Marchi, one year in 16 Oscars

Emotion after emotion, from Bottura at number 1 in the world to the roast chicken at Bros, to Cracco’s snails

03-01-2017
A souvenir photo of Massimo Bottura on the evening

A souvenir photo of Massimo Bottura on the evening of Monday 13th June in New York, the first Italian ever to win the World's 50 Best Restaurants. Photo from AFP

2016 has just ended, a year I go through once more in sixteen steps, so as to find new energy to face the new year, and with me all those involved in Identità Golose as well as in East Lombardy, the European Gastronomic Region for 2017. All this with a very personal wish: that I may find the time to write a book on the female chefs I appreciate (and have appreciated) the most. I already have a title. It’s everything else that’s missing.

1. The best: Massimo Bottura, who on 13th June ended in New York his climb to the top of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Together with the chef from Modena Italy won too, though sadly not everyone got it. But then, as Italians, we’re always ready to denigrate Italians, as long as it’s not us. Always focused on others’ specks, and never on our wood beams …

2. A new challenge is awaiting the world of gelato. There’s no doubt this is an Italian masterpiece. However, it also strongly recalls what happened to pizza a decade ago or so. At the time, most often than not you would avoid it. Despite the name, there’s very little quality. After touching rock bottom, came the comeback thanks to Coccia, Padoan, Bosco, Pepe. Nothing was like before. This will soon happen – and is already happening – to ice cream cones.

3. Pepe’s world: there are many gifted and famous pizzaioli, in Naples, Campania and Italy. Franco Pepe has something more: his pizzas represent his village, Caiazzo (Caserta), and the surrounding world; they present ideas and effort without ever becoming folkloristic or rhetorical. Margherita sbagliata will never tire me.

4. Peru? Yes, please: I had lunch on a Saturday in April at Virgilio Martinez’s Central I would have liked an encore for dinner. Unfortunately, my flight back to Italy was awaiting me.

5. Surprise: I tasted the most surprising dish early in May in Seoul, at Jun Lee’s Soignè, who will be among the speaker chefs at Identità Milano 2017. I invited him both to open a view on his Korean cuisine, which is presenting itself to the world, and because of those tagliolini with herbs and garlic that looked like they were coming from Piedmont. Where the Korean chef had never set foot.

The building site at El Bulli in Cala Montjoi last March. Works are still in progress.

The building site at El Bulli in Cala Montjoi last March. Works are still in progress.

6. Melancholy: in mid March in Cala Montjoi near Roses. Where once was El Bulli, there’s now a building site. In the words of Ancient Romans: Sic transit gloria mundi. So true: you must live the present and never think something may last forever.

7. At last: what Naples FC supporters wrote on a ban, on the Sunday they won the first football cup, in May 1987, applies to Riccardo Camanini (born in 1973) too: Sorry for the delay. The chef from Bergamo, now he has a place of his own in Gardone, Lido 84, can offer his cuisine without any limitations, unlike in the recent past, in a villa not far away. After all, it’s more important to get to the finishing line first, than starting well.

8. Oh Romeo Romeo: Cristina Bowerman decided to work extra hours. From the presidency of the Associazione italiana Ambasciatori del Gusto in June to the new Romeo in Testaccio, which will be something unprecedented. In Italy, not just in Rome. It was meant to open in the autumn, but the project is so complex it was delayed to the early months of 2017.

9. God bless simplicity: Nino Di Costanzo opened a place of his own in what is the family home in Ischia. The luckiest guests eat in the kitchen, while aperitif and coffee, before and after, are served in the garden. Meanwhile, he has aromatised the world, presenting his Spaghetti ai 5 pomodori. «I learnt that people prefer simple things». Very true, but simplicity is hardly simple. It requires a rare gift: humbleness.

10. Roast chicken: this is what I ordered the first time I dined at Bros in Lecce, at brothers Floriano and Giovanni Pellegrino, a total of 48 years of age. I couldn’t believe it: it’s hard to find such mature twenty-year-olds. I kept asking if it was really a traditional roast chicken, they replied that indeed it was and I couldn’t believe it. Talented and patient.

Riso in cagnoni by Paolo Lopriore at Portico in Appiano Gentile in the province of Como, a new restaurant run by this creative genius from Como

Riso in cagnoni by Paolo Lopriore at Portico in Appiano Gentile in the province of Como, a new restaurant run by this creative genius from Como

11. Here he goes again: Paolo Lopriore has once again a restaurant, at last all of his own, and one where people won’t be able to feel annoyed, as in Siena. His Portico is in Appiano Gentile, between the Inter FC’s retreat site and lake Como. In the words of Marco Bolasco: «We all need Lopriore, especially in Italy». Very true.

12. Maturity: this is what Davide Oldani has reached, moving 100 metres away. D’O is always in San Pietro all’Olmo, close to Milan, but the distance between tavern and restaurant is huge. It’s not a question of square metres, but of opportunities. Davide has his Formula 1 at last.

13. The award: I can’t wait to get off my diet to go to the Darsena market in Piazza XXIV Maggio in Milan, and do some grocery shopping at Giuseppe Zen’s stall dedicated to raw milk cheese. He named it R(esistenza) Casearia [Dairy resistance], it’s food lovers’ heaven.

14. Pleasure: extreme, reading every Friday, in Il Fatto Quotidiano, the pages Luca Sommi dedicates to a chef. I hope this series didn’t end on 30th December with Enrico Bartolini, and the piece titled Un poker di stelle. I’d go cold turkey. For sure I would find it hard to write that «many believe there hasn’t been such an innovative cuisine in Milan since the days of Gualtiero Marchesi». It would mean that since 1992, when Marchesi closed in Bonvesin de la Riva and moved to Franciacorta, Milan has been dozing in terms of creativity. This despite Carlo Cracco and Andrea Berton, Mathias Perdomo and Luogo di Aimo e Nadia. Hard to believe.

15. A reason: sooner or later, we will all make it. Until everything will move online, especially newspapers, magazines and guides, we must accept that today no matter how authoritative and proficient you may be, if your articles are not online, it’s as if you didn’t exist. A bitter truth.

Carlo Cracco’s Snails in tomato sauce presented at his restaurant in Milan. From a recipe from the Sacchi family – Luca Sacchi is the new right arm of the chef from Vicenza

Carlo Cracco’s Snails in tomato sauce presented at his restaurant in Milan. From a recipe from the Sacchi family – Luca Sacchi is the new right arm of the chef from Vicenza

16. The best dinner: what with all the lunches and suppers, midweek or at the weekend, superb dishes (such as Camanini’s Cacio e pepe) and great ideas, I crown the pre-Christmas dinner at Carlo Cracco and Luca Sacchi’s in Milan. While the patron keeps an eye on the world, Luca is holding the reins of the kitchen more and more, and after the turbot sashimi, here came the snails in tomato sauce that looked like they came from granny’s recipe book.


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