From its eclectic restaurant selections to the local music scene, Dallas offers great opportunities and venues for business travelers and corporate meetings. Learn about the best things to do in Dallas with our guests Dean Fearing, the Executive Chef and Partner of Fearing’s Restaurant, and Ryan Miyamoto, the General Manager of the Statler Hotel. The two showcase the unique beauty of the city embedded in the Southwestern cuisine and dashing hotels. We go beyond Big D’s year-round rodeo and highlight the less-explored side of Dallas, Texas’ third-largest city. Come along to visit historic sites, an annual floral blooms festival, and on an invitation-only dinner hosted by three Master Chefs.

Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing venues in Dallas, to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.americanmeetings.com.

Watch the episode here:


Father Of Southwest Cuisine Chef Dean Fearing Shares His Famous Tortilla Soup And The Statler Hotel’s Ryan Miyamoto Tells The Tales Of Its Historic Past

Never been to Texas? Bless your heart. The Lone Star State’s third-largest city, Dallas boasts TV fame with its namesake show wild West notoriety and ritzy Highland Park Village. In this episode, we hear from Chef Dean Fearing, the Father of Southwestern Cuisine and the author of The Texas Food Bible. We’ll also speak with The Statler Hotel, a spectacular property right in the center of the city’s action. Let’s explore Dallas’s trendy hotspots on this episode of Destination Everywhere, Dallas.

DE 21 | Dallas

The Texas Food Bible

We are excited to bring you one of my favorite places and a place that I lived for six years, Dallas, Texas. It’s what I consider one of the most underrated cities in America. It has a beautiful skyline and downtown that has blossomed over the last several years. There’s so much to do, and great weather as well. Todd, I know we’ve taken a lot of clients here over the years. What are your thoughts?

I love Dallas. First of all, Dallas changed so much at such a short time, and it continues to change. I had this perception of Dallas because I am a pop culture fan, and I watched the show Dallas. Dallas is big money. There’s industry there. We like Southfork, the house from the Dallas show. We did go and see that, which was cool. You can do events there. There are a lot of private clubs. There’s an insider’s version of Dallas and then there’s the rest of Dallas. Trying to find out that insider’s Dallas is a fun thing to do.

We’re going to give you some ideas around that. When I lived there, it was a growing city, the food is amazing.

What neighborhood are you in?

I was in Deep Ellum. Deep Ellum is the eclectic, cool area with the garage band, bars and great food. We’re going to have a great chef on, Dean Fearing. What you learn about Dallas is it has all different types of food, the Southwestern style, as well as the amazing continental that they’re known for. That’s something you want to do when you’re there, but overall, it was a great experience being there. The people are nice and polite. It’s like a modern Southern charm.

Dallas is great. On the meeting side, I remember we always liked Dallas because we were bringing people from all over central place. It’s easy to get you from the West Coast, easy to get to from the East Coast. There are lots and lots of Lyft in Dallas because you have a couple of airports there.  

It’s in Northern Texas. It’s a metropolis. It’s huge. It goes on forever. They have beautiful springs and beautiful falls. It’s hotter than Hades in the summer but extremely dry. It’s one of those places like Phoenix or Tucson that’s warm. Take that into account. We’re excited to bring on our next guest. Todd, who is it?

We’ve got somebody who I’ve worked with in the past, who has done amazing meals for groups, and I’ve eaten there in his restaurant when he was at The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Dean Fearing is going to be joining us. He is the undisputed King of Southwestern Cuisine. I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say and what he’s got coming up.

Our guest is a guest I’ve been familiar with for a long time. We have the Chef-Owner of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas, the author of The Texas Food Bible, and crowned but non-contested Father of Southwestern Cuisine, Chef Dean Fearing. Chef, thank you for joining us.  

It’s great to be here on your show. Todd, I love your background. I didn’t know you were standing in the restaurant.

I’m in the restaurant. I’ve got it all to myself now.

[bctt tweet=”Dallas changed so much in such a short time, and it continues to change.” via=”no”]

Andy, you’ve got the whole Dallas skyline behind you.

I used to live there. I loved it.

We had brought meetings and events to your former property, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, another great spot. You used to have the restaurant there. You would always do such an amazing job with our guests. You always made them feel like VIPs, but your food was always off the hook. You go and everybody’s like, “Get the Tortilla soup, start with the Tortilla soup,” and then work your way up from there. How did you go from where you were to Southwestern cuisine?  

Right after culinary school, which was Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I graduated in ‘78 and went straight to the La Maisonette in Cincinnati, which was one of the famous five-star Mobil Guide restaurants. I worked there for about two years and the chef says, “I have a job for you in Dallas, Texas.” What got me to Dallas was the Fairmont Hotel. I became the poissonier there, that was the fish cook. I fell in love with Dallas. The landscape there is the skyscape, which I fell in love with. If you can imagine, I lived in River Belt, Rust Belt, Steel Mill City all through the Midwest, which had its charm, but then coming to Dallas, which was brand spanking new, I couldn’t believe it. I fell in love with new. I stayed. It was in my first restaurant in 1981 called Agnew’s, which ironically was the first American restaurant in Dallas, Texas.

If you can imagine in ‘81, it was all French and Italian restaurants. The only American restaurant was Luby’s Cafeteria, barbecue joints, and a hamburger joint along the way, but there wasn’t any American-style, white tablecloth, casual restaurants. They weren’t there. It was there that I said, “I am going to lay my claim to do American cuisine.” All the French chefs at the time said, “Good luck.” They gave me about six weeks to survive because they said, “It’s not American cuisine that people want. They want French cuisine.” It spooked me. Within six weeks, we were five-star in both of our local papers. It started the career.

I started to develop what would be Southwest cuisine along with Stephan Pyles, who was also in Dallas, Texas, and also Robert Del Grande from Cafe Annie in Houston. The three of us banded together to start a style of cuisine that is still current to American-style cuisine. It was using all the products indigenous to our area, fish from the gulf, wild game from South Texas, great steaks from West Texas, all the white trash coming out of Oklahoma, which is not intended to be a slang or a slam by any means. It was those great Southern flavors that we love, fried chicken and anything fried.

The term Southwestern cuisine, what year was that coined?

We coined it in 1985 and it started to take off. That’s when I came back to The Mansion as Executive Chef. I said, “The only way I was going to be the Executive Chef of The Mansion on Turtle Creek was if we marketed the restaurant as a Southwest cuisine restaurant.” That was big at that time because Southwest cuisine was in its infancy and who was going to bite and say, “We’re going to do that.” Bob Zimmer, the President of Rosewood Hotels at the time who was a visionary said, “We’re going to do it,” and we never looked back.

I want to talk about some of your accolades because it’s impressive. You’ve won a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest in ‘94, nominated for Best New Restaurant in 2008 with Fearing’s Restaurant, Outstanding Restaurant ‘95 and ‘98 at The Mansion. Not only that, you’ve also been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Food & Wine, the list goes on and on, but this one I thought was the most important and most impressive, Guitar Aficionado. You’re in two groups, you’re a guitar player. You’re with an all-chef alternative country group called The Barbwires and then the Lost Coyote Band.  

I love to play. Being the Chef-Owner of Fearing’s Restaurant has been the greatest thirteen years of my life. It has taken me to new heights, and to be able to do food that I want to do in an atmosphere that is come as you are, pretty much. We have no rules. We don’t say no. I love that. To be able to create food in that environment has been stellar, but also to be able to write music, which my songwriting partner is Robert Del Grande from The Annie in Houston. He and I have been writing songs since 1985. We have a whole slew of songs.

Where do you play in Dallas?  

We played mainly in food events. We mainly play at Fearing’s Restaurant or The Annie. There are a lot of food events that are going on and they always say, “Dean, can you and the group play?” We love that. It’s not like we’re supporting ourselves out on the bars. It mainly is to keep our toe in the water.

Let’s go back to Southwestern cuisine. Where do you see it going from here? It’s been around for several years. Where do you see it headed or what has happened that’s been different?  

