “You go from the lobby to the restaurants and anywhere else—the feeling is all about Italy.”

Greeting visitors at the hotel’s entrance will be a gleaming Lamborghini, which overnight guests on a special accommodation plan can take for an hour-long spin. The Four Seasons Gallery will host fashion exhibits and a Nicola Guarini photo show, and an event celebrating the late actress Audrey Hepburn’s 80th birthday includes a screening of Roman Holiday, a display of antique Vespa scooters, and a special dinner on September 21.

“I’ve been in Tokyo for three years, and I’ve never seen this kind of event,” Di Clemente says. “It will be nice to show Japanese people all about Italy—authentic Italy.”

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so. 2-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku. Tel: 03-3943-2222. Nearest stn: Edogawabashi (Yurakucho line).

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so. 2-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku. For more information about La Festa Italiana, call 03-3943-2222.

805-DS-lp560_4_spyder01The highlight of La Festa Italiana festivities promises to be the gala dinner on Friday, Sep 18. Executive Chef Sebastiano Spriveri from the Four Seasons in Milan will present a five-course feast accompanied by trio of opera performers. Guests will be eligible for a truly deluxe prize: round-trip airfare to Italy, three nights’ accommodation at the Four Seasons’ hotels in Milan and Florence, tickets to La Scala, and a city tour in a new Ferrari.