BonAppetour Hosts: Ileana Zagaglia

BonAppetour Hosts: Ileana Zagaglia

We had the opportunity to dine with Ileana during our recent trip to Rome. Friendly and cheerful, she warmly welcomed us for a meal in her beautiful home.

Apart from her passion for cooking, Ileana has a diverse array of interests, such as reading, travelling, art, interior design, sewing, ceramics, and more! We had a lovely time dining with her, and would highly recommend that you do the same during your sojourns to Italy.

Do read on below, to find out more about our fascinating and lively BonAppetour host:

What do you love about your city?  

I love summertime in Rome, and going around by scooter to discover new spots. Beautiful Rome always has a surprise for everyone, even for those who are living here.

I also love the feeling of driving around Via del Mandrione, or the nearby Via Casilina Vecchia. It feels like just like I am in a small village, quite like the ones you get in Garbatella. I also love walking around Piazza Del Fico, and shopping for food, such as searching for exotic ingredients in the Esquilino area.

Did you always have a passion for food and cooking? Tell us more about your experiences and background with cooking.

My culinary journey began out of sheer necessity – I left home for London when I was eighteen, and had no choice but to prepare my own meals during my stay abroad.

My interest for cooking was ignited with my discovery of Indian food. I felt that Indian food was so different and bold! I have always enjoyed eating, but I was never curious about finding out how to cook the dishes. After this spark of interest, I started a rediscovery of my culinary traditions, and also began exploring other kinds of cuisines.

I decided to take my interest in cooking seriously upon returning back to Rome. I enrolled in a cooking school, and gained certifications such as a commis chef diploma, a HACCP certificate and a membership with Federazione Italiana Cuochi.

I also completed a three-months internship at Giuda Ballerino, a Michelin-star restaurant. Those months were exhilarating and exhausting, and provided a great experience. I was lucky to join the chef and his team in the Cannes Film Festival, as we were the official Italian catering team during the festival.  

In 2012, my culinary research took a different turn, as I stopped eating and cooking meat and fish products. My latest courses are on vegan haute cuisine, and are held in Joia, the only Michelin-star vegetarian restaurant in Europe.

Currently, I run my own business, offering catering and private cooking services. Unfortunately, this is not my proper job…yet!

Which are the dishes that you love cooking the most?

Pasta and fresh tomatoes are ingredients I cannot live without, so I would say my favourite dish to cook is spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and basil!

What do you like most about being a BonAppetour host?

I love being able to meet new people from different parts of the world, which was something that I experienced and enjoyed when I was living in London. Also, I'd love to spare them the experience of being ripped off for a bad meal. Sometimes, this happens here in Rome, and not only to tourists!

What do you feel is the difference between a BonAppetour dining experience, and dining outside in an eatery or restaurant?

It is a completely different experience – one that will satisfy you on an emotional level. This is true for both the hosts and guests.

I feel that in my case, guests will be able to eat something that is not served anywhere else is Rome, and be able to experience an authentic Roman dinner in more ways than one.

Image credits: Recipe Diaries, One Green Planet

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