It never has left. Let’s talk about Tortilla soup. Tortilla soup has been with me since 1981. When Caroline Hunt brought the scratchy, almost unreadable recipe from The Argyle Club in San Antonio to the kitchen of The Mansion, and handed it to the chef who was Christian Chemin at that time and said, “I think we should do a local soup.” A Texas-style soup in our restaurant which was all French at that time. I’m standing next to the chef and there’s Mrs. Hunt in front of us. She leaves the kitchen and Christian hands me the recipe and says, “I can’t believe she’s going to make me do a peasant soup on the menu.” Now it is the greatest soup known to Dallas and still is with Fearing’s. We have some time a lot of dishes that are never going to go away. The chicken fried lobster with the prime filet at the restaurant has been on the menu for several years. If I took it off the menu, I’d have to leave Texas. It’s soaked in maple syrup for 48 hours with jalapeno grits and butternut squash taquito can never leave the menu. People come in for that. It’s such a legendary item now. Where is it going? It’s never going to leave is probably the best way to put it. It’s those flavors that people love. That little tinge of spice is what everybody is addicted to.

DE 21 | Dallas

Dallas: Dallas brings people from all over the place, giving easy access to both East and West Coasts.

Chef, when did you decide to make the jump and go from a coveted position at The Mansion on Turtle Creek? A great restaurant to go out on your own and open up Fearing’s at The Ritz in Dallas. When I make a change, I’ve always got a nervous knot in my stomach, but what prompted you to do that?  

John Goff, who’s my business partner, came over and said, “How would you like to have your own restaurant, design your own restaurant, and run your own restaurant?” I said, “Sure.” I tripped probably three times running over to The Ritz because it was exciting.

Where you are with Fearing’s, which is a little bit north of downtown, that area has come together nice in the last several years. Tell us a bit about that and what people should visit.

We call it Uptown. It has become a major restaurant area, but also with The Ritz being there and the most gorgeous office buildings.

They’re doing parks over the freeways there.

Klyde Warren Park is amazing. It’s 5 acres of park that’s over our major freeway that connects I-35 with 75, which are our two major arteries in town besides the tollway. You get on this park and you think you’re somewhere else. You’re surrounded by all of these beautiful architectural buildings.

All the museums are right there as well.  

Everything is pocketed perfectly. That’s the other thing is I like the way Dallas has laid itself out.

Chef, I want to go back to Fearing’s. You said you got to design it yourself. Chefs and designing, sometimes they go hand-in-hand, other times probably not, but what were you trying to do when you were building out the restaurant?  

Bill Johnson Studios out of Atlanta was our interior designer. He’s an old hippie, I’m an old hippie so we fit right in. His idea of the restaurant was one big dining room. I was like, “Bill, we can’t do that.” In the middle of July, on a Sunday night, when somebody walks in and there are four tables there, just because there’s nobody in Dallas, the business traveler isn’t traveling in the middle of that month. They’re going to walk in and psychologically, they’re going to say, “I’m at the wrong spot. This isn’t happening.” I said, “No, we need to break it up into smaller rooms, seating 40 people in each room. With that, we can still have a big restaurant, but let’s change the look of each room to give it its own atmosphere.” We have a white tablecloth room we called The Gallery that is beautiful, 18-foot ceiling. You walk in and it’s this gorgeous, beautiful, lots of art in the room, which is called The Gallery, all of this beautiful art you see.

We have The Kitchen Room, which I designed the whole kitchen around the working kitchen. It’s called The Kitchen Room because of the fact that you can hear people talking, “Pick up. Don’t forget the special order on there.” You see flames and you smell fire from the grill. It’s all of that. Our guests become infatuated with being in our kitchen like they are there. In this day and age, people love that. We have a glass pavilion that looks out into our outdoor bar, our garden. It’s this whole beautiful area. We have Fearing’s patio, which is all outdoor dining and also outdoor bar with its own self-sufficient bar out there, fireplace, bandstand. We have live music on Friday and Saturday nights that are just fantastic. It brings people out, camaraderie and community.

[bctt tweet=”Dallas, all around, is such a big, diverse city with so many things to do on every corner.” via=”no”]

Chef, thank you so much for joining us. We’d like to tell our readers, Chef has agreed to give away five of his cookbooks to five of our readers, The Texas Food Bible. Thank you for that. Go onto our website and subscribe for that.

At AMI, we are passionate about meeting connections that change lives. For over twenty years, we have traveled our clients all over the globe supporting their business goals and helping them stand apart from hotel sourcing to audiovisual magic. We’ll help make your corporate meetings or events second to none. Go to AmericanMeetings.com to learn more. American Meetings, AMI, meeting, planning perfected.

We are talking Dallas, Texas. It’s one of my favorite places and where I lived for a number of years. There are many things to do. We’re going to give you a wide range of bucket list items to do. The first one we have, you may have seen it a few years ago when they hosted The Super Bowl, is visiting AT&T Stadium and having an event there or going to an event there. It’s about twenty minutes out of downtown. It’s in Arlington, Texas. It’s the largest dome stadium in the world and one of the most expensive ones ever built. Inside it, there are 22 event locations. Everything from hosting the Final Four, they’ve done. You can go to a concert. You could also have a birthday party in one of the smaller suites. There are lots of things to do, and a great thing to go see the sheer mass and the size of it. You’ll see it if you’re driving in from the airport, but it’s also a great tourist attraction.  

The next one is for all of the history buffs and government enthusiasts. We’ve had in the past several years two President Bush’s from Texas. Everybody knows that the George W. Bush Presidential Museum is in Dallas. It’s a unique spot. It has exhibits highlighting the presidential term, and also an exhibit such as life in the White House, a 9/11 Memorial, and an exact replica of the Oval Office while he was in it. That’s always something cool to see. It’s got a lot of history to it.  

Todd, you’ve been in the Oval Office.  

I’ve been in the actual Oval Office. It was during President Bush’s term, Bush one. That’s a whole different story, but that was cool to see.  

The next one is located at the spot where JFK was assassinated. This has a huge historical significance. It’s in Dealey Plaza, it’s right downtown. When I lived there, I used to run. It used to be part of my jogging circle, but there’s a city park there now near the West End district. There’s an X on the street at which marks the spot of his assassination. It’s great to go there. There’s a great museum called The Sixth Floor Museum. It’s where the person who assassinated him was.

That was the book depository where The Sixth Floor Museum is. When we were there, everybody is still trying to solve the case. People were running around on the street. They were going to the vantage points where they said the gunshots were. Everybody’s still working to actively see if there was a second shooter. There’s a ton of history and it’s interesting to see. They showed the live footage too in the museum, which is cool.  

This next one is awesome. You can attend a private invitation-only dinner hosted by three master chefs. It’s a secret themed dining experience called Frank. It was created by three chefs who met on Gordon Ramsay’s show, Master Chef, and it features a communal table of twenty guests that are randomly seated from a reservation list. The location of the party changes. The three chefs prepare a multi-course meal of fresh local ingredients. If this is something that you’re interested in, they do have a website, it’s called FrankUnderground.com. You can add your name to the list. Guests are only selected one week prior to the dinner. You need to be flexible with your availability. That seems like an amazing experience.

The next one is visiting the grave of the famous criminal couple Bonnie and Clyde. The two started in Dallas and they ended up in Dallas. They’re buried in two different areas. Bonnie is at Crown Hill Memorial Park and Clyde is at Western Heights Cemetery. Check them out if you want to see the graves of Bonnie and Clyde. If you follow this show, we’re always finding those unique places to go and that’s one of them.  

It’s a great movie. Bonnie was Faye Dunaway, and Clyde was Warren Beatty. Before you go, watch the movie to give you some perspective if you plan on stopping by that. The next one is something most people think about when they think of Dallas. There is a year-round rodeo. If you want to channel your inner cowboy or cowgirl, you can attend this year-round rodeo. It’s located about 30 minutes from downtown, and it is the Fort Worth Stockyards. You can watch the bull riding, the shootout shows, and enjoy a saloon-style bar.  

