It’s time to say goodbye to one of our favourite places – the Gustav in Europaallee is closing at the end of the year. That’s why we are republishing our 2018 portrait of the restaurant and its chef, Antonio Colaianni.
One restaurant critic described the Gustav as the home of ‘the most sensual cuisine in Zurich’. It’s a compliment that brings a smile to the lips of head chef Antonio Colaianni: ‘I try to cook dishes that people can understand and that evoke memories and emotions.’ Maybe it’s a casserole, a portion of gnocchi with tomato sauce or a hunk of bread with olive oil that reminds you of a wonderful holiday in Tuscany. Recently he served handmade maccheroncini: ‘They reminded me of my childhood. My mother always got up early on Sundays to roll the pasta by hand.’ Antonio combined the hand-rolled pasta made from grano arso – burnt flour – with yellow tomatoes, courgettes and porcini mushrooms. ‘A simple dish, but all the guests raved about it.’
‘I try to cook dishes that people can understand and that evoke memories and emotions.’
Some classics are always on the menu, such as ravioli filled with ricotta and egg yolk, artichoke bottoms stuffed with Mediterranean vegetables, beef tartare with warm potato foam, and the restaurant’s bestseller, bouillabaisse: ‘If I didn’t put these dishes on the menu, the guests would be disappointed and ask for them,’ says Antonio. A changing business menu is offered at lunchtime, and the evenings feature a surprise menu. ‘We’re more creative here,’ says Antonio. ‘But we never overburden our guests!’ His dishes are for enjoying, not for analysing.
Antonio has cooked at Casale, Clouds and Mesa, which he left at the end of 2015.
Antonio’s parents come from Italy, but he grew up in Switzerland, where he learnt the art of French cuisine: ‘That’s quite a special mix: French-style cooking with an Italian flavour.’ Antonio recounts how he used to focus more on international cuisine, ‘but then fusion cuisine became fashionable in 2000.’ He decided to go back to his roots. It proved to be a good decision: ‘All the restaurants that I have worked in over recent years have become renowned for their food.’
Antonio has cooked at Casale, Clouds and Mesa, which he left at the end of 2015. He was originally taken on at Gustav as a consultant. The restaurant had been open for a year at that time but was still largely unknown. ‘I had to roll up my sleeves and have a good clear-out,’ says Antonio. Within three months, he had changed the majority of the staff: ‘I tried to talk to them, but many of them simply didn’t want to work with me.’ So he put together a new kitchen and service team, headed up by Jens Jeppesen. ‘He thinks like me,’ says Antonio. ‘That’s one of the reasons why it worked.’ Together, the two men brought the Gustav 16 Gault Millau points, a tally that has now gone up to 17.
Together, the two men brought the Gustav 16 Gault Millau points, a tally that has now gone up to 17.
Antonio decided to stay at the Gustav: ‘When I start something, I finish it. I’m pig-headed.’ He only announced his decision when he felt he could fully support the food being offered by the restaurant. ‘A lot of restaurant critics took up my invitation to eat here. They all loved it.’
Antonio describes himself as an epicurean. Of course, he loves food, but also cigars, wine and champagne. His guests reap the benefits – Gustav has a well-stocked fumoir, an excellent wine list and the largest selection of sparkling wines in Switzerland. Eleven champagnes are offered by the glass in the champagne bar.
Of course, Antonio loves food, but also cigars, wine and champagne.
Antonio enthuses: ‘Champagne is good at any time of day. You can drink it with breakfast or as a nightcap before bed.’ He describes the champagne prices at Gustav as moderate: ‘We want to make champagne more accessible for our guests.’ Champagne should be enjoyed like wine: ‘Every day, not just on special occasions.’ He says he has guests who order two bottles in one evening.
‘The Gustav is a little oasis,’ says Antonio. ‘It exudes calm and relaxation.’ Even when you work here? ‘I live here’, he says. He rents one of the apartments. ‘I can switch off there.’ Along with the restaurant and 74 semi-furnished apartments, the Gustav also has a café that, according to Antonio, serves the best pastries in town. And once again, the restaurant critics agree with him.