Mauro the Wise

A chat after a great dinner at Uliassiĺs: speaking about Romito, Bottura, Cedroni... And the future of Italian cuisine

17-08-2017

Mauro Uliassi

Photogallery

Our dinner at Uliassi in the photos from Tanio Liotta. Meanwhile, the protagonists: chef Mauro with his sister Catia and son Filippo
The appetizers: Seaweed wafer, Hazelnut wafer and foie gras (a super classic, always delicious), Fake beef and almond olive, Crostino with anchovy and truffle, fabulous, paired with Kir Royal. The the first dish, in the photo: Raw scampi, juice of raw scampi head and finger lime. Great balance with the finger lime adding complexity
Pancotto, almonds and sea urchins from his friend Roberto Petza
Benvenuti al mare, that is to say hot stock made with clams, anemones, processed mussels and seaweed. A voluptuous blow, a sea to shake with the right whisk

Mauro Uliassi says he hardly feels a maestro: «It’s not up to me to say what Italian cuisine needs: I have no right to give directions. We must all find our road». However, Mauro Uliassi says that you need to find some northern star: «Authenticity, simplicity, and a full restaurant». This is how he works in his restaurant on Senigallia’s promenade. At the end of a great dinner (see the photo gallery, with photos from Tanio Liotta) we sit together, with a bottle of mineral water on the table. It’s time for the story, which we sum up in the following pearls of wisdom.

GROWING - «Growth is something inside you. It means always looking at what’s behind the hedge. You must study, make changes but always connected with what surrounds you. We’re in this stage: we want to grow, we’re focused on looking for perfection. In order to get three stars? That too, I can’t deny it. We’re competing, perhaps we will never make it, but we’re happy nonetheless».

THE VISION - «I believe there are two moments. The first, is the one in which we are now, as I said earlier: we’re worried of the present, in order to build a future. We’re working hard to improve. If this were enough for us, if we thought we had reached our goal, we could think of broadening our vision, start new projects. But we’re not satisfied with what we are, so we’re working to perfect ourselves». The tool is group brain-sailing, «five people, for a month before opening in the spring, sail with their mind, discussing what we’ll do» and give birth to the Lab, the creative menu, while five other people are at work maintaining the restaurant. A sort of yearly rebirth, a vivifying moment.

NIKO ROMITO - «Then there’s a second stage, for those who take a further step. Take Niko Romito, for instance: in just a few years he reached an extraordinary success, moving very quickly. He invested 3 million euros at a difficult time, during the recession, and this way he placed himself above, in the next stage I was mentioning. The same we can search for when we have finished dealing with the present. When we will be accomplished. Niko created the foundations that allow him to take care of other projects too. He can have a broader look at things. We cannot do this, not yet».

NORTHERN STARS - «I think Italian cuisine should never forget two essential parametres. First of all, authenticity: you must always keep to your context. Dishes must include the local, the truth, no showing off but a strong nucleus expressing the passion moving the chef. Then simplicity: we must present something that can always be recognised, that considers food cost and the availability of raw materials. These are the tracks on which we move».

COOKING STARTS FROM THE BOTTOM - «Cooking has a popular soul. This should be the starting point for all the 20-year-olds who want to take on this career. They must cook for local people. Learn to make excellent tagliatelle with ragù: people will crowd the restaurant, and this is the premise for everything. For emancipation. Travelling will come later, and with travelling, new experiences, including perhaps finding out how they make tagliatelle in Japan. This is a later step, you need time to take it».

Uliassi with Massimo Bottura

Uliassi with Massimo Bottura

MASSIMO BOTTURA - «Is an icon. He’s a great chef and an excellent communicator. But he’s impossible to imitate, he’s unique. Those who try to follow the same road, risk affectation. Because they don’t have Lara [Gilmore, his wife] beside hem, and because they haven’t spent half their life between Modena and New York, they don’t speak English as well as he does. Sometimes we meet at events with international journalists, we mumble a few foreign words, with the help of an interpreter; he’s fluent, a narrator, he creates empathy. Journalists start to talk with him and for us, it’s over».