It is a lot of fun. Rhinestone Cowboy was filmed there, and you’ll notice a lot of other famous Southwestern and country movies that have been shot at Gilley’s. The next one is something that’s beautiful. The best time of year to be in Dallas, which is March and April. There is the Dallas Blooms event at the Dallas Arboretum. It’s an annual festival showcasing over 500,000 tulips. There are cooking classes, wine pairings, live entertainment. This is a fun event. There are also Easter events that go on. It’s a great venue also for a corporate event or a fundraiser at the Arboretum. It’s a beautiful space. I highly recommend going to Dallas Blooms in March and April.

DE 21 | Dallas

Dallas: Flavors and spices that people gravitated to for a long time will never leave any restaurant menu.

If you want a nice local neighborhood to explore, if you want to get out and walk, do some shopping and eating, there’s a great little neighborhood called the Bishop Arts District. It’s known for its small-town feel. It’s got a hidden gem appeal. It’s a close-knit community, and you can expect to find diverse nightlife, colorful street art, Texas-style barbecue, coffee shops. It also hosts festivals and wine walks. Check out the calendar for the neighborhood and try to line it up so you can do some great wine walks.  

This is what we did one night, Todd, if you remember. We went to Deep Ellum for barbecue, for dinner. Deep Ellum is another eclectic neighborhood. It’s a short drive over to the Bishop Arts District. That has a much more of a tight-knit neighborhood feel. We walked around, shopped, and got some ice cream. It was a beautiful night. I highly recommend it. It’s that neighborhood feel, but near downtown Dallas. It’s easy to get to. I highly recommend that as a bucket list item. It’s a great evening to do and great food there as well. The next one is cool. Go to the first place the frozen margarita was created and visit the restaurant that started it all. It’s Mariano’s Hacienda and it’s owned by Mariano Martinez. The home to where the first soft serve ice cream machine was retrofitted to make margaritas back in 1971. You can see all the history there and experience a great margarita.  

There’s a lot to do in Dallas. There is so much more to do in Dallas. We’re going to switch the topic. We’re going to come back with our next guest who is Ryan Miyamoto. He is the Hotel Manager for The Statler Hotel. The Statler is known for its celebrity appearances within the Statler ballroom, performances from the Jackson 5, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Cher. It’s got a lot of history. The Statler also features a bowling alley and a speakeasy bar, which are my favorites.

I’m excited to talk to our next guest. The next guest is the General Manager of The Statler Hotel in Dallas. The Statler Hotel has been around since 1956, but it did take an extended hiatus. It closed in 2001, reopened in 2018 after some large renovations. It’s the first hotel that introduced elevator music. The Statler Ballroom is famous for hosting such performers such as the Jackson 5, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and many more. I’d like to welcome Ryan Miyamoto, the General Manager of The Statler Hotel.

Thank you for having me.

Ryan, what are some of the hotel’s most recognized amenities?  

There’s so much. When I think about The Statler, I think about a destination in Downtown Dallas. It’s built and designed for the business traveler, local traveler, and leisure traveler. Some of the things that stand out about us is the renovation that we did. It’s a blend of modern design with that old-style charm. We still have the original terrazzo floors that the hotel opened up in 1956. Some of the great offerings that we have here has to do with our food and beverage offerings, as well as the design. We’re fortunate enough to have one of the best views in Dallas on our nineteenth floor. It’s a great gathering place. The venue is called Waterproof. Funny back story about Waterproof is when the hotel first opened up, Downtown Dallas wasn’t built with all the skyscrapers and high rises then. It was originally the helipad for the hotel. When we had celebrities come in, they would have the helicopter drop them off on the rooftop then enter the hotel that way. As Downtown Dallas grew, it became unsafe to have the helipad up there. We transformed it into one of the most sought-after nightlife spots in downtown due to its view and the ambience.

I hear you also have a bowling alley. Is that true?  

Yes, in our sports bar named Scout. There are four bowling lanes. It’s an interactive setting. You have your bowling lanes, you have pool tables, ping pong, TV screens everywhere, all the fun arcade games that you can find. It’s an interactive, family-friendly venue.

Ryan, I know you mentioned Waterproof, but something you failed to mention is there’s a rooftop pool up there, which is gorgeous.  

It’s outside. You can get one of their specialty cocktails out there, hang out in the pool, and take in all the views. It comes in handy during the hot Texas summers.

Most major cities, New York, Chicago, I know when I go, the best thing to go to is a speakeasy. If you can find one, because a lot of times they’re hidden, it’s always a great experience. I understand that The Statler has a speakeasy.  

We do, it’s called Bourbon & Banter. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in the building. It’s an interesting field. The thing that makes it fun is that it’s located in our basement. Originally, when the hotel opened, there was the original barbershop. When you walk into it, the entryway has the shoeshine station, and then there’s a telephone booth in there. You have to know the secret code to type into the telephone booth, and then the speakeasy door opens up. We did a great job down there. The concept still revolves around hairstyles. All the drinks are still named after old hairstyles. We carried on the tradition of leaving it as the barbershop.

[bctt tweet=”Dallas locals are known for their politeness and modern Southern charm.” via=”no”]

Do you hold any annual events on the property? Do you have anything that comes in on a regular basis that our guests would be interested in?  

We do have annual events. We mostly center them around the holidays. We have a great event every Halloween. It’s a two-featured event focusing on trying to accommodate everyone during the day. It’s a trick or treat for families. We have the local kids from the neighborhoods come in and pass out candy. There’s a small haunted house feature that goes on and then at night, it turns into more of an adult-only Halloween gathering. We always put on a great New Year’s Eve party. The nice thing about us is that we have this beautiful ballroom, 14,000 square feet of space, which is an entertainment venue, and we can bring in DJs and set it up. It’s a great time. We put on a spin on the state fair, because the state fair here in Texas is big. It’s iconic in its own.

It’s right down the street from your hotel.  

It got curtailed a bit. We put on a performance called Fair Play at The Statler. It was more of a photo opportunity, get out of the house, be safe and still get all the same great things that you could at the state fair. We had photo booths, corn dogs, turkey legs, and we had all the great things that you could get at the state fair. We had the midway going with games. Everything’s pretty much short of a petting zoo and the rides.

Ryan, as General Manager of the hotel, I know you’ve only been open since 2018, what are some of the most extraordinary requests you’ve received from guests to make their experiences over the top?

One of the most requested items, and it’s from our groups, it ties all the way back to when the hotel first opened. It’s one of the most signature events in Statler history, Neiman Marcus is located right down the road from us, about two blocks away. In 1959, they had a llama, and her name was Llinda Llee, flown in from New York and flew into Dallas Love Field at the time. She took a limo from Love Field all the way to The Statler where she did a check-in. It’s neat because we have a picture of her at the desk getting the registration paperwork from the desk agent. We have pictures of her throughout the building. She was here on a promotional tour with Neiman Marcus, visiting children at the Children’s Hospital while she was here. One of the requests that we get all the time from groups is, “Can we have Llinda Llee stop by and say hi? Can we have a photo opportunity with Llinda Llee?” From time to time, Llinda Llee makes a special appearance here at The Statler.

You had Frank Sinatra there. You had the Jackson 5 there over the years. Are there any stories, any urban legends about what happened to The Statler way back when it was in its prime before it’s had this amazing redo and has come back into its own?  

I don’t know about urban legends. There are a lot of things that happened here. I’ll share one with you that happened that’s not a legend. Back in 1976, The Statler was getting ready to welcome Tina Turner and Ike Turner, and they were going to get ready to perform in our ballroom. They came and they checked into the hotel. The night before they performed is when Tina Turner famously fled from Ike while he was asleep in the guestroom. With the help of one of the hotel bellmen, she exited the hotel through the service stairs and out the back door and down the road.

Do you have a guest that’s come back after all these years that’s experienced The Statler prior to the renovations and now? Have you talked to anybody specifically that had been a guest prior?  

