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26-01-2023

New players at the Congress: Denis Lovatel, Ciccio Vitiello, Jacopo Mercuro, John Regefalk

Three leading protagonists of contemporary pizza, and a chef committed to the highest level of research and innovation

We continue to present the 'new protagonists' of Identità Milano 2023, i.e. the speakers who will debut at the 18th edition of the most important international congress of fine dining in Italy and among the most prestigious in the world, born in 2005 to give voice, visibility and accompany the growth of Italian chefs, then gradually expanded to the many 'neighbouring districts', i.e. the world of pizza, desserts, wine, mixology, products of excellence, hospitality and hôtellerie. The event will take place MiCo in Milan, from Saturday 28th to Monday 30th January.

READ THE IDENTITÀ MILANO 2023 PROGRAMME HERE

REGISTER HERE FOR IDENTITÀ MILANO 2023

 

DENIS LOVATEL
Denis, Milan and Da Ezio, Alano di Piave (Belluno)
Identità di Pizza, Saturday 28th January, 11:00 am, Sala Blu 2

"The foundations on which my idea of pizza is based are twofold: identity, because when a pizzaiolo manages to give his pizza a personal and distinctive imprint, representing the territory in which he works, he is recognised for his work and his intelligence. And then sustainability: I am a mountain man, so I think the relationship with the environment and with nature is crucial. In the world of pizza, unfortunately there is still not enough thought on sustainability: this would be essential, because we sell millions and millions of pizzas, we reach a very large public. Concrete actions in this sense would have a powerful impact”.

A few years ago, Denis Lovatel said these words at Identità Golose and they are valid to this day. They perfectly sum up the truest and most important characteristics of his work and, therefore, of his (extraordinary) pizza. Lovatel started out from the family pizzeria, Da Ezio in Alano di Piave (Belluno), named after his father from whom he inherited the passion for this trade. Yet it was thanks to the talent and determination of Denis that the establishment has become a point of reference for many. Among them three-starred Norbert Niederkofler, who wanted to offer Lovatel's pizzas also at the Rosa Alpina hotel in San Cassiano (Bolzano).

But a good pizza is not Lovatel’s only goal: “I often say,” he explained, “that I like to see pizza as a vehicle of communication, a way of getting ideas that are close to my heart across to the public in a simple and direct way. We must never forget how with a simple pizza we can reach many people, thousands and thousands of customers. In one evening alone we can convey our values to 300 people, trying to educate them, so to speak.”

Denis has been talking, through his pizzas, about sustainability for several years. Long before this word became misused, tacked, often haphazardly or opportunistically, onto everything. "Being born and raised in the mountains has certainly influenced me in this sense. The relationship with nature is part of my deepest identity, and living in a small mountain village taught me very early on to banish all forms of waste. Finally, meeting the small producers in my area made me realise the importance of creating virtuous economies, supporting farmers, cheesemakers and artisans, and pizza offers me several opportunities to achieve these goals.”

The latest goal achieved was the opening of Denis - Pizza di montagna in Milan, which opened in June 2022, after a long wait caused by the pandemic crisis. With an immediate and well-deserved success, of which pizza is the just protagonist: it’s light, with a honeycombed but crispy crust, and the central part of the leavened disc that maintains a meaty bite, despite being very thin. An admirable balance, highly digestible thanks to the very long leavening time (at least 52 hours) and the low salt content. Lovatel in fact adds a mix of mountain herbs and spices to its dough, which naturally give it flavour and umami. The toppings materialise that mountain identity that makes Denis's work unique.


CICCIO VITIELLO
Cambia-Menti, Caserta
Identità di Pizza, Saturday 28 January, 11:45 am, Sala Blu 2

He is only thirty years old but has already come a long way: he started playing with dough as a child, and in 2011 he opened his takeaway pizzeria - l'Antica Napoli - at the foot of Caserta Vecchia, precisely in Tuoro, a small Bourbon village. Little by little it has grown to seat 35 people (turning over as many as 4/5 times per evening). He then flew to Miami to launch a new pizzeria where he taught about all things dough and at the same time learned how to manage and organise a restaurant. On the strength of this knowledge, he returned home and transformed Antica Napoli into Casa Vitiello.

But he didn't stop there: he attended courses and became passionate about baking and leavening: “I felt the need to create my own identity. I wanted to give an alternative and renovate right here where it was most difficult to do so, because tradition reigns and is well established. So I included different types of dough on my menu to which I added unusual ingredients: hemp, turmeric, various cereals, fennel, wheat, cocoa. And then multigrain: oats, barley, rye, buckwheat, rice, spelt, maize, type 2 flour.”

Then, in 2022, the further change, precisely, with the opening of the new Cambia-Menti, this time in Caserta. “When the wind of change blows, some build walls, others sail boats,” is the quote one can find on the website of the new restaurant in Caserta. Here Vitiello continues at full speed on his path of growth, evolution, research and experimentation. An example? His Negative Review pizza, which clearly plays on the anxiety of customers and restaurateurs about online criticism, proposing a pizza whose bottom is painted black, suggesting a non-existent burn, with a olive sauce.




