Originating from the ancient city of Rome, Chef Diego Reali brings authentic Italian cuisine to the table at Natalina Italian Kitchen


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In this interview, Chef Diego Reali reveals what it takes to run one of the top restaurants in Malaysia.

What inspired you to be a chef and how did you get started? 

My family owns a restaurant called Hosteria Amadeo near Rome, Italy. The eatery has been around since 1958, and I used to serve bread and water to our customers ever since I was eight years old.

My love for cooking started when I used to help my grandmother and mother in the kitchen so naturally, I picked up some of their culinary flair.

Truth to be told, I’ve never gone to culinary school—my mother and grandmother were my teachers and the restaurant was my school.

Whatever I know now, I picked it up while working there. 

If you had to create a menu with one ingredient, what would you choose? And why? 

I would choose beef. It is very versatile and you can practically use it in all the Italian appetisers and main courses. Beef is the way to go! 

Natalina is a rather well-known restaurant in KL and it’s no doubt, one of the most successful restaurants in Malaysia. What does it take to get a restaurant to that level?  

Unwavering focus, passion, and dedication.

I have and will always love cooking. I like challenging myself by exploring the use of new ingredients and creating new dishes.

I think that’s what makes Natalina stand out amongst the crowd. 

Being a foreign chef in Malaysia, what are some of the things you had to change in order to adapt to the Malaysian taste buds? 

My cooking is rather traditional, and I like working with the original flavours of Rome in order to be authentic, while also using innovative touches.

During my initial years in Malaysia, I found it slightly challenging, trying to adapt my cuisine to the Malaysian flavours.

I needed to learn and understand the palate of locals to appreciate the flavours that excite them. Based on my study, I altered my offerings of the Roman dishes at Natalina.  

Another challenge I had was with how I worked with my food. I wanted to educate the locals on how to appreciate the original flavours of Roman Italian food.

The most important thing is the flavour, so to get Malaysians to appreciate authentic Roman flavours was a bit of a struggle in the beginning but eventually we received a great response.

Italian cuisine has been a staple in Malaysia for years. How do you draw people into Natalina or how does Natalina stand out in a place where there’s already a sea of Italian restaurants? 

Authenticity and flavour takes precedence over fancy presentation!

Of course, I take the time to plate my dishes properly in order for it to look presentable as possible. But I feel that, if you source quality produce and the flavours of the food are well balanced then that’s what matters.

To me, that is what’s important!.




written by.

Melissa Foong

Born and raised in the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur, Melissa is a writer that hopes to offer a fresh female perspective on the world of men's luxury fashion. When she's not busy chasing deadlines, you can find her tucked in a blanket rereading her favourite series of fantasy novels, Harry Potter.
Hot & Spicy: Roman-Born Chef Diego Reali Reveals What It Takes To Run Natalina
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