When we reopened in 2018, we knew we would have some of that. I don’t think we expected as many people to remember what it was like back in the glory years. It’s seems weekly that we’re having a conversation with a guest. One thing that we do have out front in the drive is we always have two classic cars out front, from the ‘50s, the ‘60s. I hear guests all the time, “When we came back in 1960, we remember the cars out front and they’re still out here.” They’ll stop and they’ll take photos. It’s funny, referencing back to the Llinda Llee experience. In all of our guest rooms we have pictures of Llinda Llee and we have a statute commemorating her. This was around June or July of 2020, I got a letter from a gentleman who said, “We loved our stay at The Statler. Thank you. We’re here celebrating our wedding anniversary.” I looked over at the side of the bed and I noticed the picture. My dad worked here and my dad is in the picture. He was the desk agent handing Llinda Llee the envelope. It blew my mind. We get guests all the time that come up to us and thank us for bringing this iconic fixture in Downtown Dallas back to life.

You are on East Commerce Street right downtown. What are some great activities within walking distance from the hotel? As we wrap up the interview, we’d also like to know, what’s your favorite thing as a hospitality professional to do in Dallas?

I mentioned Neiman Marcus, their flagship store is two blocks down the road from us. Going back to where we’re located on Commerce Street, right across from the Main Street Garden. We’re blocks away from the historical sites here in Downtown Dallas, such as the JFK Tour Memorial Park. That played a big role in Dallas’s history. Funny enough, when that tragic day in our history happened, the FBI set up headquarters here at The Statler Hotel. We had a big part in that as well. We’re close to the Arts District and we’re right down the road from the Farmer’s Market. There are a lot of activities within walking distance of the hotel.

A lot of people probably don’t consider Dallas like a walking city, but it is a nice, condensed downtown with amazing skyline and great little neighborhoods all the way around it. You can probably walk straight out of The Statler and pretty much go in any direction and be a short walk from any of the activities.  

The great thing about Dallas, and not many people think of it when they’re thinking about Dallas, that I love doing in the city is going to all the different museums. There are many great art museums and history museums, cultural museums here in the city. We’re close to the American Airlines Center where the Mavericks and the Stars play, and they put on great events over there. Catching an event over at the American Airlines Center is fantastic for me to do too.

DE 21 | Dallas

Dallas: Family-friendly venues, interactive facilities, and annual events truly make the Statler Hotel one of a kind.

Ryan, one more thing. If our readers want to follow you and see what’s coming up, where can they find you? What are some of your social media?  

The best place to see what’s coming up is our website, TheStatlerDallas.com. We’re also on Facebook, The Statler Dallas, and then our Instagram feed as well. We do a great job promoting there. All of the upcoming events that we’re putting on, we put out all through our social media channels. Anybody that wants to come down, we welcome everybody in.

Thank you, Ryan.  

Ryan Miyamoto, General Manager of The Statler. Thank you for your time.  

Thank you. Have a great day.

Dallas is one of my old hometowns. I love it. There are many great histories. It’s such a great place to go to find Southwest cuisine. If you’re anywhere near one of Dean Fearing’s restaurants, make sure that you get the Tortilla soup. It is something that you will never forget.

It was nice to meet him. He is such a nice guy. We’ve found he’s connected with a lot of other amazing chefs around the country. If you’re ever traveling in a city, talk to the chefs because they seem to know all the best places to go. He was fascinating.

The Statler Hotel, I can’t wait to visit it. We haven’t been yet. It was closed when I lived in Dallas. From the pool to the speakeasy to the bowling alley. You can do all these great things just in the hotel without even leaving the hotel. When you leave the hotel, you’re riding Downtown Dallas and can walk around. It’s such an easy city to walk.

Ryan shared a lot of great history. One that stuck out was the night that Tina Turner left Ike and started her solo career. I thought that was fascinating.

I remember that from the movie.

I’m going to have to go back and see exactly where that was filmed and be sure that it was representing Dallas in that movie. It’s a great place. Dallas all around is such a big, diverse city and so much to do. I’m looking to get back there and check out some new things.

That concludes this episode. Thank you for joining us. We’d like to thank our team, Chris Jordan, our copywriter, Annie Fernandez, our creative director and Lauren Campbell, our podcast producer. Please make sure to subscribe, rate and review the show on your preferred podcast app or by going to www.Destination-Everywhere.com. Be sure to join us next time on Destination Everywhere. Safe travels.

Please be sure you subscribe, rate and review the show on your preferred podcast app or by going to www.Destination-Everywhere.com. Let us know where you want us to travel next on Destination Everywhere. Safe travels.

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About Dean Fearing

DE 21 | DallasLong known as the “Father of Southwestern Cuisine,” Chef Dean Fearing’s legendary cooking and infectious charisma have long captured the attention of a worldwide audience. An accomplished James Beard award winner, cookbook author, and successful restaurateur, Dean’s namesake Fearing’s has become one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in Texas, recognized as “Restaurant of the Year” and “Table of the Year” by Esquire Magazine, as well as #1 in Hotel Dining in the U.S. by the prestigious Zagat Survey.

Each night, guests from all over the world are dazzled with bold flavor and variety of Dean’s favorite local delicacies from the Lone Star State, including his signature tortilla soup, rib eye cooked over live mesquite, maple-black peppercorn-soaked buffalo tenderloin, achiote-glazed antelope from his friend’s ranch, and a chicken-fried Maine lobster, which has been described as a genuine “taste of Texas.” The son of a Kentucky innkeeper, Dean grew up with grandmothers who knew all about food, appreciating the finer details of Southern cooking and barbecue.

He still uses and treasures their recipes, and they remain one of the most important inspirations of his culinary life. Some of them even received their own spin in Dean’s cookbook, The Texas Food Bible – published in 2014. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and following 20-plus years at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dean opened his own Fearing’s Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas in 2007.

About Ryan Miyamoto

DE 21 | DallasHonolulu native Ryan Miyamoto came to The Statler from the Sheraton McKinney.

The Pacific University grad has been managing properties for Plano-based Aimbridge since 2006.

His leadership has been well recognized, as he’s been at two different properties which have one the Aimbridge Hotel of the Year for outstanding overall performance.

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Lake Como

Lake Como


Such is the magnificence of Lake Como that it has been the object of the rich and famous’ adoration since ancient Roman times and continues to be extremely popular today. If you’re amped about visiting quaint small towns and venerable historical sites, cycling, hiking, olive oil tasting or just enjoying the scenic lakeside view, then this destination is a must. In this episode, we are joined by Samy Ghachem, General Manager of Sereno Hotels, an award-winning group of hotels that took pains to integrate its contemporary edifice into the lake, the scenery, and the community. We also talk to Andrea Rotta and Francesco Ornaghi, owners of Larioland, the first amphibious car rental service in the whole of Europe. If you’re planning to go to Lake Como, you add Il Sereno for Northern Italian hospitality and the unique land-water experience that Larioland offers, at Lake Como.

Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing meetings in Lake Como, to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.americanmeetings.com.

Watch the episode here:

Lake Como

Imagine a village with no streets, just cobblestone walkways and steps that lead you to a town of quaint shops and eateries, surrounded by terrace gardens spilling into the bluest lake you’ve ever seen. The top of travelers’ bucket list for years, Lake Como of Northern Italy offers old-world elegance in an upscale resort area sitting against the Alps. The mini-villages of Lake Como, which many visit by ferry or private boat, make this a fun and unique destination spot. The dramatic scenery of Italian architecture mixed with the Austrian hospitality make this area picturesque and perfect. Whether your mainstay or a stop while visiting the Alps of Milan, Lake Como is not to be missed. This episode, you will meet the General Manager, Samy Ghachem, of the new five-star contemporary masterpiece, Il Sereno Hotel. He’ll give us a scoop on what the celebrities do and the must-not-miss activities around the hotel. We’ll talk about the best time of the year to visit, some tips on where to buy the best local cuisine, and experiences not to be missed.

We are taking you to Northern Italy, to the beautiful region with Lake Como. It’s one of the most famous lakes in the world with lots of celebrities, wonderful things to do, and bucket list items galore. Todd, what is going to be your favorite thing to focus on now?

First, it’s important that we explain a little bit about the geography of Lake Como. This is one of those places since the Roman times, the aristocrats and the wealthy. I’ve always used Lake Como as a destination. When you think of Lake Como, think of an upside-down Y. The northern part is the bottom of the Y and then it splits it out into two branches. At the inside top of that Y is a town called Bellagio. The hotel in Vegas is named after Bellagio. The town they say has fewer people than the casino. It’s not a very big town, but it is a beautiful town.

