via Achille Franceschi, 14
Forte dei Marmi (Lucca)
Andrea Mattei from Pietrasanta is exactly 30 years old. But it's as if he were 15 years older. It’s not that he shows older. It’s only that, in a country where guys really starts working at his actual age, to know that someone has started to roll up his sleeves so early is somewhat surprising.
Funnily enough, the origin of his pilgrimage coincides with his destiny: Hotel Byron in Forte dei Marmi, on the Tuscany coast. From here he left as a commis in 1996 and here he returned in 2003 as chef-de-partie and, later, executive chef.
Mattei’s philosophy is self-evident just like the dishes he shapes both composing the more traditional side of the hotel menus and the gourmet restaurant’s recipes: «I'm a fan of the ‘absolute good’, I believe in true products and flavors, the cooked ones, not the abstract or assembled ones».
Between Ducasse and Adrià, the day and the night, Mattei chooses the first, also because of the decisive experience he had at Plaza Athénée in Paris, under his teaching, at a time when the executive chef was Jean-François Piège: «it was a perfect school: great techniques, great products», Mattei sighs. And influences taken from Angelo Paracucchi, the most underrated chef in the history of contemporary Italian cuisine? And that of Valentino Marcattilii’s? Shall we talk about them? «Sure. The first was a true myth for me: what we cook today, he already did on the nouvelle cuisine days. He used to radiate charisma even saying the most trivial things».
At San Domenico in Imola he learned instead «to elevate taste above all tinsels, from uovo in ravioli onwards». Then came Pinchiorri, «the first great brigade, a perfect machine».
But if Mattei is what he is today, he owes it more than anyone to the least famous Rolando Paganini, now a teacher at the Hotel management school in Massa Marittima: «he is a second father to me: he taught me to be myself». Therefore, Paganini should also be thanked by all gourmets today shipped to Versilia, in search of one of the brightest and most curious cuisine of this land.
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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Andrea Mattei, to the right, with sous chef Andrea Ferrari, left, and pastry chef Diego Poli in the middle. The other sous chef Simone Di Maio completing the team at Meo Modo al Borgo Santo Pietro in Chiusdino (Siena) is missing
Alessandro Gilmozzi, El Molin at Cavalese (Trento), and his pizza. Before Gilmozzi, other great chefs told us their relationship with pizza: Ugo Alciati, Moreno Cedroni, Nino Di Costanzo, Andrea Mattei, Peter Brunel and Nobuya Niimori.