Antonia Klugmann: 'Fine dining has never had such a large audience'

THE DEBATE ON FINE DINING - The chef from Trieste rejects the hypothesis of a crisis in fine dining. And she adds: 'The idea of the restaurant-spaceship, detached from the context, will function less and less'.

Antonia Klugmann: 29th of January, at her lecture

Antonia Klugmann: 29th of January, at her lecture at Identità Milano 2023 (photo Brambilla-Serrani)

Our debate on the future of fine dining continues. After the initial article (Which future for fine dining? Identità launches the debate, setting some stakes), the contributions from Andoni Luis Aduriz, Chicco Cerea and Matteo Aloe, it’s now the turn of Antonia Klugmann, chef and owner of the restaurant L'Argine a Vencò in Dolegna del Collio (Gorizia) for almost nine years

Upon a visit to Antonia and Vittoria Klugmann's Argine di Vencò, we had the opportunity to exchange a few words with their elder sister, a cook, on the debate that has been inhabiting our pages for some time now: is the fine dining model really in crisis as they say it is? Is fine dining showing signs of tiredness or weakness? The chef from Trieste not only answers a peremptory 'no'; she also goes well beyond self-defence.

‘First of all, it must be specified that fine and casual dining belong to two completely different markets, so any comparison is inappropriate. As far as signature cuisine is concerned, I wouldn't say that it is in crisis, quite the contrary: public demand has never been so high, so much so that it attracts an audience that was not there in the past.’ There is great curiosity and vitality, therefore.

So much so that the workforce is not sufficient: ‘The shortage of staff in the fine dining sector is also caused by the huge demand. I know colleagues who continue to open new places precisely because there is great demand, and it happens everywhere in Italy.’

With some distinctions, however, because there is a difference between fine dining in big cities and fine dining in the more peripheral areas: ‘Perhaps I see more difficulty in the large-city establishments: the fixed costs are on average higher and constantly growing, and you can only seat a certain amount of guests. In smaller towns, I think there is more ferment perhaps because there are fewer difficulties. There is a continuous ferment.’

According to Klugmann, there is rather a type of fine dining that has an increasingly uncertain future: ‘Restaurants that crash into a place without really being part of it. I call them spaceships. They are self-celebrating establishments closed in on themselves, places that look at their navel, deaf to the surroundings. It's a model that works less and less. I believe that every restaurant must strive to offer something authentic in terms of choice and that has a reason to be pursued. If I were to offer the same cuisine as a colleague in South Tyrol, it would make no sense.’

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Gabriele Zanatta


Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes. 
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