Fabio Barbaglini from Desio soon changed his horizon, mirroring all his youth in the waters of Lago Maggiore in Arona. In the kitchen when he was very young, at 15 he was already on the other side of the Alps, learning the grammar of caviar and lobsters at Royal in Crans Montana and at Badrutt’s Palace in Sankt Moritz. After putting away his diploma from the catering institute in Stresa, the decisive turn arrived at Antica Osteria del Ponte, the “Cassinetta” near Milan.
If today, on the restaurant’s website we read: «Ezio Santin the great master, Fabio Barbaglini the favourite pupil», we have to look back to 1994 to imagine the forming of the umbilical cord, recomposed in mid 2012: «I went inside», the chef recalls, «as chef de partie at the meat station: from cutting to finishing the dish, including sauces». He learnt the meaning of quality - «we fried everything in extra virgin olive oil, which at the time costed 22 thousand lire per bottle» - and of ante-litteram pauperism - «a pork foot had the same value of a foie gras torchon».
Today, it all adds up because in his hands, Cassinetta continues to shine with the same humbleness of Santin, who conceived it, a master with a nature always opposite to that of the volcanic Gualtiero Marchesi: «We don’t prepare super-creative cuisine by choice», continues the pupil, today at the helm, «people must come here not in the way as you go to a temple in which you idolise the person who celebrates mass. They must come here to eat a good chicken, that’s it. And all our chefs are here to cook, to learn to plunge their nose deep into aromas. Not to act as chefs», he reproaches imperatively.
This is, after all, the same rule Barbaglini enforced on his staff at Caffè Groppi in Trecate, 8 years of glory and cockades – best performance in 1999 and young chef of 2002 according to L’Espresso plus a Michelin star in 2004 – for a cuisine that in that case was indeed very personal. With a dish that now fills with aromas the cookbooks of the last two decades: Scallop, prawn tail, celery juice infused in absinthe, onion puree and fresh ginger. Served almost lukewarm, with an almost evanescent texture and clarity. This is the other side of Barbaglini, the one hiding behind the chicken that tastes like chicken.
Born in 1974 in Desio and raised in Arona, after two internships in Switzerland, he’s chef de partie at Antica Osteria del Ponte with Ezio Santin from 1994 to 1998, 3 and then 2 Michelin stars. 1999-2007: he opens in Trecate (Novara) ‘his’ restaurant, Caffè Groppi, one Michelin star in 2004. From December 2009 he’s at hotel Mont Blanc’s Cassolette, 1 star in 2011. Since 2012 the return, as chef, to Cassinetta di Lugagnano, from 2018 it is located in La Ménagère in Florence.
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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Chefs Fabio Barbaglini, Gianni Sarzano of Bivio in Quinto Vercellese, tel. +39.0161.274131, and Breton Jacques Thorel, for a long time at the helm of the Auberge Bretonne in La Roche-Bernard, in North-West France. They met in Sarzano’s home for a memorable lunch called "When a lobster meets a paddy field "
Second from the right, Enrico Crippa, chef at Piazza Duomo in Alba (Cuneo), receives the Chef of the year award from Paolo Bombardieri of Nino Negri (Gruppo Giv). With them, Tarsia Trevisan and Paolo Marchi (photo by Alessandro Castiglioni)
Left to right, Cassinetta’s chef Fabio Barbaglini, today’s presenter in the Auditorium hall, Francesca Barberini, Massimiliano Alajmo of Le Calandre and Ezio Santin, a glory of Italian cuisine, awarded on the first day of the congress (photo by Alessandro Castiglioni)