SAOR Project brings a complete Italian dining experience to Los Angeles. Before you join the next dinner, read this...

Published: February 23, 2018

SAOR Project is a series of authentic Italian private dinners, organized and hosted by Gianluca Zago and Alessandra Manias in Los Angeles. Every month, a different, regionally-themed menu for a night that you will remember. Here’s what our editor Roberto Croci learned about SAOR Project by attending one of their recent events…

Gianluca and Alessandra of SAOR Project (right) with their guests

I found them many months ago through Facebook, went immediately on their website and researched them like crazy. Why? Because the first thing that caught my attention was the name, SAOR Project. Being of Venetian heritage, I know what a saor is. It’s Venetian, from Venice, from Veneto, my adoptive region. In our dialect, it is the word used to describe FLAVOUR. Historically, it also describes something free… but not free of charge, rather something cheap, something for everyone, and if you are referring to food, it always indicates something exquisite. In our case, the most common word you’ll find with it is the Sarde in Saor aka Sweet & Sour Sardines. I bet you didn’t know.

RELATED: Find Risotto and Northern Italian Specialties at Estrella Sunset

This just to say that anyone who labels their dinner/events in this way, must have a high culinary education and, most important of them all, like the concept that goes along with it, that being the three “F’s” of the Italian way of life: Food Family & Friends (& vino). But that is another story, one that you you will be told once you sign up for their monthly “themed” dinners. Pardon the digression and let’s get back to SAOR Project.

It was a dark and stormy night. The moon was glistening… … no, no let me start again. It’s dark, it’s night, it’s the Valley… and after I park my car, I find myself following a steady streamy line of people who sneak into a building ….then proceed to walk by a pool and stopping in front of a door where, one by one… they knock. What else? I do the same, knowing that right now I must belong to a secret club, a few chosen people who want to gather dressed up to the tilt (we are Italians).

A man opens the door, a tall man, a smiling man, a funny man, a pretty cute man… Gianluca Zago, partner in life and business with Alessandra Manias, host and chef for the night. Rather that telling you everything… I invite you to go and experience it for yourself, you will not be disappointed. Let me tell you only one secret of the night. Everyone speaks italian… to a various degrees of excellence… I LOVE IT. Parliamo italiano ragazzi!

Just one of the many delicacies by Alessandra Manias (Credit: SAOR Project)

7 Questions with Gianluca and Alessandra of SAOR Project

1) What is SAOR Project? SP is the brainchild of Gianluca (marketing/sales) and Alessandra (chef /hostess/designer). Our project was born from the combination of our passions for culture, food and spending nice time together, as we usually do in Italy. In January 2016, we decided to create private dinners mixing our skills, starting from the consideration that the real Italian traditions are based on a peasant culture and poor ‘people’ food, which is now becoming very hard to find with the introduction of modern commodities.

2) Why the idea of educating people to regional cuisines? We cook dishes from various Italian regions, with an extensive and sophisticated knowledge of North-Eastern dishes. Through private dinners, events and our blog, we try to preserve and explain Italian dishes & traditions that are slowly disappearing. We provide everything from food to equipment, we set the table, serve, explain the dishes and the stories of traditional food of each Italian region… Guests only need to call us and enjoy not just good food, but a real experience. We do private dinners at the guests’ home, but also pop-up dinners, usually once a month with 10–12 people max.

RELATED: NonnaBox : Regional Italian Foods in a Box

3) Introduce yourself. Gianluca Zago: in charge of keeping the Project focused on our goal and new opportunities, plus researching and realizing whatever has to do with marketing and promotion. Also in charge of conceiving a special atmosphere, creating a comfortable environment where people feel comfortable and perceive the warmth of Italian hospitality. Alessandra Manias: as the chef, in charge of finding and cooking Italian recipes, finding fresh and healthy food, creating menus and cooking it as only she can do!

PS: I have been there. Don’t let this fool you. As most women know, THEY are the ones in charge of everything, and Alessandra fits the mold. And Gianluca loves her (and lets her think so), so everyone wins.

The sun is setting down, and the (dinner) party is about to start… (Credit: SAOR Project)

4) How did you meet? We met 20 years ago, on the last day of high school! From that day we went through a thousand stories that today led us to be husband and wife and to live our adventure in LA! We also collaborate, if we have more dinners at the same time, or if necessary, with chefs from different Italian regions.

5) Why regional, why comfort food? When we have our dinners, we like to see the curiosity and the attention on our guests’ faces when we explain our dishes. It’s something unusual, which will never happen in a traditional restaurant. That’s our goal and the reason why we call it “Project”… We want to share the real Italian food culture and we like that our guest feels like in a real Italian family, but very far away from the old Italian stereotype!

RELATED: The Best Romantic Italian Restaurants in L.A.

6) Biggest misconception about Italian food? A big misconception is that Italian food has to be covered with sauces to get strong flavors. In reality, Italian cuisine is made of simplicity and balance of flavors that derive from a thousand-year tradition and the fortune of having an incredible variety of quality raw materials. Another thing is our desire to fight false information and false beliefs about dishes that do not exist in our tradition, such as “fettuccine alfredo” or “spaghetti and meatballs”.

7) Where do you want to go next? SAOR Project in the future wants to become a point of reference for today’s Italian cuisine, combined with the traditional, warm Italian hospitality.


Disclaimer: Foodiamo did not receive compensation for this feature. Photos by Roberto Croci for Foodiamo, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.