Identità 2006: Cedroni, Scabin, Bottura, Uliassi, Marchi, Cracco and Leemann

Identità 2006: Cedroni, Scabin, Bottura, Uliassi, Marchi, Cracco and Leemann

THE PHOTO AT IDENTITA’ GOLOSE - «There’s this famous picture, at Identità Milano 2006. There’s me, Cedroni, Scabin, Bottura, Cracco and Leemann, on top of Paolo MarchiAlajmo had just left. See, I’m the older chef in that generation, I was born in he Fifties, the decade of the followers of Marchesi who were stars at the end of the century - Corelli, Pierangelini, Vissani – followed by the next wave. Yet I’m not an intruder in that picture, because I happened to share the establishment of that group reunited at Identità: I started later, I still needed to grow, but I caught up. Today a new generation is approaching: like Enrico Bartolini,  Piergiorgio Parini…»

GENIUS LOCI – «Senigallia is a place full of energy. Especially this very place where we are now: river Misa next-door, the spiaggia di velluto [velvet beach] in front of us, the pier, the port, the town: different elements interact with the sea and always give new scents, they change with sun or fog, with summer or winter. Plus Senigallia is geographically perfect: it’s in the middle, a 40 minute drive from five different regions. It’s very likely you’ll pass here».

Uliassi with Moreno Cedroni

Uliassi with Moreno Cedroni

MORENO CEDRONI - «This happy position allowed Senigallia to handle two high standard restaurants, mine and Moreno Cedroni’s. The other element that made us grow, is a useful competition between us. Moreno started first, he was a point of reference for us. I remember the days when I’d have a half-empty restaurant: I would send a boy on a bicycle to spy on what was happening at  Madonnina del Pescatore: if they also had few guests, I felt better. Otherwise, I would wonder what I was doing wrong. I already know that when we’ll stop working in the kitchen, Moreno and I will end up eating somewhere together. Like good friends».
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Photogallery

Our dinner at Uliassi in the photos from Tanio Liotta. Meanwhile, the protagonists: chef Mauro with his sister Catia and son Filippo
The appetizers: Seaweed wafer, Hazelnut wafer and foie gras (a super classic, always delicious), Fake beef and almond olive, Crostino with anchovy and truffle, fabulous, paired with Kir Royal. The the first dish, in the photo: Raw scampi, juice of raw scampi head and finger lime. Great balance with the finger lime adding complexity
Pancotto, almonds and sea urchins from his friend Roberto Petza
Benvenuti al mare, that is to say hot stock made with clams, anemones, processed mussels and seaweed. A voluptuous blow, a sea to shake with the right whisk
Sogliola alla Maître d’Hotel: nostalgic, a reassuring, elegant the-way-we-were
Il mare dentro, a superb dish made with fish entrails: salted cod and monkfish tripe, heart of turbot, squid liver... They’re cooked separately, each mouthful giving a different elegance. Uliassi uses scraps, waste products
Another masterpiece: Acqua di insalata, pane e lumache. We move to the countryside. Uliassi describes it perfectly: in the palate, the damp taste of the earth in Romagna. Snails, broad bean gelato, bread, salad water, made very powerful by pressing and maceration
Turbot neck in potacchio, alla moda dei contadini di Senigallia: this dish recalls a local tradition. The neck, in fact it’s the mandible, is seasoned with lard, tomato sauce, white wine, wild fennel and garlic
Mezze maniche “au beurre blanc”, boccaincava fish and boccaincava liver: French echoes, Escoffier comes to the mind, but the plus is given by the stargazer fish liver, «one could also use mullet, or weever...»
Uliassi wastes nothing: here’s the second part of the potacchio, first the turbot’s mandible, now the Turbot head with capers and anchovies, cooked on the barbecue, an Adriatic grill
Wood pigeon and sea urchins, earth is getting closer…
...before the savoury end, meaty as usual: Grouse, oyster, toasted seeds. Grouse is a bird from the partridge family, which lives in Scotland, where it feeds only on heather. This gives the meat a pleasant and intense flavour recalling peat and therefore Scotch whisky. The seeds recall toasted aromas, plus there’s the iodine in the oyster