Volmís challenge

Close to Milan, two young chefs and their restaurant. An ambitious challenge based on vegetables and bittersweet tones

12-04-2017

A visit to Pozzuolo Martesana, a short drive from Milan, to meet Lorenzo Vecchia and Olexandra Marfia, young patron-chefs at Volm

Photogallery

The two young chefs. The author of the photo gallery is Tanio Liotta
We start with the tasting of a simple diaphragm hanged for three months, then dried and smoked, before leaving it in the cellar, covered in goose fat
Early onion, uva fragola, bitter orange, sommacco
Artichoke, juniper, eggs, almonds and gin

Ok, Bottura may have lost his sceptre: yet we still have reason to be hopeful when it comes to the future of Italian cuisine. And not just because other chefs - Crippa, Alajmo, Romito – improved their ranking, but also because behind this generation there’s another one rich of talent and awareness elbowing its way. At Identità’s congress, we called it La Nuova Cucina Italiana, a general definition for the young chefs who want to shape our palate’s pleasure in the coming decades. Indeed, it has rather precise characteristics: these chefs have travelled and studied, learnt techniques and acquired significant experience in the world’s best restaurants. They pour this inevitably still unripe knowledge into a nice relationship with the territory: indeed they have understood that the (narrow) road towards the future, in Italy, passes through the interaction with the surrounding; first of all, by creating a network of producers and suppliers, sharing ideas with farmers and breeders, looking for herbs and products. These concepts, these days, can be even considered banal.

In doing so, however, these chefs avoid a sort of standardisation thanks to Italy’s biodiversity – so that being the standard bearer in Roero is a different matter from being one in Mugello, even when using the same approach – putting into use what they learnt, letting the experience in the New Nordic or French cuisines, or their decisive training with the Rocas or Redzepi show through.

The new entries in this large team – including the youngest ones, who have just appeared on the scene – sometimes may be a little too attached to the textbook, that is to say that spotting the hand who trained them can be a little too easy. Give them time, we could say: and given that from their style some character already shows, or at least the desire to show this character appears, even though with some naivety, we can grant them some faith. And gladly so.

After all, they often take on a not-very-easy task: they choose to expose themselves in the province. Which offers a few opportunities and a risk: the former come from a better chance to create a dialogue with the territory and avoid grinding costs and competition; the latter is that they may seem disconnected, without a market. They risk presenting themselves to an inexistent local gourmet market, or one that must be created. Therefore, they must find a balance between the need to grow and the need of income; between being praised by critics, and by clients.

As mentioned, there’s plenty of such stories in Italy. We’ve already told some: such as those of Davide Guidara in Marziani a Milazzo, Antonio Biafora and Nino Rossi on Sila and Aspromonte, of the youngest chefs from Abruzzo

A few days ago, instead, we took a short trip close to Milan. The drive to Pozzuolo Martesana was little over half an hour. Our destination was Volm, a new restaurant – opened last September – following the opinion of Andrea Grignaffini and the manifesto on their website:

At Volm we mostly use products from the province of Milan, making use of the presence of many small local producers, farmers and artisans. The search for the best products is completed with the use of wild and aromatic herbs, picked daily. Seasonality has a crucial importance in our cuisine: study and professional and personal experience contribute in making it young, creative and always evolving.

Volm is the scattered acronym of the two patron-chefs, Lorenzo Vecchia and Olexandra Marfia (Vecchia-Olexandra-Lorenzo-Marfia), partners in crime and in love. She was born in Kiev in 1989 to a Ukrainian mother. She spent her childhood in Bagheria, in her father’s Sicily, and grew passionate about cooking thanks to her grandmother, a character that never seems to be missing in such stories. After visiting a few restaurants, she first arrived at Alma and then at Lorenzo Cogo’s El Coq, just before he moved to Vicenza, where she met Vecchia, born in 1992 in Pozzuolo Martesana («I grew up round the corner. I love it when local clients who saw me as a kid walk in. And we have many!»). His curriculum is more substantial, and includes Carlo Cracco, two seasons at Venissa directed by Antonia Klugmann and as many with Martin Berasategui.

They put a lot of passion, even in building the place, «we did it all ourselves, with the help of some friends in the industry. No surveyors, designers or architects». Their cuisine is rich of vegetal elements, but without overdoing it with trendy fermentations. After all, their past doesn’t include Scandinavia. There are few acid notes. Instead, they seem to play a lot with bittersweet contrasts, in a good balance, escaping conventional formulas. So for instance the Tagliolini alla chitarra made with lentils and beans, foam of whisky, pears and cumin arrive after the meat and right before the dessert. The idea is supported by good flavours, so that it doesn’t look like it’s just a question of style.

This is one of the pros of the dinner. The others are: an interesting and elegant play on sweet and savoury, the valorisation of fresh vegetables and high quality raw materials, as mentioned; some really excellent and complex dishes, such as Risotto Carnaroli Riserva San Massimo, bay leaves, capers and reduction of chinotto or Artichoke, juniper, eggs, almonds and gin, delicious; the desserts were also very good, while they’re often the disappointing part of other menus (the Apple assoluto, beer gelato, liquorice and almond brittle was so good!); the small selection of wines, with organic bottles from small producers and a tiny selection of wines with maceration or in amphorae was intelligent. Things to improve: some items are a little repetitive, and unbalanced; the “Nordic” style service (with the chef, usually Vecchia, coming out of the kitchen) is slow; the chairs are uncomfortable. And then beef fillet as the meat main course? No, thank you.

The menu is essential, a total of nine dishes, with prices from 13 to 20 euros; the complete menu, with all the dishes, is 80 euros (the others are 45 and 65). Booking in advance is mandatory. The photo gallery by Tanio Liotta shows what we tasted. (Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso)

Ristorante Volm
Via IV Novembre 55/57
Pozzuolo Martesana (Milan)
Tel. +39.02.95358617


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Photogallery

The two young chefs. The author of the photo gallery is Tanio Liotta
We start with the tasting of a simple diaphragm hanged for three months, then dried and smoked, before leaving it in the cellar, covered in goose fat
Early onion, uva fragola, bitter orange, sommacco
Artichoke, juniper, eggs, almonds and gin
Head of veal, cooked in a broth of vegetables and cinnamon, Chinese fermented cabbage, onion, ginger. A variation on the dish in the menu, which requires rocket salad and puntarelle. Too bad the ginger is overpowering
Risotto Carnaroli Riserva San Massimo, bay leaves, capers and a reduction of chinotto
Leek with honey, smoked paprika, hazelnuts, mibuna and radicchio
Veal fillet with a compote of Sicilian date tomatoes and onion jam
Tagliolini alla chitarra made with lentils and beans, whisky foam, pears and cumin
A nice idea for the preseddert: a simple asparagus paired with a sauce of vanilla and butter and powdered chicory
Apple assoluto, beer gelato, liquorice and almond brittle
Cauliflower, white chocolate gelato, Matcha tea meringue, dulce de leche