In Viaggio, one year of travels with Claudio Melis

First anniversary for the restaurant in Bolzano. The menu is an incredible journey on a rollercoaster of aromas

17-08-2018

Claudio Melis and his culinary journey around the world (and back), in the photo by Tanio Liotta

If you want to discover what – according to my personal taste and experience – is one of the best restaurants in Italy, you must enter an old building in the historic centre of Bolzano. Then you must walk to the large wood door on Piazza della Mostra and ring the bell. Continue across the lobby while, at the end, somebody will draw a curtain; watching you walk, they will nod and then open the entrance to an almost enchanted restaurant, «all around you, the borders between space and time will become thin, and then indistinguishable», they tell us.

Here’s the entrance

Here’s the entrance

A charicature of Melis by designer Alessandro Matta, in the emblem of the restaurant

A charicature of Melis by designer Alessandro Matta, in the emblem of the restaurant

At the far end

At the far end

In Viaggio by Claudio Melis has just turned one. It’s a very different place from the ones we usually cover. Starting from the setting: it looks like you’re on the Orient Express; this used to be the elegant gallery of a photographer, with a darkroom; he preserved the early 20th century atmosphere, soft, cosy, full of nuances. Mosaics on the floor, vaulted ceilings, tufted walls.

The dining room

The dining room

This was a photographer’s gallery

This was a photographer’s gallery

The building, from the 17th century, was initially an Hapsburg residence, and then became a hotel. Today it has some of the most prestigious offices of the local upper class. It preserved the imperial solemnity, which is in fact recalled by the other restaurant – next to In Viaggio, but overlooking the square, while the former is enclosed in the building – whose name is Zur Kaiserkron, "to the imperial crown". Same address, same management, that is to say Claudio Melis and his brother in law Robert Wieser (Melis married his sister Monica; the same Wieser of Ciasa Salares with Matteo Metullio’s La Siriola, soon covered in another piece).

Zur Kaiserkron is a more casual place. It’s always crowded, and serves sound local cuisine, or rather modern tradition, as they call it here, with a well-structured, tasty menu. It’s an open space, even in terms of structure. It embraces the guest. In Viaggio looks instead like a secret place, something to be whispered about, the subject of gourmet word of mouth.

Monica Wieser Melis, Claudio Melis, Roberto Wieser

Monica Wieser Melis, Claudio Melis, Roberto Wieser

And once the word of mouth gets to you, do go. It is really worth it. There are many threads intertwined in this elegant story, and there are even more connecting In Viaggio with the endless life and professional experiences of Melis, from Gadoni in Sardinia, a tiny village near Nuoro. Born in 1972, he’s always travelled. Not that he was escaping reality: he dived into life out of love for adventure and knowledge, and this is what gives him the energy to grow.

His resume includes France, Germany, Italy with Pietro Leemann at Joia and Gualtiero Marchesi at Albereta, and then San Marino, at Righi, before establishing himself at La Siriola – where he spent ten years. A decisive step in his career and life, until 2010, «it took me two years to conquer Monica» - before other distant destinations, Saudi Arabia, Antigua, Dubai... In July 2015 he returned, at Zur Kaiserkron. One year ago he condensed all these flavours and meetings, emotions, pans and woks into a sort of summa that makes In Viaggio, «I met people, admired faces, tasted and smelled aromas».

Davide Ungaro

Davide Ungaro

It’s a real gourmet place: six tables carved in the past, in a place full of history, as mentioned, so that it has sound roots but is not afraid to venture in every direction, through food. For instance: when the talented dining room manager Davide Ungaro arrives,we ask him a pairing «with good wines from South Tirol», and he – from Rapallo in Liguria, previously working with Berton and then Cracco during his short experience at Palazzo Parigi – is almost offended: «There’s plenty of good wines, but as for the pairings, it’s with wines from all over».

Sous chef Marc Bernardi

Sous chef Marc Bernardi

So this is how it went. Melis: «We believe, without any presumption, that we have a journey to tell». The menu at In Viaggio, between 5 and 9 courses «in which, using products from all around the world with an ethical and respectful approach I create a journey that my past, present and future stories connect in a sensorial experience» is an extraordinary proof of versatility; a play on flavours that have in common the meeting with a creative mind.

Bolzano has been missing a Michelin star for over 50 years, they say. Not for long, perhaps?

In the photo gallery, our dinner in the photos by Tanio Liotta.

Our dinner. After a fresh and energising Tomato and basil consommé, here’s Puffed rind, salted char (salted, desalted, cooked and whisked with extra virgin olive oil), powdered sea urchins 

Our dinner. After a fresh and energising Tomato and basil consommé, here’s Puffed rind, salted char (salted, desalted, cooked and whisked with extra virgin olive oil), powdered sea urchins 

Steamed focaccia: steamed potato focaccia stuffed with parsley and goat cheese, marinated onion

Steamed focaccia: steamed potato focaccia stuffed with parsley and goat cheese, marinated onion

Very interesting Jerusalem artichoke bark: Jerusalem artichoke peel, hummus with sesame and crispy bark 

Very interesting Jerusalem artichoke bark: Jerusalem artichoke peel, hummus with sesame and crispy bark 

