Arrigo Cipriani and the Alajmo brothers: our dear Venice, you will be reborn

A Biennale of Taste, and other ideas to start again. Three prominent speakers and a passionate live chat on Instagram

From the top left corner, clockwise: Raffaele Ala

From the top left corner, clockwise: Raffaele Alajmo, journalist Fabio BusettoArrigo Cipriani an Massimiliano Alajmo, the participants of the live show on Instagram that you can watch again here on Youtube

We start from the pleasantries: «Harry's Bar is my second home in Venice. if I don’t eat at my restaurants, Amo or Quadri, it’s my favourite place. It gives me a unique energy» (Raffaele Alajmo); «It’s a timeless place, I can sense the soul of those who stayed here in the past and visited the place. Even the sound of the glass on the marble counter at the bar is unique» (Massimiliano Alajmo).

Arrigo Cipriani thanks and reciprocates: «When you walk past Quadri it calls you, inviting you to come inside. You know how I’m often annoyed by all the apparatus of innovative and starred cuisine, but for the Alajmos I make an exception: they’re great and professional. They have given new life to a place that had gradually died. They have understood and love Venice more than many Venetians. I’d like to recall that Quadri coexists with high water at least 150 days per year, but they don’t miss a beat».

A live streaming, strictly each one from their home, between Venice and Rubano, on the Facebook page of Venezia Eventi and presented by Fabio Busetto, broadcasted one hour and a half of talks between three great tenors of the Venetian restaurant scene, two brands famous around the world, an Italian pride, bright voices and minds (you can listen to the whole programme on Youtube).

Raffaele and Massimiliano Alajmo, respectively 52 and 45 

Raffaele and Massimiliano Alajmo, respectively 52 and 45 

Arrigo Cipriani, 88

Arrigo Cipriani, 88

Busetto starts by relaunching the idea of a Biennale of Taste in Venice: «Only for the Italian Pavilion you’d need the entire space of the Giardini, to showcase one tenth of our impressive heritage», Massimiliano says passionately. Cipriani adds: «I’d see Raffaele as the perfect director for this work and I’d also like, one day, to see the historic dishes from Cipriani reinterpreted by Massimiliano». Raffaele: «Ostiand bacarishould be the heart of the Venice Pavilion».

The topics included restaurants, service, hospitality, lessons to be reviewed in light of the new start, when the time will come. Raffaele: «I always tell my dining room staff: behave as if you were sitting at that table, as if you were the client». And Massimiliano: «We must serve, not appear. Trattorias and fine dining restaurants in terms of passion, skills and quality must be on exactly the same level». Cipriani approves, this is music to his ears: «Serve clients the way you’d like to be served. This is my rule. Being self-referential and narcissistic, in the kitchen and in the dining room, is destroying and changing cuisine. You must stay in the kitchen, not on television. My father once told a waiter: 'Ti xè troppo beo, you are too good looking', he meant one noticed him too much».

Massimiliano continues: «I tell the students of our cooking classes at the Master in Creazzo that first of all they must feed their curiosity and travel, even with their mind. To become chefs first they must read, learn, discover. Be flexible is what will make you cooks».

Venice and the future of the city after coronavirus. Raffaele: «I think that the restaurant industry made of fake cooks and frozen food, that lives by catching more or less unaware tourists, which makes unfortunately for most restaurants, won’t even open again, at least not right away. And the same will apply to shops that sell rubbish. If this virus will have some positive effect, it’s that it will do a good cleaning. Every time I see a historic shop closing, and one selling rubbish opening instead, I get really… Who knows if this disaster will contribute in changing this trend».

With Paolo Marchi on the occasion of the homage to Cipriani, on the stage of Identità Golose 2018 (photo Brambilla/Serrani)

With Paolo Marchi on the occasion of the homage to Cipriani, on the stage of Identità Golose 2018 (photo Brambilla/Serrani)

Massimiliano: «What we must do, when starting over, is to present our guests in the coming months, a cleaner, tidier Venice. Stronger and – in one word – more beautiful». Cipriani: «This disaster made us realise what everyone knew but pretended to ignore because it was easier: that a city cannot live only of tourism, with no local residents. Hence the priority will be to do everything to repopulate Venice. Starting from university students. We have beautiful, healthy, intelligent young people. Let’s give them a comfortable accommodation, for the right price, so they will be encouraged to live here instead of being commuters. They will live the city more, and will fall in love with the place. And once they finish studying, they will dream of coming back. Because those who understand the soul of Venice then cannot do without it». Massimiliano approves: «Every time I arrive here it thrills me. And I’m charmed by seeing the faces and the looks on those who see it for the first time, their surprise».

How can one face what comes next, in Venice? Raffaele has no doubts: «We must work hard. We must start by helping ourselves. Then, of course institutions, local authorities and central government must lend us a hand. They’ve stopped our duties for the use of urban grounds, and told us we will pay again when we will put back the tables outside. Good. But since for a long time most tourists will be missing, if I then put the tables outside it will cause an economic damage because with those few clients I won’t even afford to pay those duties».

Cipriani adds: «Indeed, it’s absurd. The only thing one can do is pay this tax based on how much you’ve earned from the service outside, at least until things don’t get more or less back to normal. Otherwise, the result will be having a quiet, deserted and sad square».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso