Food | The Captain’s Table

Alessandro Benetton’s dining boltholes

Alessandro Benetton is executive deputy chairman of Benetton Group SpA, which has 6,000 stores in 120 countries and a turnover of €2bn. He is also chairman and founder of the merchant bank 21 Investimenti SpA.

December 15 2009
Damian Foxe

“Most of my dining experience, when I am not travelling for business, is at our clubhouse close to Treviso. Our HQ is based around the 16th-century Villa Minelli and the clubhouse is located in the old kitchens, overlooking a walled garden of pomegranate trees. There are different dining rooms so we can entertain and still maintain that feeling of welcome and intimacy you get when dining at home.

When we entertain at Benetton it works very much in the tradition of hospitality: taking care of your guests and showing that you care. We choose a local cuisine but with a twist that represents the Benetton ethos. We keep the food light so that we can work after lunch.

I believe that as a company you tend to express your values and convictions through food and the places you go to eat. If we are not dining at the clubhouse there are a few great local restaurants that I use instead. They are generally very homely and represent the values in which we believe: discretion, privacy and understatement. You can have top-quality food without name-dropping or Michelin stars.

In Treviso I go to a family-run restaurant, Galli. It serves very light, sophisticated and simple food, but you need to know it is there to find it. And I like Le Querce, where the ratio of price to quality is outstanding.

I also take clients to Osteria al Castelletto (“Clemi’s”) further up in the hills, which serves a more autumn/winter cuisine. It is great for bringing a sense of informality to a business lunch. It’s laid back and has a happy, homely atmosphere, which is what Benetton is all about. I’ll drink just one glass of really good wine – maybe a French bordeaux such as Château Lafite. There are very good and less well-known local wines too, particularly white and sparkling.

In Venice I like to entertain at Hotel Monaco in a former 18th-century palazzo, owned by our family. Its Grand Canal restaurant (pictured) serves classic Venetian cuisine with lots of grilled fish. The terrace is a huge attraction, with amazing views. I also love Harry’s Bar. I take my guests there for the vibrant atmosphere as much as for the food. Da Fiore is also very good. The flavours of the fish are very subtle. I like to eat food that is local to the area: Da Fiore is good for that. In a big city I tend to eat meat; by the sea I eat fish. I would absolutely never go for pasta in Mexico, or even in New York.

There’s a 50/50 split between doing business locally and abroad. The Benetton nature of business is about having and trusting local partners. I think it’s important when you travel to know when you are the host and when you are the guest. I am all ears when it comes to our local partners.

In Boston, where I studied and visit often for business, I go to Radius in the Financial District. You can eat the best hamburger in town and the service is excellent. In Tokyo I like the Roppongi Hills Club Sushi Bar for guaranteed quality Japanese cuisine and a spectacular location on the 51st floor from which the view at night is stunning.

On a recent business trip to Mexico City I enjoyed San Angel Inn for its traditional cuisine and the mariachi music. And in Bogotá, Colombia, I dine at the Leo Cocina y Cava restaurant where creativity and tradition are expertly combined. In Paris I like Senderens, at the Madeleine; its contemporary cuisine is enhanced by beautifully designed furniture.

My business entertaining takes place predominantly over lunch. I only ever do breakfast if there is an emergency, or if I have jet lag and a business breakfast at 7am seems like the perfect start to the day. Otherwise, morning time is family time. I also seldom entertain over dinner. I have very strong boundaries between home and work. Maybe a couple of times a month at most I will have someone work-related to dine or stay at our house. But it is always just a small group of people, and a very intimate, homely environment.”

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