Rice and curry: cloud of Artemide black rice, Golden apple curry 

Rice and curry: cloud of Artemide black rice, Golden apple curry 

Excellent bread, from mother yeast. Thirty percent of the flour is from Macino, the flour made from grape marks invented by Roberto Franzin (we wrote about it here: Franzin flies high with Tarabusino). Then butter with Maldon salt, toasted carasau bread, Agrestisextra virgin olive oil, Sicilian and organic

Excellent bread, from mother yeast. Thirty percent of the flour is from Macino, the flour made from grape marks invented by Roberto Franzin (we wrote about it here: Franzin flies high with Tarabusino). Then butter with Maldon salt, toasted carasau bread, Agrestisextra virgin olive oil, Sicilian and organic

Ratatouille: toasted aubergine, courgette pesto, powdered pepper, frozen cheese (goat/cow)

Ratatouille: toasted aubergine, courgette pesto, powdered pepper, frozen cheese (goat/cow)

Coregone mi-cuit, peas, raspberry, horseradish. Paired with Quarzit Riesling Peter Jakob Kühn 2016 (Germany). «The wine is more than a pairing, it completes the dinner», Davide Ungaro

Coregone mi-cuit, peas, raspberry, horseradish. Paired with Quarzit Riesling Peter Jakob Kühn 2016 (Germany). «The wine is more than a pairing, it completes the dinner», Davide Ungaro

Beetroot, ginger, watercress, kefir. With Isidor Azienda Agricola Giuseppe Fanti 2014, Incrocio Manzoni from Trentino

Beetroot, ginger, watercress, kefir. With Isidor Azienda Agricola Giuseppe Fanti 2014, Incrocio Manzoni from Trentino

Fantastic Fish stock, fregula, santoreggia Mojito, crab meat. With Vin de Sofa 2017 from Gentle Folk, Adelaide Hills, Australia, an incredible blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewürztraminer. The broth is made with fish soup plus clam cooking water 

Fantastic Fish stock, fregula, santoreggia Mojito, crab meat. With Vin de Sofa 2017 from Gentle Folk, Adelaide Hills, Australia, an incredible blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewürztraminer. The broth is made with fish soup plus clam cooking water 

Another very elegant dish: Cappellacci with snails, nettle pesto, bagna caoda. Earthy and sapid notes in a powerful and delicious dish, very charming. Paired with Bourgogne Chardonnay 2013 from Domaine Francois Carillon

Another very elegant dish: Cappellacci with snails, nettle pesto, bagna caoda. Earthy and sapid notes in a powerful and delicious dish, very charming. Paired with Bourgogne Chardonnay 2013 from Domaine Francois Carillon

Risotto with smoked butter, powdered tomato, herring roe, juniper and fresh rhubarbadding a sour note. With Grappoli del Grillo 2016 from Marco de Bartoli in Sicily

Risotto with smoked butter, powdered tomato, herring roe, juniper and fresh rhubarbadding a sour note. With Grappoli del Grillo 2016 from Marco de Bartoli in Sicily

Eel cooked in three ways, Risina beans, chards, cardamom essence. The marvellous eel is marinated, smoked and cooked on the embers with Teriyaki sauce and beurre noir. Paired with the extraordinary Gewurztraminer RF Selection 2015 from Roberto Ferrari, South Tyrol, which spent one year in an amphora 

Eel cooked in three ways, Risina beans, chards, cardamom essence. The marvellous eel is marinated, smoked and cooked on the embers with Teriyaki sauce and beurre noir. Paired with the extraordinary Gewurztraminer RF Selection 2015 from Roberto Ferrari, South Tyrol, which spent one year in an amphora 

Capriolo viaggiatore in tre portate, «a journey within the journey. Three parts of the roe deer, three areas of the world». We start with South Tyrol, roe deer tartare with celeriac and berries. With Contrada La Guardiola 2014 from Sicilian Passopisciaro Vini Franchetti, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio

Capriolo viaggiatore in tre portate, «a journey within the journey. Three parts of the roe deer, three areas of the world». We start with South Tyrol, roe deer tartare with celeriac and berries. With Contrada La Guardiola 2014 from Sicilian Passopisciaro Vini Franchetti, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio

Capriolo viaggiatore in tre portate: Paris. Roe deer in hay, endive, passion fruit, coffee and erba lepre 

Capriolo viaggiatore in tre portate: Paris. Roe deer in hay, endive, passion fruit, coffee and erba lepre 

Capriolo viaggiatore in tre portate: USA. A roll, of course

Capriolo viaggiatore in tre portate: USA. A roll, of course

Chocolate, hazelnut, coffee, sesame, latte più (a reference to A Clockwork Orange: cream, cognac and white chocolate liqueur)

Chocolate, hazelnut, coffee, sesame, latte più (a reference to A Clockwork Orange: cream, cognac and white chocolate liqueur)

Cherries with wine, mascarpone, passion fruit, marshmallow

Cherries with wine, mascarpone, passion fruit, marshmallow

«In Viaggio is an instant, a fragment of a conversation, a detail seen out of the corner of your eye while the train disappears on the horizon.
In Viaggio is a memory that your mind preserved.
In Viaggio is made of the nine dishes in which, with products from all around the world, used with an ethical and respectful approach, I create a journey that my past, present and future stories connect in a sensorial experience.
In Viaggio is food culture, is the love of good food; a hymn to ingredients, and an endless movement detached from its context, while representing and defending it.
In Viaggio is not a destination, it’s what you take with you when you leave again».(Claudio Melis)

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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