Around the lake are many others. It’s about 53 or 56 square miles. There’s Como. There’s Lecco, which is down one of the branches. Bellagio up at the point, Tremezzo, Menaggio and Varenna. Menaggio and Varenna are close to Bellagio. Google an image of the map and you’ll see it. It also sits at the base of the Alps. The scenery is spectacular. You’ve got mountains and a lake. It’s the third biggest lake in Italy, but it is by far the deepest. It’s over 1,300 feet deep.

It’s one of the most popular. You’ll probably recognize it if you saw Ocean’s Twelve or Casino Royale from the James Bond series. It’s been in tons and tons of movies.

Don’t forget about Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. It was in there. John Legend filmed the video, All Of Me, there. It’s scenic. It’s gorgeous. It’s very difficult to get around the lake. You need destinations. You can do water taxis. There’s not a train that goes all the way around the lake. Water taxis are very expensive. You need to have a plan before you go.

People have been coming to Lake Como for a millennia. During the rise of the Roman Empire, the villa architecture that you see that so popular in Italy got its start here in this region. The individuals from Rome used to come down in summer here. Despite the sheer size of Lake Como, it only has one island that you can go to. The community and the experience, which is incredible. We’ve had a great time when we’ve gone is in these small towns and these communities that Todd mentioned. You do need to have a plan because it is a huge lake. There are many great and incredible things to do. We’re going to take you on some great bucket list with our guests we have now. It’s going to be a lot of fun. To get to Como, it’s about a twelve-hour flight directly from New York. That’s a good estimate of how long it’s going to take you to get there. Todd, how far is it from Milan?

From Milan, it’s about an hour and a half. It’s a little more than 50 miles. You could fly into Milan, eight hours from New York, two hours from London. There are options. Availability is good, but then you probably need to get a car.

We’re going to talk a little bit about the hotel that we’re going to visit now. It’s called Il Sereno, which is the newest hotel. We’re going to have the General Manager, Samy, from there. He’s going to talk about this new five-star contemporary property that won the 2019 Condé Nast Reader’s Choice Award. It’s an incredible venue. He’s got lots of great ideas about what to do. The hotel itself is a bucket list experience.

We have a very special guest joining us. We have the Managing Director of il Sereno Hotels. That is Samy Ghachem. Samy, welcome to the show. How are you?

I’m good. Thank you, Todd. I’m thrilled to be here.

You have some amazing properties. First, let’s talk about you. You’ve been in hospitality at some level for quite a long time. Give us a little bit about your history.

It’s more travel in tourism. My career started right out of university working for a French airline, Air France. I spent seventeen years there between sales and marketing. I took over and manage their Alliance Department. I did that for the better part of my career and got into hospitality years ago when I started as a General Manager for Le Sereno in St. Barths. In between the airline hospitality or the hotel job, for three years, I was also the Managing Director of FROSCH, a large travel management company in New York City. I’ve touched on various ends of it, but always staying within the industry.

You mentioned St. Barths. I know we’re in Lake Como. Tell us briefly about the St. Barths property. It underwent extensive renovations, did it not?

It did. Following Hurricane Irma, we rebuilt the entire property from the ground up. That was about a few years ago. Since then, it’s working at a new hotel. We relaunched it. That hotel has been around for several years. I came in a few years ago. It divided my time between St. Barths and Lake Como.

DE 6 | Lake Como

Lake Como: Bellagio is the Pearl of Lake Como. It should definitely be on your bucket list.


Are the properties similar in any way? I know that the one in Lake Como is contemporary. How about the one in St. Barths?

The one in St. Barths is timeless. It is designed by Christian Liaiger, who is more about understated elegance, understated luxury. Both of them are similar. All rooms are facing stunning views, facing the water. It’s the same in St. Barths. All the rooms are directed towards the ocean. All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows. The one in St. Barths is more your French, Caribbean luxury relaxed feel. The one here in Lake Como is designed by Patricia Urquiola, also equally stunning with every single room facing the water with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Let’s start talking about this amazing property you have. The first new construction on Lake Como in 100 years we heard. It won the 2019 Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award. What is that like being awarded something like that? What is the process that you have to go through? Is it a surprise? Do they tell you? I’m interested and I’m sure our readers would love to know how you got such a fantastic accolade.

It’s an indication of the hard work that the team has done because it is a surprise. You don’t take these things for granted. It’s a lot of work, on behalf of the marketing, but also the team that makes every guest happy here. They’ve worked very hard since the opening, which was a few years ago. They also worked hard in getting the word out. It’s one thing to build this property, but another thing to put it on the map and get the exposure that’s ultimately what’s been recognized. It’s a great achievement and it’s something every year we try to accomplish or keep getting the word out about this great property.

Let’s talk a little bit about some of the bucket list experiences on the property because not only Lake Como itself is a once in a lifetime destination for anyone, but your hotel itself is a bucket list destination. Meaning you can go there and have an experience of a lifetime. Tell us a little bit about some of the things you can do on property that is unique. Let’s start with the spa right here.

You’re in the restaurant. It’s one of the arches looking out over the restaurant, overlooking the spa. It’s a great view. It’s stunning and amazing. Anybody that does come must spend time out on the water. That’s an absolute must. Whether you’re going to take one of our custom-made Riva Jetto boats that are self-drive and all you need is a driver’s license to do that, or our Vaporina which comes with a captain or a skipper, or walk into the nearby village called Torno and jump on the local ferry for a few euros and venture North or South. Don’t leave without spending time on the water because it’s from the water that the beauty of Lake Como is built along the shores of the lake. All the villages, the stunning homes, restaurants are all at the water level. What’s special about the design of the hotel as well as all of that is the backdrop. You’ve got this beautiful view of the other side of the lake from the penthouse suite. You could see these small little villages on the other side of the lake.

I want to touch on these Riva boats. You’ve got to go to their website and check them out. They’re beautiful wood boats, the two self-driving ones you mentioned. The other one that you can get the skipper for, the captain, it reminds me of a presidential boat. The inside is stunning. It’s covered if you don’t want the sun. It’s a great unique experience to be able to get into one of those and go check out the lake. Are there lots of restaurants and places you can access by boat easily from your property?

There’s no shortage of them, up and down the lake. There’s a number of them. Whether it’s with one of our boats or with a water taxi, there are great restaurants across the lake. People will often go from here up to Bellagio or down to Como for lunch or for dinner by boat. A lot of people also come to our own restaurant and arrived by boat or be dropped off by a water taxi.

Let’s talk a little bit about your restaurant because it’s Michelin rated.

We got our first and only Michelin star after several months of operating. Chef Raffaele Lenzi is our chef that did this. He has an amazing team that delivers day in and day out. We’ve got a number of great-tasting menus, 6, 7, 8-course tasting menus. We’ve got an all-day pool menu, a bistro menu. Whether you want your spaghetti Bolognese or your tasting gourmet-style menu, it’s all there. The best part is the entire hotel, it’s a relaxed atmosphere. While you’re enjoying Michelin dining, you don’t have to get all dressed up. You can come down in your jeans if you want so to speak.

I always recommend it to people, see if you can meet the chef because chefs are creative, fun people for the most part. Going to a Michelin-rated restaurant and then getting to speak to the chef if it’s possible, is always a great experience. You have a sister property on the lake itself. It’s a villa that was built in 1573 that’s been refurbished to its former glory. Tell us a little bit about that.

It’s got a great story to it. The Count of Anguissola had once killed the son or the brother of the pope at the time, and he needed to build a place to come and hide. He built the Villa Pliniana and hung out there for the next twenty years. The pope never found him. It’s in a corner elbow of the lake where he had great visibility down and up the lake. Behind him is a full mountain. The entire estate spreads across 18 acres. It’s got 2 or 3 waterfalls, a helicopter landing pad, gardens, spa, ballrooms, billiard room, etc. It’s a stunning property, which is available now for the first time in 500 years to rent as a place to lodge.

Is it something that you have to take as a whole or do you rent sleeping rooms in the villa?

