The Abbruzzino’s makeover

A completely renovated restaurant, betting on Calabria: «I wouldn’t change this land with no other»

Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino, father and son: the

Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino, father and son: they completely renovated their restaurant in Catanzaro Lido (photos by Tanio Liotta)

Luca Abbruzzino was still missing something. Much arrived over the past few years: critics showered him with praise in a growing success; together with Caterina Ceraudo, he took over the now very popular team of young Calabrian chefs; invitations and work-trips abroad increased, the latest in Japan with Antonio Biafora; the restaurant has grown; and even before all this his dad Antonio gave him the baton, with a brave and unusual gesture (see: Abbruzzino's story with tastings). Yet, as we said: he was still missing something.

After an investment of many thousands euros, the final piece is finally in place: the restaurant is completely renovated, to suit the chef. It was tailor-made for his proposed style: essential, contemporary, focused on dishes right from the lighting, which perfectly frames the tables. The number of tables has decreased, they’re now only seven, two less than before; there are no more curtains on the windows, which are now technical; and there’s a new open view kitchen. «I finally feel the place is totally my own: it’s neat, light, there’s no space for distraction». Wood tables covered with bespoke table cloths, new chairs, a Molteni kitchen «designed based on our needs», a new organization for the staff (5 in the kitchen plus a kitchen hand, 4 in the dining room on top of his mother Rosetta and father Antonio).

The latter says: «We were at a crossroads. I thought Luca deserved our utter trust. Today there’s a network of suppliers around the restaurant moving the local economy: so even we needed to make a further investment». They did, a significant one. «After all, who would have thought, years ago, that people would come from so far to eat my son’s food? The other day, a couple from Toronto. Two Scots came yesterday, plus Australians and Americans. A couple from Malta comes every month. We had internship applications from Mexico and South Korea». The father’s pride.

The son, who’s Calabrian but a little Swiss too (in terms of character) looks ahead: «I’m removing the menu altogether to introduce just a tasting menu. I like working day by day with what I find in the morning. I don’t want further obligations: this allows me to go to the fishmonger and buy the best, with no rigid programmes».

Antonio Abbruzzino, Giuseppe Torcaso, Luca Abbruzzino, Matteo Morello, Cristiana Caccamo

Antonio Abbruzzino, Giuseppe Torcaso, Luca Abbruzzino, Matteo Morello, Cristiana Caccamo

There’s one fundamental point left, though: Calabria. «To me, it’s the ideal land. I wouldn’t change it with no other, in Italy and perhaps in the world too. It offers extraordinary products». Such as? «Ah, the list is long: bergamot, onion from Tropea, meat… But what I like the most is the relationship with the people producing these delicacies. The raw materials I use are such that I can only make dishes that enhance them with simplicity: raw fish with oil and lemon or a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and oregano. Then of course I use some techniques: I marinade, make pastry or juice… But I’m always sure of the result because starting from excellent raw materials, I have fantastic results with little work».

Things seem to be running smoothly. This is the season of receptions, especially weddings. Father and son do the numbers, they’ve divided their work into different areas. Abbruzzino Jr takes care of clients from Lamezia, Abbruzzino Sr of those from Gioia Tauro. The numbers are significant, and offer resources to do research: «We have just experimented producing sheep ham. Nobody has ever done this locally: 90 days of ageing after aromatising it with bergamot, juniper, different types of pepper, coriander, sesame seeds». The result is excellent, a real delicacy. Sous chef Matteo Morello is thrilled: in the team for the past six years he was the first to have the idea.

We finish the chat with a tasting of raw fish. «You know what’s funny? – says Luca Abbruzzino – The fish here is even too fresh. People are not used to meat so firm». So he leaves it to mature for a day in the fridge. Try say this is not a gourmet paradise…
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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