On being Cerea these days

Da Vittorio: 50 years of excellence told in a book that shines thanks to Bruna’s love for her husband and five children

A souvenir photo with Bruna and her five children

A souvenir photo with Bruna and her five children in Bergamo at the presentation of the book published by Mondadori and dedicated to one of the greatest families in the global restaurant scene: Da Vittorio, storie e ricette della famiglia Cerea. Left to right: Bobo, Chicco, Francesco, RossellaBarbara and their mother. Where’s Chicco? He’s there, but you can’t see him, hidden behind Francesco. If you look hard, his right shoulder shows on top of Francesco’s and Bobo’s hands. Photo by Paolo Marchi

The title, Da Vittorio, storie e ricette della famiglia Cerea [Da Vittorio, stories and recipes from the Cerea family] of course had to enhance the protagonists of a restaurant family that’s virtually unique, born in 1966 in Bergamo and later moved in 2005 to nearby Brusaporto. They started from scratch, with panini we would now call gourmet and which over a century ago were a mouth-watering novelty, and arrived to global (g)astronomic fame. The exceptional children brought to even higher standards what they received from their parents. In Italy, we only have one such case aside from them, that of the Alajmos in Veneto. One star for mum and dad, two and then three with the following generation.

The authentic title, however, is different and we find it after the preface by Daniel Boulud and Joan Roca (here’s another family, Catalan, in this case), at page 15 of the book published by Mondadori, now in Italian and as of February in English too: Essere un Cerea. Which is hardly easy, as Mapy Danna wrote. Her content is intertwined with the Giovanni Gastel’s portraits and the dish photos by Paolo Chiodini.

Everything is perfect and intense in the photo by Giovanni Gastel. Left from right Bobo, Rossella, mum Bruna, Barbara, Francesco and Chicco Cerea

Everything is perfect and intense in the photo by Giovanni Gastel. Left from right BoboRossella, mum Bruna, Barbara, Francesco and Chicco Cerea

Essere un Cerea: Bruna, Enrico, Francesco, Barbara, Roberto and Rossella. The mother gave birth to five children with Vittorio, who passed away a few months after they opened the new restaurant. They met when he was little over 20, in his family café. Vittorio was on one side of the counter with his panini and Bruna was on the other, looking at him with loving eyes. She always ordered hot chocolate. Not that she didn’t like panini, but it takes a short time to eat one. This way, she could sip slowly and spend more time there and get noticed and appreciated. «His mother, my mother in law did the rest. We were alleys, so that he would succumb».

Bread, butter and anchovies from Monterosso, the sublime welcome at Da Vittorio’s cellar in Brusaporto

Bread, butter and anchovies from Monterosso, the sublime welcome at Da Vittorio’s cellar in Brusaporto

Being a Cerea means starting to work as a kid. First school then back at the restaurant, to help out, with something to eat only at the end of the service. «I would clear and lay tables, sweep. I made myself useful. I felt this was what I had to do, from the age of 12», says firstborn Chicco. Three boys and two girls. Francesco is the second-born, he takes care of events, cellar and staff. Not with a few big obstacles: «My dad gave me a direction. I rose up against him. I suffered but then I understood and he allowed me to have the life I dreamt about».

Then there’s Barbara, who runs the pastry shop in Bergamo Alta and the bistro at the airport in Orio la Serio. She’s a Cerea, but in a different way: «I’m not a regular Cerea, and I’m proud to be so. My surname is a gift, but my life, contrary to what happened to my brothers, led me to a less symbiotic, less inclusive relationship».

Fried moeche

Fried moeche

Between her and Rossella, there’s Roberto aka Bobo, the other chef: «If I think of our childhood, I can only remember the restaurant. We were never at home. Our entire world was there. A bus took us every morning to our respective school, and brought us back». Rossella said: «Our strength lies in being present: we cannot stay apart for too long».

So here they were a few nights ago, all together, in one of Bergamo’s historic palaces. They presented a powerful and authentic book, which invites you to read it and re-read it to enjoy each paragraph. Like in the chapter dedicated to Bobo. That’s where I found a beautiful portrait of patriarch cook Vittorio: «His cuisine was grandiose in that it was simple. Nothing too complex. Simplicity can be either banal or extraordinary. Dad’s food was extraordinary». His favourite dish among the family ones? Minestrone.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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