You would take it as a whole. It comes with eighteen bedrooms. We’ve had guests that have used 2 or 3 bedrooms at a time, and a guest that have used all eighteen bedrooms. We’d only rent it to one guest at a time. Whether they come again with a small family, a large group, a group of friends.

How far is it from your property?

It’s about 900 meters away. It’s a three-minute boat ride, a 2 or 3-minute car ride or a walk. It’s up the lake from here.

I have a question because this property, the architecture is contemporary. How was that received on Lake Como? When people go to Italy, they have this vision of the old Italian architecture and then to go and see a brand-new property on Lake Como. Does it turn heads? Are people like, “Where did that come from?” How did you get that passed? Did you have obstacles in creating such a new space there?

First of all, our owners, the Contreras family did not want to create a faux-historic Italian structure. Instead, they decided to work with a very highly regarded and well-respected designer even here in Italy, Patricia Urquiola. What’s special about this property or this structure here is if you do get on a boat and you’ve ventured to 300 yards out into the lake and turn around, the hotel almost camouflages itself into the mountain. Because of the materials, the wood, we’ve got a vertical wall garden by Patrick Blanc. The vegetation, the wood, and the stone perfectly blend itself. You’ve got to look hard to see where the property ends and starts because it does fit so perfectly into the mountain.

The other thing is it doesn’t come and impose itself on the lake. It kowtows itself to the lake because every single room faces water, but every single room including the lobby is floor-to-ceiling windows. It comes with respecting the lake and it’s all about the lake. One of the best things to do while here in addition to spending time in the water in a boat is enjoying a cocktail, a tea or a coffee in the lobby and taking in the lake view. It’s a show in itself.

Is the lobby open air a lot of the year?

On a day like this day, it is. All the windows do open up weather permitting, great air circulation. It’s an open-air lobby when weather permits.

We talked about some bucket list items. You must have guests coming from all over the world. Lake Como, I’m hearing about it more possibly that it’s a destination for the rich and famous. It’s got this elite status that people want to go. If not, to possibly rubbed shoulders with somebody they’ve seen in a movie. The atmosphere itself is over the top. As a general manager, you have a guest and it’s a special occasion, maybe a 50th anniversary or something along those lines. Coming from the business that Andy and I come in, you get these requests sometimes. You’re like, “I don’t know if we can make that happen, but let’s see if we can do it.” Can you think of anything off the top of your head that someone’s come to you that seems a little outrageous, but you’re like, “We can make this happen for this guest?”

We do have a lot of interesting guests here almost every day. There’s no shortage of that. I remember two unique requests. One was a well-known guest whose security team had asked me to somehow play along with them in explaining that it was too dangerous to swim in the lake. They never took that into account in the three days prior to all the preparation. I sat there saying, “I can’t exactly say we’ve got shark or piranha ruled out. How do I explain that it’s too dangerous to jump off the Jetty and swim in the lake?” That was a funny request. Another interesting request was an equally VIP guest, they had come to me and asked if I could assist in getting them to close down the town of Como for a special part of their 4 or 5-day visit. The message was clear, whatever it would take. I engaged or decided to try my best and venture into it. Those were two requests that I do remember that I won’t forget.

We’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination, the names of those VIPs. I love that you didn’t say no. That’s great.

It’s never no. We’ll try everything.

Thank you for sharing your hotel with us. Samy, we’re going to move into our rapid-fire questions. You’re a world traveler. You’ve been all over. You have been to 130 countries. That’s what I read at one point or maybe more. We like to give our readers and our followers on social media tips from people like you who are world travelers and do it right. We’re going to give you these four questions and have your best answers. The first one is have you ever completed anything on your personal bucket list? If so, what was it?

My dream was always to be an expat. Having taken my first assignment abroad in St. Barths and then now living in Lake Como, half there, half here. I did okay on that.

I don’t think we mentioned you’re a son of Chicago. You’re from Chicago and New York.

Chicago but I identified more like a New Yorker. I’ve been to New York City for many years. My dream was always to work abroad. I ended up in two beautiful destinations and that was on my list.

You’re already living in two amazing places, but if you could live anywhere else in the world for a year, where would it be?

DE 6 | Lake Como

Il Sereno may be contemporary in style, but fits so perfectly into its scenery and does not impose itself on the lake.


It has always been and would always be Japan. It’s always been a dream of mine to live in Japan for a year. It’s a culture that intrigues me. The food I love, the culture, the people. It’s a culture and country I know so little about that I would love to learn more about and experience it firsthand for a year. It would be Japan.

A lot of people don’t know this and for our readers’ bucket list item, Japan is a foliage rival of the Northeast United States and it’s spectacular. It’s one of the best trips I ever took. If you ever are there in the fall, you will be pleasantly surprised. When you’re packing for a trip, what is something you pack that might surprise our readers?

I seem to pack everything in addition to the usual portable batteries because I hate when my cell phone runs out. One thing that I have consistently taken for the past few years is a very strong flashlight, which has served many purposes. I’m into flashlights. There’s a brand I like that’s SureFire. You can check it out on the internet. I always buy the strongest SureFire 1,000 Lumen flashlight, which has done everything from come in handy. Security-wise, it’s been very helpful in some of the remote countries around the world. It’s probably my flashlight.

What is your most memorable experience at Lake Como since you’ve been there? That’s our final question.

It’s probably the opening day. We opened to a very high-profile wedding with a guest list of 50 guests, also all very high-profile VIP individuals. The construction of the hotel finished as the guests were coming in. It was the entire day of walking guests to rooms or guests from the room, whatever calling and saying, “Does this room come with a TV?” realizing maybe we forgot to put the TV on that wall to some of the funniest things. I have to say that the actual guests could not have been more pleasant and enjoyed or were able to laugh at some of the funniest of experiences. Opening a hotel that you finished building it and you open to a wedding was unforgettable.

My last personal question is you’re an expat living in Lake Como. You’ve been there for several years now. I’m sure you’ve eaten a lot of great Italian meals there, at least one of my favorite places I’ve been many times. What is your go-to favorite must-have Italian meal in Lake Como that you can tell our readers about?

I love the food here. There are times I’ve had my fair share of carbs. Sometimes I’m pizza and pasta out. Here in Como, rather than any particular cuisine or restaurant, I have my go-to place for a fabulous tagliolini with fungi mushroom and truffle, or I go to a favorite restaurant where the pizza crust is black from squid ink. I’ve even found an Umbrian restaurant that has a hamburger that I would put in the top three hamburgers I’ve had in my life, which I would not have expected. There are some great dining options throughout the lake. I’d probably say my favorite dish of 2020 is the pistachio spaghetti right here at Il Sereno. It’s a league of its own.

Samy, I have a question more about the activities outside of the property and the actual water activities. What’s something that you could recommend that you being a local now, that you’re not going to find it in a brochure? What is someplace you could say you’ve got to do this?

Aside from driving to the Loro Piana factory store in 2020, I’ve had a little more time to explore. It’s hiking. You can go to the top of these mountains. You don’t think to because you’re always focused on what’s at the water level and seeing it from the water. Some of the hikes I’ve done in the past few weeks reach the tops of these mountain tops and seeing a stunning lake from such high elevation is quite an experience.

Does your concierge have trail maps of some of those trails where if someone wants to go hiking, they can go check it out?

There are plenty of trail maps and hiking escorts. There are some smartphone apps that also identify these hikes all over. I would tell any guests to pack a pair of hiking shoes and put that on your list when visiting the lake.

Samy, I know you’re a busy guy. You’re managing two hotels. Thank you for being our guest. We greatly appreciate it. I know our followers and our subscribers will love learning about your hotel. If you want to learn more, go to IlSereno.com or on Instagram, @IlSereno and find out about this contemporary property at Lake Como. It is a bucket-list must especially if you’re doing a big celebrity wedding. Samy, thank you for your time. We greatly appreciate it. Hopefully, we’ll see you soon.

Andy, Todd, thank you both. It’s been great talking. I look forward to welcoming you guys in the lake someday.

We’re looking forward to it. Thank you, Samy.

