Left to right, four new protagonists at Identità Milano 2021: Errico Recanati, chef and patron at Andreina in Loreto (Ancona); pizzaioli Ciro Oliva, from Concettina ai Tre Santi in Naples, and Mirko Petracci, from La Scaletta in Ascoli Piceno; Mattia Casabianca, pastry chef at Uliassi in Senigallia (Ancona)
Less and less days until the launch of Identità Milano 2021, at MiCo – Milano Congressi in Via Gattamelata, from the 25th to the 27th September (here is the complete programme of Identità Milano 2021) and, in this rich edition, there are many new entries among the speakers. Together with our "old friends", they will spur the discussion on the theme chosen this year Building a New Future: Work.
Italy too has its Victor Arguinzoniz, perhaps less famous around the world than the Basque chef who has raised chargrills to the highest standards, but surely equally deserving attention and the author of an important career. The starting point was the family restaurant, a historic establishment (from 1959) for those who wanted to eat fish halfway down the Adriatic coast and the sanctuary of Loreto. This was the kingdom of Andreina, after whom the restaurant is named; and hence his grandson Errico Recanati, born in 1973, arrived following the steps of his grandmother and then his mother, Ave, what with spits, game, embers and live fire.
But he certainly didn't stop here. He attended the Etoile Academy, was an intern with Gianfranco Vissani, Pietro Leemann and at Martin Dalsass's restaurant Talvo ... In other words, he has enriched his expertise but then used all this to give a contemporary and fine dining take to his restaurant Andreina without changing its original identity; in fact, he started from that identity – in a slow, personal and organic evolution – to present something original, the perfect fusion of history, with its ancient flavours, and of modern creative research. In other words: raw and authentic, a traditional soul brought into contemporary times. Someone said: neo-rural.
Andreina, one Michelin star since 2013, is now not just chargrill, because Recanati has brilliant ideas that go far beyond, if we think of the lamb heart or the spleen bottarga (see the marvellous Scampi, lamb heart bottarga, trout roe and mango). Or the intelligent and not fashion-led use of quinto quarto, of game. And of vegetables too, denying its exclusively carnivore fame. For sure the oyster in L'ostrica si dà le arie di brace one of the most convincing versions we ever tasted, ends up on the embers. And then the Chargrilled spaghetti, with pepe e cacio which is simply deserving to be included in cookbooks. (Carlo Passera)
There's a fire burning in rione Sanità, in Naples. It's lit at Concettina ai Tre Santi, a historic pizzeria established in 1951, when Concettina Flessigno Oliva in front of her house would make many fried pizzas with dedication, for all the neighbourhood. This fire has a name: that of her great-grandson Ciro Oliva, fourth generation at the helm of the restaurant (by the way, it's called "ai Tre Santi" because it is next to a chapel dedicated to San Vincenzo Ferrari, patron of rione Sanità; Sant’Alfonso Maria de’Liguori, who protects the walls of the place; and Sant’Anna, to whom Sant’Alfonso was devoted).
Ciro is full of energy and cocky, very young (born in 1992) but well skilled. He blends the tradition of Naples – part of his heritage – with the contemporary evolution whose knowledge derives from his attention to fine dining, and indeed Massimo Bottura dedicated to him an appetizer, Omaggio a Ciro Oliva, in a menu at Osteria Francescana from 2017, see here. Not bad, for a kid who was only 25 at the time.
