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Truffles: The Art of Finding Treasures in Unexpected Places

The world of truffles is as intriguing as it is exclusive. And with Massimo Vidoni, aka The Truffle Man of Dubai, at the helm, Dubai's love affair with these precious tubers is only just scratching the surface.


By GIOVANNA G. BONOMO

October, 2023




In the vibrant culinary landscape of Dubai, where diners have developed a sophisticated palate, one man stands out as the key player responsible for introducing an indulgent ingredient that has become a staple on the city’s dinner plates. Massimo Vidoni, affectionately known as “The Truffle Man.” revolutionized Dubai’s culinary scene by bringing the first coal-like lumps of truffle to the city’s chefs a decade ago after his arrival from New York.


Reflecting on his early days in Dubai, Vidoni recalls, “When I first came to Dubai in 2010, nobody wanted truffles. I used to show up at restaurants with a bag of truffles and a set of scales, asking chefs to give them a sniff.” Selling truffles is no ordinary task either. Lasting only a few days, truffles are as precious as they are fleeting. “These delicate delicacies lose 2 to 3 percent of their weight daily, and their flavor diminishes over time,” explains Vidoni. In those early days, it was a nerve-racking business venture for Vidoni. However, today, the demand for truffles in Dubai is massive.


As the founder and managing director of Italtouch, Vidoni now sells over 4,000kg of truffles each year to renowned restaurants such as Zuma, Roberto’s, Sushi Samba, Bagatelle, Ossiano, and Nobu. Recently, he opened a new store in the prestigious Depachika food hall at Palm Jumeirah’s Nakheel Mall, solidifying his position as the go-to truffle supplier in Dubai.


Italtouch sells approximately 60 kilograms of truffles per week. These culinary gems are sourced from various regions in Italy, including Langhe, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, and Molise. However, upon request, Vidoni also imports truffles from France and Spain. His market has expanded far beyond Dubai, reaching countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Iran, India, and Thailand. Italtouch has even diversified its offerings, promoting caviar and other typical Italian products, such as balsamic vinegar from Modena, pasta, pecorino cheese from Sardinia, and specialty goose products from Friulana Jolanda de Colò. With ten employees and a revenue of 3 million euros per year, Italtouch is experiencing steady and promising growth.


His most successful day to date was this past January with the opening of Atlantis The Royal. He sold a staggering 50kg of truffles worth over Dh450,000 in a single order. Vidoni believes that in

Dubai, where lavish spending is not uncommon, truffles are a small expense compared to extravagant purchases like a $100,000 chandelier. While Vidoni now calls Dubai home, his heart remains in Pordenone, Italy, where he frequently returns to visit his family. Despite his love for his homeland, Vidoni acknowledges that the job opportunities in Italy are less lucrative than those in Dubai.



 

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WHAT DO TRUFFLES MEAN TO YOU?


Truffles, I like to say, are a gift from God. The White truffle can’t be farmed; they grow only in specific soil and are seasonal. Truffles are also not created equal; This adds to their mystique and makes them even more valuable.” The three most commonly used by Chefs are White Winter, Black Summer and Black Winter truffles.



White Winter Truffle


The most expensive, why? Because they are the rarest and have a very short season. Usually found in the northwest of Italy, the Piemonte region of Italy, most famously Alba, where the world-famous truffle market is held.


Flavor: For me, it’s impossible to describe, but it’s delicious, mild, and unforgettable. Once you try, you will forever recognize the smell in a restaurant and want it!



Use: They are usually shaved extremely thin over a variety of dishes, like pasta risotto or simply shaved on eggs. They are not cooked; the food’s heat is enough to release the flavor and amplify the aroma.


Tips: You will need a truffle shaver. Only this will get you those super thin slices to get the most out of your truffle.

Appearance: They are light, golden, creamy color, inside and out.

Season: White truffle season is from September to December.


Black Summer Truffle


This truffle species is not nearly as rare and has a different l flavor trail or aroma. They are found in areas of France, Italy and Spain, and their abundance compared to white or black winter also makes them less expensive.


Black summer truffle
Black Summer Truffle (Tuber aestivum/Scorzone)

Flavor: People used to eating Black winter truffles tend to complain about the lack of flavor in the summer truffle. While it’s true that they have a less pungent aroma or taste, when used with truffle oil or butter, they can make an amazing ingredient. It is also often used on pasta or risotto pizza, shaved in at the very end.


Appearance: Black on the outside, white on the inside.


Season: Summer months, June, July, August.



Black Winter Truffle


Last but not least, the Périgord truffle, often referred to as the black Diamond. This truffle is both rare, flavorsome and tends to be quite expensive like the white. They are found near oak and hazelnut trees in the Périgord region in France and in parts of Italy, the Italian Black Winter truffle, Tuber melanosporum (aka Tartufo Nero Pregiato).


Flavor: Strong, usually described as nutty and sweet, they are versatile enough to either be briefly cooked, infused into sauces to add depth or simply shaved fresh as a finishing element. Also, it’s pretty amazing on steak.


Appearance: Black on the outside, black on the inside.


Season: Black winter truffle is from November/March.


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