piazza Negri, 9
Cassinetta di Lugagnano (Milano)
Ezio Santin, a daydreamer from Lugagnano, was capable of wearing an apron for the first time at the age of 39, with no education except a trained gourmet palate, a well set taste-compass and a few pieces of DNA in common with an ancestor who was a chef on ships.
The merit largely goes to the deus ex machina Franco Colombani, the charismatic patron of Sole in Maleo, capable of inoculating the virus of culinary passion among chefs and restaurateurs of a whole generation. “We used to visit him, partly for the food, partly to chat for hours on end and to talk our doubts out, because apart from being a great sommelier, he was an unmatchable scholar of Italian cuisine. Over time, however, I slipped off Linea Italia, to play as a free agent. In a certain sense, nouvelle cuisine was already here, what we needed to do was to let it evolve in the sense of aesthetics and of a pondered creativity”.
Lightness, market cuisine and technique were, in any case, elements that were shared with the disciples of Gault et Millau and with the friend of a lifetime, Gualtiero Marchesi, perhaps a little more cerebral and less instinctive, with whom critics wanted to build a forced antagonism. What they had in common also included the love for the East, of which Santin was one of the first ambassadors on our tables, borrowing ingredients that were unknown at the time, such as Sichuan pepper. Cooking techniques, on the other hand, had already autonomously evolved, in the sense of a crispy and technological precision – for instance, with the use of vacuum.
Paying him homage in his Cassinetta today there’s Fabio Barbaglini, already his chef de partie. “I remember him as a serious, hard-working, precise young man. I like his way of cooking very much, but he has to take his own way, without leaving the tracks of Italian taste, because the risk I can glimpse, is that of a certain confusion, caused by globalization”. The apron, however, didn’t stay hanging on the wall: after all, you made your bed, now you have to lie on it.
Born in 1937, Ezio Santin was a coffee roaster in Corsico before embracing the restaurant industry due to health problems. So, in 1976, he took over the Antica Osteria del Ponte in Cassinetta di Lugagnano with his wife Renata, growing more and more passionate about cooking on the wave of his friendship with Franco Colombani and of the gastronomic experiences with Gualtiero Marchesi and the famous French chefs. The mark of nouvelle cuisine, the up-to-date techniques and the Asian influences led to his 3 stars between 1990 and 1999.
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