A Taste of Italy – LCM 46 Spring 2017

A Taste of Italy

Chef Emanuele Olivero opens up about his new restaurant, La Deriva
By Sandra A. Berry • Photos by Sergio Martínez

A Taste of Italy - LCM 46 Spring 2017There is a new restaurant in town. Emanuele Olivero is the chef-owner of La Deriva, an Italian ristorante located within the soon-to-be completed Solaz Resort on the tourist corridor. Olivero brings years of experience, having received his culinary education near his home town of Piedmont in the northwestern part of Italy before moving to México in 1995. He went first to Cancún, then, like so many other transplants, came on vacation to Los Cabos and fell in love with it. He has perfected his skills at several of the most highly rated Italian restaurants in the area, more recently as chef-owner at DOC Wine Bar.

I had the distinct privilege to sit down with Olivero and ask about the origin of the restaurant and its name. “It is a nautical term in both Italian and Spanish, meaning ‘to drift,’ a continuous slow movement, as when a boat has been let loose of its ropes and anchor. That is the purpose of this new and exciting place,” he explained, “to allow one to relax and let go.”

A Taste of Italy - LCM 46 Spring 2017La Deriva sits at the closest proximity to the shore, with soaring glass walls that allow eyes to drift and the mind to wander out over the waves rolling on the beach. Beyond the glass walls is a terrace with a bar and, just below, a lounge area on the same level as the sandy beach with padded benches and individual fire pits, another perfect spot to drift with the breezes and gaze at the horizon.

The interior was designed by Mexican Victor de Rueda, who creates with the future in mind and whose designs are known to sizzle. Wood, granite, rock, and tile are used in a somewhat monochromatic scheme that is enhanced with live olive trees inside and out. An open kitchen allows diners to watch as meat cooks over a wood-fired grill. Elegant, but simple. Sophisticated, yet a relaxing place to unwind.

A Taste of Italy - LCM 46 Spring 2017Los Cabos Magazine: How is this restaurant different from other restaurants where you’ve been in charge?

Olivero: It’s not that different food-wise. It is deep into traditional Italian-inspired dishes with strong local ingredients.

LCM: Tell us about the menu.

O: Down-to-earth traditional Italian fare, nothing fancy or too upscale. Casual, perhaps a cutting board with cheeses, cold meats to enjoy with wine and drinks on the lounge fronting the beach. Fresh house-made pasta, extra-virgin olive oil from the Guadalupe Valley of Northern Baja, and local organic produce reminiscent of the healthy foods of the Mediterranean.

A Taste of Italy - LCM 46 Spring 2017LCM: What did you learn from your grandmother that you use every day in the kitchen?
O:The use of herbs, what she called “perfume,” such as bay leaves, basil, garlic. She taught me to taste and be proud of my cooking. She is still alive and cooking today. I use her recipe for lasagna and call it “lasagna della nonna.”

LCM: What dish are you most proud of?

O: Risotto.

LCM: What dish just didn’t work?
O: Vitello tonnato, a dish of cooked veal, thinly sliced served cold with a cooked tuna sauce made with mayonnaise. It is a delicious dish from my home region in Italy, but no one would order it!

LCM: What’s your favorite newly discovered ingredient?
O: A cheese product from San José del Cabo similar to Mexican panela and ricotta that I use for filling ravioli. Also a totoaba local fish that can only be found in the Sea of Cortés, but due to it being over-fished several decades ago, it is on the endangered list. There are now several fish farms that are raising this fish; some they release back into the ocean where they can grow up to 200 pounds. There are some vendors allowed to market the fish on a limited basis, these being in the 4–5-pound range. Similar to yellowtail, firm and oily, it is delicious when prepared in a salt crust.

A Taste of Italy - LCM 46 Spring 2017LCM: How have customers’ tastes changed during your career?
O: Coming from Italy to Cabo, I had no experience with the American tastes for Italian food, and I made a few mistakes! I had to learn to educate the American customer to try the “real thing” rather than just spaghetti and meatballs, which is an American variation of Italian cuisine. There is a “meatball story” that goes like this: In New Jersey many of the construction workers back at the turn of the century were Italian. Their wives would fill their lunch box with a side of meatballs and a side of sauce. When the lunch whistle blew, the Italian worker would combine the two, which whetted the curiosity of fellow workers and they would ask where they could get a dish like that. The Italian worker’s wife soon started a little restaurant and the rest evolved. Wherever they began, the meatball and spaghetti dish you are served at any Italian restaurant is an immigrant’s creation, a blend of something old and new.

LCM: What do you do to stay current on the new trends?
O: The Internet makes it very easy. I listen to Italian radio, and I love to read Italian and U.S. newspapers. My curiosity gets the best of me.

LCM: What’s the largest table you’ve ever served and how did you manage the preparation to get everything out at the same time
O: I was only 20 years old, still in Italy and helped to serve dinner to 3,500 people. More currently, I would say a very elegant wedding in Cabo of 400, with a lot of help.

A Taste of Italy - LCM 46 Spring 2017LCM: What do you consider to be your best creation and what classic that you like appears on your menu?
O: I prefer to skip any signature dishes, but I say yes to mussels with Gorgonzola cheese, a favorite of my customers.


LCM: What do you consider your best color, texture and taste matching for the presentation?
O: I prepare for taste and texture, then at the last moment, I may add some color, but it must go together. I prefer to keep the presentation simple.

LCM: Name three wines you love to drink (or that readers would love to know about).
O: I offer wines from my home area of Piedmont, Italy, such as Barolo, Dolcetto, and Barbera. Also Mexican wines from Parras, from Casa Madera, and from the Guadalupe Valley in Northern Baja. I love Champagne and offer sparkling wines such as Franciacorta.

LCM: What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
O: A wooden spoon! I like how it feels, how it works. I always carry my wooden spoon in my knife bag when I go to cook somewhere. I do appreciate Japanese knives, however.

A Taste of Italy - LCM 46 Spring 2017LCM: Where is your favorite restaurant?
O: One called Da Gemma, 30 minutes from where my parents live in Italy. The restaurant is in a beautiful house in the countryside with rolling hills. There is no menu. You eat what the chef prepares that particular night. And you eat, and you eat until you say no more, and they still bring more. That is typical Italian dining.

LCM: What is your comfort food?
O: Soup. I love soup and ramen noodles. I also like chocolate.

LCM: When are you happiest at work?
O: During the preparation when all the chefs are chopping and chatting, engaging in food dynamics. I also get pleasure out of watching the customers enjoy the food we’ve taken pleasure in preparing for them.

La Deriva opened Valentine’s Day and is open for dinner 5 p.m.–10:30 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday.