Castel di Nero in Barberino Tavernelle. in Chianti, the latest acquisition made by the Como group from Singapore. It’s the first establishment in continental Europe after the two in London
Keep calm, while everyone gets the same idea, they’re all mistaken: the Como hotels and resorts group, born and developed in Singapore, is not named after the lake and the city of Como. Like many other businesses, all around the world, it’s the combination of the initials of the founders, a group with 15 establishments, each one with a distinctive strong identity. CO stands for Christina Ong and MO for her daughter Melissa.
Curious fact, even in view of the 2019 edition of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants late in June in Singapore, this group of luxury hotels with a wise and significant restaurant offer, does not have a jewel in the city-state south of Malaysia. Four are in Asia, two in Bhutan and two in Malaysia; five in South East Asia, two in Thailand and three in Indonesia; two in America, Florida and Turks and Caicos; one in Perth in Australia. Finally, Europe, which is what interests us the most because little over a month ago, on March 21st, mother and daughter opened their first hotel in continental Europe after the two in London. They did so in Italy, in Chianti, in Barberino Tavernelle in the province of Firenze.
The lounge in the Galway suite in Castel del Nero
They did not start from scratch. It would be almost impossible in a region so incredibly full of history, not to mention the fact that those who come now, are indeed looking forward to enjoying its past. The group bought Castel Del Nero, a total of fifty rooms and suites in a manor house from the 12th Century, surrounded by 300 hectares of nature. What comes natural to present as a heaven on earth, in 2006 was transformed by the owners of the time in a luxury hotel, with a starred restaurant too, La Torre. Christina Ong stayed there the following year and it’s easy to understand that she fell in love with the place, so much she asked them to call her, should they ever sell it.
Castel Del Nero, whose interior was designed by Paola Navone, reinforces the link the Ong family has with fine dining, after making their fortune with great Italian design and luxury brands like Armani, Bulgari and Prada so much so that Christina was nominated Cavaliere del lavoro in 1995. As for fine dining, it was Christina who convinced Gualtiero Marchesi to open at the Halkin in London, the same place in Belgravia where now everything is based on Elena Arzak and her idea of new Basque cuisine, while the hotel in Bangkok has welcomed the famous Nahm, with chef Pim Techamuanvivit.
Group Como, at the Metropolitan in Miami Beach, Florida, has a new chef, Michael Schwartz. This is his Kimchi Avocado toast
In Chianti everything is handed to Giovanni Luca Di Pirro and the offer goes beyond the classic segmentation between gourmet place, which is only open in the evening, and the more accessible and less demanding places. There’s starred restaurant La Torre, then Taverna and Pavilion. The former is more focused on Italian traditions, especially from Tuscany, the latter on the aromas of the Mediterranean Sea. However, group Como goes beyond the attention paid to the offer of each hotel. Everything must be in harmony with what they like to present as the COMO Shambhala Cuisine, a gastronomic philosophy based on the most natural raw materials, always respecting the peculiarities of each place. This was the input for a remarkable recipe book, called The pleasures of eating well, where well stands both for tasty and healthy, two concepts that should always go hand in hand.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
Careful analysis, news and curious facts about the most important hotels and inns in Italy and abroad.
born in Milan in March 1955, at Il Giornale for 31 years dividing himself between sports and food, since 2004 he's the creator and curator of Identità Golose.