A lily (Giglio) with three petals

Rullo-Stefanini-Terigi: in Lucca a much-talked-about trio of very young, varied and talented chefs

24-07-2017

The team at Giglio in Lucca, a restaurant that’s becoming increasingly popular: left to right Benedetto Rullo, Dani Grieco, Francesco Massagli, Stefano Terigi, Lorenzo Stefanini (with Rullo they form the trio of chefs) and Nicolò De Angelis. Photos by Tanio Liotta

89-87-87 this is not an emergency number, nor an adult chat line, but the years in which three (very) young chefs were born. They form a trio of which people have been speaking for some time and was first acknowledged a few days ago, when Cnn Travel included the place among 20 restaurants around the world that are – wrongly – little known (read here).

This is thanks to Eleonora Cozzella, who had the task of indicating the more undervalued place in Italy; and she chose Giglio in Lucca, explaining her choice: “Too often chefs working together offer mediocre result: Giglio, however, proves the contrary. With a trio of chefs – all under 30 – exchanging tips, this historic temple of Tuscan tradition has acquired popularity in the creative cuisine scene better than each single protagonist would have done by himself. The best proof is given by an extreme dish like Spaghetti cooked in Syrah with frozen and grated pigeon liver pâté, a dish that acts as a perfect counterpoint in the classic tasting journey during which it is served”. A praising judgement, that is.

More than Tuscany: Toast with eel ragout and fermented daikon

More than Tuscany: Toast with eel ragout and fermented daikon

Grilled red cabbage tagliata

Grilled red cabbage tagliata

So since we were in the surroundings, a visit long planned but always postponed was inevitable. We sat at the tables on Piazza del Giglio, 2, a beautiful scene in a splendid town: it’s crowded, and this is a hint of a first feature of the restaurant, which keeps its roots in local tradition, thus attracting also tourists who are looking for simple traditional dishes; but thanks to the trio in the kitchen sharing the work (the brigade has a total of 10 people, the restaurant seating 200 people per day), they’re also focusing on research.

Spaghettino cooked in a broth of caper leaves, verjuice and anchovies

Spaghettino cooked in a broth of caper leaves, verjuice and anchovies

We must immediately point out something: Lorenzo Stefanini, Stefano Terigi and Benedetto Rullo (the youngest) have had very different careers; they also seem to have very different personalities, which results in the style of their recipes. Stefanini is the son of Patrizia Barbieri, owner of this plus other famous places in Lucca, such as Buca di S. Antonio and Orti. A talent raised at home, that is: he studied accounting in high school, then attended Alma in Colorno before the necessary apprenticeship in famous kitchens: with Portinari at La Peca in Lonigo, then Devero with Enrico Bartolini before the Japanese experience which reached its peak at Ryugin, in Tokyo.

Pilaf rice, elderberry, kefir and elderberry flowers preserved in vinegar

Pilaf rice, elderberry, kefir and elderberry flowers preserved in vinegar

Meanwhile, his peer and friend Terigi, also from Lucca, graduated in Contemporary Arts from the University of Venice and started to work as a videomaker, before an internship at Giglio, the initial step in a journey that then led him to Enrico Crippa, then Pierre Gagnaire and finally to Australia, before returning home. Last but not least, Rullo: from Rome, a humanistic background, he met Stefanini at Alma, followed by Da Vittorio in Bergamo before training with the above mentioned Gagnaire first at Sketch in London, then the other restaurant on the other side of the Alps, in Berlin, for four years; finally, a quick visit to Copenhagen at Christian Puglisi’s Relae, and he arrived in Tuscany last September, where the former two – who had known each other since primary school – had already been working together for 5 years.

Raviolini with chicken, cream and soy

Raviolini with chicken, cream and soy

Sounds complicated? It’s only the beginning. These complex journeys clash even in the kitchen. Dining at Giglio is certainly very pleasant and fun, if any for the heterogeneous series of dishes. It’s a constant rollercoaster of flavours with dishes that follow very strictly the training process of each main author: unsettling as well as stimulating. Like the three waves of starters, when each facet is more evident: «Each one of us thinks about his dishes, then we share ideas and discuss them», they explain.

A choice of method that doesn’t yet result in a clear and defined unique style; yet one has the doubt this is not necessarily a goal, once you acquire familiarity with this sort of gastronomic rollercoaster that stops once on classic French cuisine, then contemporary Italian, with Nordic cuisine fermentations or Japanese minimalism, until it reaches the safe landing of Tuscan recipes. Not necessarily in this order.

Rullo is preparing duck...

Rullo is preparing duck...

Duck breast, delicious

Duck breast, delicious

It’s some sort of unusual experiment without any safety-net, a fertile contamination with a declared goal, which can become the final destination, which still needs to be fully structured: «We like making Italian food». We had a long series of tastings, mostly recent creations. Among the starters, we liked the Beef strips with rice vinegar, oyster emulsion and campion, Toast with eel ragout and fermented daikon, Fermented milk, milt, herring and cherries, Veal heart, tomato water, anchovies and fennel, as well as the vegan Grilled red cabbage tagliata, a trompe-l’oeil of the more common meat course including fake blood (a red cabbage extract), cherry tomatoes and rocket salad. They were all very convincing in terms of harmony, full flavour and clean palate.

Salted caramel, ovis mollis, pistachio brittle, loquats, rosemary and calvados

Salted caramel, ovis mollis, pistachio brittle, loquats, rosemary and calvados

The Chicken raviolini with cream and soy were also excellent, while the duck deserves a special mention. It’s cooked in Mystery, a creation of Andrea Salvetti, who recently passed away, and collaborated for a long time also with Paolo Lopriore (see: Lopriore e la vaporieraLopriore dalla tavola al Portico and Lopriore in detail). They burn the herbs on which the bird is placed without using oil (sage, rosemary, thyme, juniper berries), then they add the cloche and start cooking, adding a little gin and white wine, so as to have both a roasted texture in the centre, a light smokiness and a homogenous cooking, almost like steaming, but powerful and for a few minutes. Rullo: «Salvetti presented us Mystery and asked us to try it. We were very happy with it. We now use it with duck, but it’s also perfect with pigeon. Not with beef, though, because it doesn’t fully absorb the aromas, having less fat. We think we’ll test it with crustaceans and vegetables though…». Meanwhile, the result is fantastic.

In conclusion, Cozzella was right: in Lucca something very, very interesting is growing.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Giglio
Piazza del Giglio 2, Lucca
Tel. +39 0583 494058
www.ristorantegiglio.com

 


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