Alfieri, in view of an entirely female dining room

Andrea and Samantha together since catering school. Both trained as chefs, but she now dreams of a dining room service led only by women

12-08-2017

Andrea Alfieri and Samantha Serafini, husband and wife, with Roberta Zulian, to the left, sous-chef of Alfieri for the past 17 years

Indeed, today I am a dining room woman, but when I started catering school, I would have never thought I’d become one. And this even though I met my husband, Andrea Alfieri, at Amerigo Vespucci in Milan. We were classmates in the cooking section.

After catering school, our relationship continued and even now, 22 years later, of which 17 as husband and wife, we continue our life together, especially our professional life.

My career, however, started as sous chef of Andrea at restaurant  Yar in Milan, serving Russian cuisine. We worked there for eight years. Meanwhile, in 2002 our son was born – he’s now 15 – but I never left my job, not a single day. I write this thinking of girls these days. I sacrificed my family by having just one child, because it was hard to match it with our job. So the grandparents have helped us greatly and still do, with our son in Milan and us working in the Dolomites. To be honest: there’s never been a moment when I regretted our career and I do it all over.

A child is a turning point and so was the choice, in 2006, to open our restaurant together with our partner, Roberta Zulian, who’s been working for 17 years with us. This is how Sempione 42 was born in Corso Sempione 42 in Milan.

Samantha Serafini and Andrea Alfieri in their days at the Amerigo Vespucci catering school in Milan. He’s the third from the right, top row, she’s the first, from the right, in the middle row

Samantha Serafini and Andrea Alfieri in their days at the Amerigo Vespucci catering school in Milan. He’s the third from the right, top row, she’s the first, from the right, in the middle row

My desire to work in the dining room – given I was passionate about wines too – contributed, so I managed both dining room and cellar. Those were beautiful and hard years, full of satisfaction, as with the nice reviews that restaurant guides gave to my work in the dining room. And this is how my career as a managing dining room woman first started.

In Milan, it continued also at Bento with talented sommelier-entrepreneur Tunde Pescvari, and then three years ago it moved to Madonna di Campiglio, again with Andrea as chef. Nothing is easy for a woman, because until a few years ago, the dining room was a strictly man’s job. The approach was antiquate, the service was stiff and formal. Instead, it’s not just the kitchen that evolves. The same happens in the dining room though unfortunately we don’t have the soldiers of the old days, who wanted to take on this career.

So here we are now at Alpen Suite in Campiglio, a 5 star hotel with 3 restaurants where we’re aiming high. Of course we have difficult times here too, first of all with clients who don’t acknowledge (or don’t want to acknowledge) a woman as a Dining Room Manager. Of course we don’t go about with a sign saying «I’m the director… I’m the chef the rang… I am the commis». Besides those young people often lack in enthusiasm, but then you’re thrilled when you meet someone who’s passionate and bends over backwards to reach the best result.

Some say you need the eye of a woman in the dining room because we often see what men won’t. For sure, as a dining room woman I would like, one day, to have a dining room run only by women. This is why an association like  Noi di Sala is necessary. This is why we must be united as colleagues, and grow through collaboration.

You don’t need a star to do a good job. I try to make my staff understand it. You need lots of humbleness, a strong desire to work. This job is not easy. You must always smile, even though you sometimes don’t feel like smiling to the clients. You must face the reviews that every client can give on some websites, and the needs of the owners. But how about the satisfaction when clients tell you they’ll be back «because you made them feel at home?». Then perhaps the charm might end with a pointless remark on the web.

Moral of the story: we Alfieri, husband and wife, go ahead, and there’s a much stronger female involvement in our road, both in the dining room and kitchen, than in many other places. With Roberta Zulian always in the kitchen.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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In sala

The public side of a restaurant seen by its protagonists: maître, restaurant managers, waiters