But these acknowledgements haven't made him big headed. If anything, they've inspired him to aim for more – and better – a point of fusion between his heritage (including the dough made with a secret recipe by his dad Antonio) and some personal elements: always looking ahead without betraying memory. «Curiosity and open mindedness are everything to me», he explains pulling out his usual smile. And he adds, when talking with Paola Pellai, read here: «Inside a pizza there's everything. Pizza is home, it's Italy, it's excellence. Some think pizzerias are second to restaurants, I want to erase this vision. Pizza is culture, feeling, research, investment and it enhances the pillar on which the beauty of our country is based: craftmanship». Impossible not to love. (Carlo Passera)
In or out. There was a classic sliding-doors moment, in 2013: Vincenzo and Maria Petracci were tired, they had opened their pizzeria La Scaletta in Ascoli Piceno back in 1978. Enough: time to retire. How many pizzas they had served! Very good, of course, but in the previous decades the rule was to make cash, and there not much attention was paid to dough, seasonings and toppings. "The pizza was properly made, never in a rush, and always easy to digest, but those weren't times when pizzaioli were asked to be chefs", as Luisa Acciarri wrote.
So what? They made an appointment with the notary. Not to close the shop, but to establish the official passage to the new generation of the Petracci family, represented by their eldest son Mirko, born in 1981, when the restaurant only had one year. So basically he had been born and raised at La Scaletta, and he perfectly knew its rhythms and mechanisms.
Most of all, he knew its potential, the aspects that could be further improved.
Hence the decision of changing a lot, if not everything. Or in other words: go beyond what his parents did, without losing the identity of the place. The marriage between Mirko and Maria came one year later; and it marked the beginning of a new season at La Scaletta.
Today the restaurant is a point of reference for food lovers. Petracci's pizza is light, and indeed his top line is called Gran'aria, the result of one year and a half of research, experiments, and study, to make a pizza that is both ethereal and crunchy, very hydrated, and very easy to digest. The final result is a blend that gives to the pizza an original and rich aroma.
We were at his place, in Senigallia, where he was born and where he went back to work; it was in June 2021, during the second edition of Identità di Gelato. And "his" chef, Mauro Uliassi, who hired him as pastry chef in 2019, presented him with these words: «I'm very proud of our pastry chef Mattia Casabianca: he's the son of pastry chefs, at 18 he left to acquire experience with some of the greatest. When he returned, we hired him immediately in our team».
Few words, lots of love, that eloquently show the career of Mattia, and the affection that Uliassi has for him. As for Mattia, he says he fell in love with his work when he was a child, while he watched his grandparents working by the oven in their workshop. But he also says that his real professional training, the one that made the pastry chef he is, only started when he enrolled in a professional pastry-making course at ALMA in Colorno (Parma): «That school gave me the right mentality and approach so that I could find my place in the big kitchens where I later worked».
After this important step, Casabianca decided to go abroad and enrich his experience: the most important stops were, according to Mattia, those at Michel Roux's Waterside Inn, «where I learnt everything about classic French pastry making» and that at Paco Torreblanca's in Spain, «who taught me a lot in terms of structure and technical skills, but also helped me to shape my personal taste». And then arriving at Celler de Can Roca was a dream: «I had been dreaming for years of working with the Roca brothers, it was a unique satisfaction».
Just like when he returned to Senigallia, and Mauro Uliassi called him and welcomed him with open arms. Two weeks after his arrival in the brigade, the three Michelin stars arrived, and now Uliassi says: «Mattia with his 25 years charmed us immediately and we left him to run the pastry making. He arrived in the creative group as equal, and his hands started to make desserts such as Soufflé with chocolate, apricots and Lagavulin ice cream, Black forest, Come una cassata, Millefoglie, Granita of chartreuse and melon, Senigallia-Brest, just to name a few. Technically, he's capable of giving shape to any sweet desire; with us he also learnt to have an open vision, which perfectly mixed with our style». (Niccolò Vecchia)
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
This article is curated by Identità Golose, the publication that organises the international fine dining congress, publishes website www.identitagolose.com and the online Guida Identità Golose, on top of curating many other events in Italy and abroad
Some of the speakers who will talk in the Auditorium at the 18th edition of Identità Milano, from the 28th to 30th of January
THE FULL PROGRAMME HERE
TO REGISTER, CLICK HERE
From the top left corner, clockwise: Juan Camilo Quintero Merchan, Michele Lazzarini, Gianmarco Ferrandi, Giacomo Devoto and Dario Pandolfo