At AMI, we are passionate about meeting connections that change lives. For over twenty years, we have traveled our clients all over the globe supporting their business goals and helping them stand apart from hotel sourcing to audio/visual magic. We’ll help make your corporate meetings or events second to none. Go to AmericanMeetings.com to learn more. American Meetings, AMI, meeting and planning perfected.

[bctt tweet=”If you’re going to Lake Como, don’t leave without spending time on the water. The beauty of the place is built at water level.” via=”no”]

I want to thank, Samy. He is one of those people that has a passion for travel. I’d love to hearing what they said about the hotel becoming a part of the scenery instead of becoming a modern piece of architecture sitting at the foot of the hills. The blending thing is amazing. If you’re ever in Lake Como, please look for Samy and go check out the property. It sounds gorgeous.

We’re going to move into our bucket list items for Lake Como. We’ve got some great ideas for you and a nice surprise. One more interview for you about one of the bucket list items. Here we go.

We’ve got the lake. We’ve got beautiful scenery, hiking and mountain biking. There are private and public gardens in many of the villas around the lake. We’re going to talk about one and that’s Villa del Balbianello. It’s a garden and a villa, but you can’t stay there. It’s not a rentable property. It is one of the most well-known villas on Lake Como. This is a spot that was the set for Star Wars and James Bond film.

It’s where Queen Amidala and Anakin got married.

They were running in that field and it was beautiful. A lot of people think that’s all CGI. That is Lake Como. It’s a gorgeous spot for weddings and events.

It’s a bucket list day trip. You’ve got to go if you go to Lake Como. Go there for sure.

They have a music festival every year in mid-July. We saw a video and a picture, a live image of what Lake Como looks like. It was stunning and the weather was perfect. July is probably spot on with that. It’s a music festival and you’ll hear a lot of classical music. It’s gorgeous. It is the LacMus Music Festival. It’s international and there are lots of participation. You’ll want to add that to your list if you’re there in July. Google it and get tickets early.

Our next bucket list item is to go to the pearl of Lake Como, which is the town of Bellagio. Don’t get it mixed up with the one in Vegas. This one is quaint, beautiful and very crowded in the summertime. If you go on the off-season, it’s even better. It has great villa architecture. It has beautiful gardens. The villa is one that you want to see. It’s an absolute great place for an incentive trip. We highly recommend it.

When you think of Italy, you think of a couple of different things. In terms of food, you think of pasta. There’s olive oil. Olive oil is one of the gifts that Italy gives to the world. There’s a very famous olive oil, it’s the Vanini Brothers. You can go to their oil mill and it dates back to the 1850s. You can do tastings and purchase olive oil. We recommend that you do that if you do like olive oils. If you cook, salads, you can use it in so many things. It’s good for you too, but the taste is amazing. Be sure to do that. Andy, what’s next?

We got the Como Cathedral in Como. It was built in 1836 and has a lot of world-renowned art in it. If you’re an art enthusiast, you definitely want to go. It has a beautiful history of the town as well as the gorgeous architecture of an Italian cathedral. It is the Como Cathedral in the City of Como. That is on my bucket list. I want to go see that.

This next item, I’ve done it at a couple of different places. It’s so much fun, but there are a lot of family-owned restaurants around the lake. A lot of them offer culinary experiences. You can go and take a class with one of the chefs and learn how to make some great things. I’m thinking pasta, but there’s so much more that you can learn. I recommend doing a little bit of research and finding a place where you can take one of these intimate cooking classes, maybe with you or a small group.

It’s a great thing to do on a misty or rainy day. Talk to your concierge, but it’s a thing that can be a memorable experience for your group when you take them there. The next one to explore Castello di Vezio. It’s a medieval fortress nestled within an olive grove in the town of Varenna. This what blew me away, which is a stunning place to go. It’s a place that you get to meander and enjoy the history as well as a beautiful setting in this olive grove. That is again in the city of Varenna. Put that on your list. There are all these little towns all around Lake Como. You can hop over the course of the day to a few to see all these historical sites.

We have two gentlemen that are going to be joining us. They’ve started a company on Lake Como a few years ago. It’s a bucket list item and there is only one on the entire lake. You’re going to want to know what they want to say. If you ever visit Lake Como, you have to contact them and make it happen.

We have a great surprise for you. Talking about a bucket list item, can you imagine being on Lake Como and doing the amphibious car, driving a car into the water and then experiencing Lake Como from an automobile in the water? That’s what we’re going to talk about with the Founders of Larioland, Francesco and Andrea. Thanks for joining us.

Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

DE 6 | Lake Como

Lake Como: There is no shortage of VIPs and interesting guests in Il Sereno at any given day.


We’re all about unique bucket list experiences for our subscribers and our followers. You guys certainly have one. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the history of your company and exactly what an amphibious car is and what the experience can be?

I can start and Francesco can also continue the story. Everything started at the end of 2018 with this idea to make an amphibious car. Why this? It’s because we know we live in an amazing area. Como Lake is nice. It’s beautiful. Amphibious is a fantastic and unique way to see this lake. We wanted to start this company and to show to all the world this amazing area in a unique way.

What type of car is it?

The car is an Amphicar. It’s a German car made in the older ‘60s and originally was made for US business. The Amphicar is the first and only ever car built-in factory as an amphibious. The car is amphibious. It’s able to ride the streets and also dive into the water.

You didn’t retrofit the car. The car was designed to be an amphibious vehicle?

It is. The car is amphibious with rear wheels driving and also with true propellers steering the rear to move in the water.

Can a person drive the car themselves, someone that rents the car from you guys?

It’s possible. The nice experience is that you try the machine and you try this machine on your own. It means you can drive the car. You can learn how to drive it and you test it. That’s the most amazing part. People get scared. They are at the steering wheel going into the water. This is the most amazing part of the tour.

Is it easy to drive once you get it in the water? Is it like driving a car?

It is easier to drive it in the water than on the road. It’s simple. You only have to steer and push the throttle. It’s fun. Another part of the splash-in is it’s unique. There are a lot of people who are watching the view and taking photos. You can almost feel like a VIP and also like James Bond when he drives out of the water.

I googled it and a lot of pictures came up with your vehicle, which was great. It must be a popular site on the lake. How many people can go in the car at one time?

The car can fit four people maximum. An instructor of Larioland is always on board to teach how to drive, but also to check that everything is going well because still you are in the deepest lake of Europe. It’s better to know what people are doing. It’s up to three people at the same time.

Anybody that might be a little scared, what happens if a boat goes fast by you? Does anything happen? Does it go like this and go over the wave?

It just moves on the waves. Nothing worse can happen.

It’s doesn’t go fast, so you are safe.

[bctt tweet=”Definitely put hike to the top of Lake Como’s mountains. Viewing the stunning lake from such elevations is breathtaking.” via=”no”]

Are there any other amphibious vehicles like in the States we have Duck Tours, which are the boats that go in. Are you the only amphibious vehicle on the lake?

Yes, we are. We are also the first in Europe that does that. In Europe, there are amphibious buses that you cannot take for a city site, but with Larioland, you can drive it. It’s an important difference. You can experience something for the few people because it’s small groups, as told by Andrea only a few people can come in. It’s personal also.

How fast does it go?

It drives at 70 miles per hour on the street and 7 miles per hour in the water. This is why the name of the car is Amphicar 770.

It’s been very popular. A lot of people are doing it.

We are because when we started this activity, all the people were taking videos and so on. We went to all the newspapers and so everybody knows us now at the lake.

What is the most memorable thing? Is it the driving in? Is that the most memorable part of it or what do people enjoy about the experience?

They can enjoy this machine. The transition from land to water is the most iconic part of the tour and the experience. When you are in the water, you are a boat. When you are on the road, you are a car. At that moment, you are both. It’s fun.

Children are allowed as passengers, correct?


Do you have other plans or do you have any plans to expand and add to your vehicle fleet? Whether it be 2 or 3 in the future or are you going to stay with one right now?

The plan is to stay with the one because of the virus. Unfortunately, we’ve been affected by it just like the world. We have this issue in the future, why not? Why don’t we extend to 2 or 3 vehicles or to another lake? We also have in mind to make an electric amphibious car, to make it our project because we also mechanical engineers. We like to modify stuff and create something new, but this requires money. Now it’s a bit difficult, so we’ll see in the future.