JACOPO MERCURO
180 G, Rome
Identità di Pizza, Saturday 28 January, 4:00 pm, Sala Blu 2

In just a few years, Jacopo Mercuro has become a recognised and respected representative of Italian pizza. And of Roman pizza in particular. With his work, first in Rome with Mani in Pasta, then with his next creation 180g, and finally with the Pizzottella in Milan, opened with entrepreneur and host David Ranucci, Mercuro has contributed to the rediscovery of a deliciously crunchy product, both the baking tin version, and in the round format.

His story is an unusual one. His passion for pizza disrupted what seemed to be a well-defined career: “I was doing something else altogether,” Mercuro confirms, “I was working as a lawyer in my family's law firm. But I wasn't happy, that wasn't the life I wanted to lead: at 26, I started experimenting with pizza, in which I had a growing interest. But I started in the home kitchen, that was my first gym: then the results I was getting told me that maybe it could be the right path. So later I trained professionally, and I also got into the chemistry and physics of dough, and I found further confirmation: that was the life I wanted for myself.”

The next step was a real gamble: “I had no master pizzaioli, I had never worked for anyone: I started with my own small pizzeria al taglio, Mani in pasta. It was a big challenge. I tried it out on my own straight away, and I made more than one mistake, especially from a managerial and entrepreneurial point of view. If you want to open your own pizzeria, it is not enough that you know how to make pizzas well, there are many other aspects that require careful attention. In any case, despite a few mistakes along the way, only a few months after opening we ended up in Gambero Rosso's Guida Pizzerie d'Italia and got two pizza wheels. It was a great surprise and an extraordinary satisfaction". So the story of Mercuro and his adventures continues at great speed: first came the idea of 180g in Rome, which opened in January 2018 and is still a great success. Then, just a few months later, in September 2018, Pizzottella also opened its doors in Milan.

The pandemic crisis did not stop him, quite the contrary: 180g’s first location was transformed into a place dedicated exclusively to take-away, while Mercuro, with the courage that has distinguished him throughout his career, chose to invest in a new location while waiting to reopen to the public. The result? First of all, a new location in which Mercuro and his brigade have an (open) kitchen that allows them to express the full potential of a close-knit team. And then a steadily growing success, both with critics and the public, which today makes booking a table at 180g a small feat.


JOHN REGEFALK
BCC Innovation - Basque Culinary Center

He was born in Sweden, in Skåne Tranås, a small village in the south of the country, in 1980. At 16, he first entered the kitchen of a restaurant, the Brummers Krog in Skåne Tranås. He had to replace the dishwasher, but he also developed a curiosity for food processing, so that he spent every spare minute peeling potatoes or straining sauces. He thus stood out as a cook, abandoning for ever his potential career as a photographer. The desire to learn the trade was predominant, so he sought work in ever different restaurants to approach equally different cooking styles. At the age of 19, he left for Spain. Since then, his rhythms have been marked by alternating between periods of intense work and others of travel oriented towards different worlds and cultures. India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Mexico and all of Central America. Almost a year of travelling and 17 countries visited.

On his return to Sweden, he dived into the new Nordic cuisine. He spent a year in the restaurants of Anders Vendel, one of the most important chefs in Sweden at the time, discovering innovation, original ideas, techniques and raw materials previously unknown to him. The original tastes and Swedish tradition evolved to take on hitherto unknown characteristics. But soon, the idea of getting to know other places led him to Portugal, to Rome, where he worked at Antico Arco and at Metamorfosi, to Japan, in the kitchens of the Nihonryori Ryugin restaurant of Michelin-starred chef Seiji Yamamoto, to Noma in Copenhagen, and to the Nordic Food Lab division in particular.

Then came the proposal from the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastián in Spain, the most important international centre for the study and teaching of the culinary arts: he worked there for three years as a lecturer, giving theoretical and practical courses on contemporary techniques, culinary creativity, international gastronomy and catering trends. Then the BCC director presented him with another challenge - managing the team of chefs at BCC Innovation. This is a unique opportunity, because few research centres in the food world have a team of chefs working alongside nutrition scientists or food technologists.

At BCC Innovation Regefalk specialises in the conceptualisation, development and promotion of new food products designed according to market trends and consumer perceptions, using both traditional and avant-garde culinary techniques. He devotes much of his time to research in the field of scientific gastronomy, experimentation of culinary techniques and new raw materials, such as microalgae or microproteins.

 

READ THE IDENTITÀ MILANO 2023 PROGRAMME HERE

REGISTER HERE FOR IDENTITÀ MILANO 2023

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


IG2023: ladies and gentlemen, the revolution has been served

by

Identità Golose

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

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