Ibiza restaurants: IT Ibiza – Gastronomic innovation
Take one stunning restaurant space, a two-Michelin star chef, the highest quality ingredients and some long-standing southern Italian traditions and you’ve got the recipe for an incredible dining destination on the white isle. IT Ibiza, set in the exclusive Marina Botafoch district, has become one of the hottest fine dining hubs on the island, complete with million dollar views, superior service and above all, exceptional creative cuisine.
So much more than ‘just’ a restaurant, IT Ibiza is an experience. The cleverly designed layout – kitted out with the most stylish, high-end Italian designer furnishings – features a variety of spaces in which to lounge, sip cocktails, take an aperitivo, watch the star chefs prepare your food through the open kitchen window and of course, to indulge in a truly decadent fine dining experience.
Talented head chef Gennaro Esposito is well known in Italy, known as ‘the gourmet prince of Capri’. Growing up on a farm in the coastal area of Vico Equense in Naples led him to develop a passion for fresh produce. At the tender age of nine years old, he began working in his uncle’s pastry shop and that’s when his creative interest for combining flavours peaked. Fast forward to 2001 and Esposito was awarded his first Michelin star, for an outstanding spaghetti pomodoro – a dish some may think quite simple, yet all Italians know in their hearts is perhaps the most difficult to get just right. A second Michelin star was added to his chef’s hat in 2008, further cementing his reputation as one of the greatest Italian chefs of our time.
When Esposito came to Ibiza to consider opening a restaurant in 2015, he knew he would need to find a likeminded Italian chef to work alongside him. There was no question in his mind as to who he would call – Massimo Larosa, the passionate young sous chef of El Celler de can Roca, then considered the best restaurant in the world. Larosa’s background was in haute cuisine and Michelin starred destinations and his personal cooking philosophy is to respect each ingredient’s pure taste, revelling in the beauty of the details. Although the idea of Ibiza didn’t appeal to him when he first got Esposito’s call, the minute he stepped onto the terrace of what was to become IT Ibiza, he knew he had found his new culinary home. Today, united under one kitchen, the two chefs are renowned as gurus of Italian cuisine in Ibiza, fusing their motherland traditions with gastronomic innovation.
The concept is Italian – of course – however IT Ibiza is nothing like the typical Italian restaurants you usually find in Ibiza. Forget the association of feeling full or tired after a ‘mama style’ Italian meal; this fine-dining style of cuisine evokes the taste of home (if you happen to be Italian) in an elegant, artistic manner. Dishes are light, colourful and creative, inspired by southern Italy, where both Esposito and Larosa grew up. “The concept is simple,” says Larosa, with a suggestive smile that suggests it would not be quite as simple for those with lesser experience than he. “Each dish has three main ingredients, which we play with in terms of taste, texture and consistency.”
The result is art on a plate, with meticulously placed swipes of garnish used for colour, alongside edible flowers or other unexpectedly tasty surprises. Each dish is made using a combination of locally sourced and Italian products – something both chefs are passionate about. After all, if you are Italian, you will know a tomato is not a tomato, unless it is an Italian tomato! Get it? Order a plate of the delectable Traditional Spaghetti with Vesuvio Tomatoes and your palate will instantly understand the difference.
The accessibly priced menu offers something for everyone, ranging from light bites like ‘Crudo’ (raw fish) and Napolitan style homemade pizzas so crispy they’re almost like eating a cracker to classic Iberico ham and Galician oysters with gin ad tonic. When you’ve had your fill of snacking, starters include Larosa’s favourite roasted octopus with broccoli, a heavenly scallop carpaccio, an impressive vegetable assiete with quinoa and tofu among others.
First courses, in true Italian style, are mostly about pasta. Soft, silken pasta served up in just the right portions – choose from the aforementioned traditional spaghetti, a melt-in-your-mouth ravioli made with aubergine, Parmesan and tomato confit (a light version of traditional parmigiana), linguine with sea urchin, hearty paccheri with lam ragu and more. Second courses include fish plucked from the Mediterranean Sea – scorpion fish, wild turbot and seabass – while the grill is sizzling with succulent prime cuts of meat including free range Ibicenco chicken, luxe lamb and an unbeatable fillet of beef.
It’s highly recommended to save room for dessert at IT Ibiza – after all, remember it was a pastry kitchen where chef Esposito first fell in love with the art of cooking! From fresh summery bites and rich, decadent dishes to quirky signature plates like caramelised popcorn with mango mousse and an amazing cheese platter. Topping it all off perfectly, the IT Ibiza wine list is reflective of the cultural melting pot of Ibiza, expertly curated to include hundreds of imported Italian and worldwide wines, plus an excellent selection of French champagne.
The icing on the IT Ibiza cake is the team, all selected for their professionalism, experience and passion for hospitality. From front of house, behind the bar, in the kitchen and all the way to the very last person cleaning plates after the diners have left the building, it’s a team effort. Whether you’re popping in to experience the cool, après-boating aperitivo event with live music every Thursday night, passing by for a cocktail or a deluxe dinner (with the kitchen open nightly until midnight), IT Ibiza has become a must-do on the Ibiza gastronomic map. And if you still want more? Pick up a jar or bottle of Gennaro Esposito’s famous pomodoro on your way out!