It’s a fantastic bucket list thing for things to do when they go to Lake Como. Where should our guests or our followers go to on the internet to find your car and how they can rent it?

You can find us on Instagram. You can look for @Larioland and on Facebook too. You can also surf our website, Larioland.it.

As locals, as people who are from Lake Como and you guys have a social life, where do you like to go? Do you have a favorite restaurant somewhere on the lake that you like to go and hang out and have some good food and drinks?

DE 6 | Lake Como

Lake Como: Larioland is the first ever amphibious car rental service in the whole of Europe – a unique way to experience of the beauty of Lake Como from both land and water.


There are many amazing restaurants on the lake. We also have our own fish around the lake. It’s quite amazing. We have a partner restaurant also that is for our longer tours that is called Sottovento in Lierna.

That restaurant you mentioned is that in the town of Como or is that in one of the other surrounding areas?

The restaurant is in a town called Lierna. It’s on the Lecco side because Como Lake is divided into parts. There are two branches. The right branch is the area of Lecco where both myself and Francesco are from. It’s even more natural than the Como area. Como is more touristic and Larioland is a nice experience because you can test and you can see both of these areas that are quite different, even if we are both on the same lake.

When you’re not on the lake, what do you guys enjoy doing? I heard hiking is quite big around the lake.

We do a lot of hikes. Andrea and I also ride a mountain bike. We enjoy to go downhill from our mountains. The greatest mountain is Monte Barro because it’s a natural area and a natural park. From the top of Monte Barro, even if it is not so high, you can see a lot of land around it, a lot of lakes. You can see Resegone, Grigna, Grignetta, all the mountains that are famous. You can hike them. You can enjoy it because from the top you can see sometimes even Como and Milan.

If you’re not traveling on a bike, are there places that you can rent a mountain bike with access to the trails?

There are a lot of shops in Lecco and also in towns around Lecco and also on the Como side, there are a lot of shops where you can rent a bike and also eBike to go exploring.

I hadn’t heard about mountain biking there, Todd. That’s a fantastic thing to do.

It’s starting to sound a little more like the Northeast US up in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. A lot of mountains, hiking and mountain biking. Another question, you guys have done a lot. I read that, Andrea, you’ve traveled probably a little bit more than Francesco. Do you guys have a bucket list adventure that you personally want to go on, each of you, something that you haven’t done yet that you’re looking forward to make it happen?

I traveled to a lot of places in the world, but I miss many areas. For example, South America is a good area where I would like to go because of mountain biking. There are amazing mountains. I prefer warmer areas than cold areas.

Francesco, what about you?

I like the cold too. I also like hotter area too, but I also like colder. I love Africa. I’ve been in Kenya. I want to go back. I’ve also never been to Canada. I could go there if I can choose.

It sounds like you guys are extreme travelers, which you guys go more on the adventure side if that sounds right. Biking, hiking, and more of the outdoor types.

We love extreme travels, extreme sports. We play also Alpine ski, powder ski, snowboard and kite surf here on Como Lake as well. We used to play motocross in the past. We love adventure.

This side also pushes us to start as an entrepreneur with Larioland. Our motto is to explore the unseen. You also have to be prepared to explore and adventure. We want our customers to feel and enjoy Como Lake as we do.

[bctt tweet=”The transition from land to water is an iconic part of the Lake Como experience that only Larioland can offer.” via=”no”]

We always be sure to remind our readers that when they do travel, they are guests in your home. We hope they respect the lake and the land around it when they do visit. Thank you for joining us. We wish you all the best of luck. We can’t wait to get out there and visit Larioland and take a ride on your amphibious vehicle.

Thanks for your time. Readers, if you’re interested in running an amphibious vehicle as a bucket list item, go to Larioland.it or Instagram @Larioland. Thanks for your time. Have a great day.

Thank you.

Thank you very much.

What a great idea, what two great guys. If you get to Lake Como, what a bucket list experience to try is this amphibious car. You’ve got to do it. They seemed two people that could show you around the city as well. They’ll give you some great mountain biking and hiking examples as well.

That was Andrea and Francesco, their website is Larioland.it. Reach out to them. As Andy said, if the car is booked, say, “Where’s a good mountain biking trail or give me a place to go get a bike rental?” I’m sure these guys know a lot about the area. It’s always best to get it from the locals. Reach out to them. I’m going to add them to my Facebook friends.

My bucket list, everything that we heard is Villa Pliniana. That would be a once in a lifetime experience to rent that out with a group of friends or go for the day. It would be incredible. That is the private villa that’s owned by Il Sereno. I highly recommend that.

That’s one of mine. I do have a birthday coming up that is special. I’ve got eighteen rooms to fill. I’m thinking of two guests per room, maybe a couple of pull-outs. I can do 40 people on my birthday. I don’t need a car because I could take a helicopter ride near the airport. That’s very convenient for me. I love that suite that Samy was in at the Il Sereno. The views alone are gorgeous. I’d love to go out into the town. I’d love to find a great authentic Italian restaurant and learn to make pasta. I’ve always said I’ve never made pasta. I’ve always bought it. It probably is insulting to many people in Italy. I love to learn how to make different types of pasta, run it through the pasta maker and then hang it out, learn to prepare a great meal.

We covered exploring Como, Bellagio and Varrena with activities. Each one of those small towns is great.

I want to mention something also. You’ll see a lot of boats but there are a few spots for swimming on Lake Como. It’s not something that you’re going to see people. In the areas around the villages, you’re not going to see a lot of people swimming. There are designated swimming spots, just be aware of that. We’re the guests, respect the rules. It’s heavy nature in this area. It’s gorgeous just looking at the scenery and the water. The locals there might appreciate everybody keeping it as clean as possible.

Another one that I would want to try is olive oil tasting in the town of Lenno. We talked a little bit about that experience. That could be a great day trip from any of these small towns. We highly recommend that.

If you take one of those ships out, that’s 1,300-feet deep, they do have sightseeing tours. There is an infrastructure of boats to go from town to town. If you can afford cell phones, I would watch out with the selfies taking them from the boat. If it goes over, you’re never going to see that thing again.

Speaking of boats, Il Sereno has got those Riva wood custom-crafted boats. That’s something you need to do. You can either do a self-driving one or they have a captain that will take you around so you can enjoy some drinks along the way. That’s on my bucket list. I’d want to do that.

Of the two, I like being by myself. I know you can learn to drive the amphibious car. You can drive the boats, but to see the other boat that they have, it is so classic and cool. If you don’t mind the captain being with you at a great time, this thing is cool. You’ve got to check it out.

Check it out on the Il Sereno website. It’s one of those once in a lifetime experience.

They’re made in Italy. They’re handcrafted wood. It’s gorgeous.

We like to take a shout-out to the Lake Como Tourism for helping us put together this episode. If you’re headed to the area, make sure you check out LakeComoTourism.it. They will bring you some great ideas. They’ve brought us some great ideas. Thank you, guys. We greatly appreciate it.

Thanks, Samy, Andrea and Francesco.

We had a lot of fun showing you Lake Como. We’ll see you in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Samy Ghachem

Samy Ghachem is the Managing Director for Sereno Hotels. Origninally from Chicago, Samy moved out east for boarding school and university. He lived in NYC for 15 plus years until until he moved to St. Barths and Lake Como. With over 25 years of work experience in the luxury travel industry, Samy has worked for Air France for 16 years,and then managed a large Travel Management company for 3 years. He is a major travel addict having visited over 130 countries.

About Larioland

Explore Como Lake from a unique point of view – land and water.

Drive an amphibious vehicle to discover the territory of Lecco, a fantastic area with mountains and lake.

You have now the opportunity to feel new emotions thanks to Amphicar 770, a rare car born in Germany during ’60s.

The Company was born from the love of Andrea Rotta and Francesco Ornaghi for the Lario area.

Larioland is an innovative company, the first in Europe to rent amphibious cars; this came from the wish to promote a wild and relaxing environment, combined with a strong passion for cars.


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