Centre, Chicco Cerea and Paolo Rota, chefs at Da Vittorio, in Sankt Moritz, at the moment of the awarding of the two stars in 2020
This writer's baptism with the Cerea family's stellar cuisine coincided with the gala dinner for the first 10 years of Da Vittorio inside the prestigious Carlton Hotel in St. Moritz. Opened in 2012 in the exclusive location at 1,800 metres in the Upper Engadine, this restaurant is the first sign outside Italy to be 'switched on' by the Da Vittorio Group, which then went on to a strategic market such as Asia, first opening the fine dining restaurant in Shanghai and then in Saigon. Da Vittorio St. Moritz took very little time to conquer Switzerland: it received its first star in 2014, followed in 2018 by 18 out of 20 points in the Gault Millau guide until it achieved its second Michelin star in 2020, reinforcing a history of success, entrepreneurship but above all love.
A story that goes back a long way and that has never betrayed its origins, marked in 1966 with the opening of the first restaurant in Bergamo by Vittorio Cerea and his wife Bruna. Around the historic restaurant, today immersed in the green Cantalupa hillside in Brusaporto (awarded 3 Michelin stars since 2010), the bond of a family has been forged that has not only created a 'style' in the kitchen, but has also embellished it with humanity, typical of those who choose the authenticity of being over the vacuity of appearances.
You feel this immediately even if you are in an exclusive location, inside a historic 5-star hotel like the Carlton Hotel, 60 refined suites, a spa on 3 levels, a spectacular view of the lake and snow-capped peaks. And you realise this when you meet Francesco Cerea. Of Vittorio and Bruna's 5 children he’s the one responsible for the wine cellar and external catering offering: his handshake is strong and friendly, his smile reassuring. You feel at home, even if you are in the realm of the stars. This is the first sensation that tastes good, reinforced by a phrase that encapsulates the Cerea philosophy: 'We like to work, to put ourselves on the line by bringing Italian cuisine and a sense of hospitality wherever we go'. And that is exactly how it is, even on Swiss soil. Nothing slick, 'forced' or rhetorical, but smiles everywhere, the simple gestures of taking your jacket and elegantly accompanying you to the table by moving your chair. And then those fresh tulips on the table, so that if you look out of the large windows you see snow but inside there’s spring exploding with its beautiful colours. Everything is so natural that you immediately sense and trust that you have found the family everyone has told you about.
Here and below, Da Vittorio in Sankt Moritz, in the photos of Fabrizio Pato Donati
For the Cerea family, the concept of family is not a commercial but a pillar on which to build certainties, and so at the gala dinner executive chef Paolo Rota and his team are joined by Luca Mancini, who was at the helm of the kitchen at Da Vittorio St. Moritz from its opening in 2012 to the passing of the baton, but remains a valuable figure for the Cerea family.
Paolo Rota, in charge of the kitchen since the winter of 2019, is a choice of solidity and continuity: together with Chicco and Bobo Cerea (he’s also their brother-in-law, having married their sister Rossella), he is the creative engine that studies and elaborates the new recipes for the menu. In 1990, when he was only 24, Paolo won Vittorio over thanks to his curiosity and passion and it was the patron who sent him abroad to train in international brigades (at Lasarte, in Barcelona, with the multi-starred Martin Berasategui, and in England with Michel Roux). When he returned to Italy, he was ready to become executive chef at Da Vittorio, in an equal role with Chicco and Bobo, Vittorio's sons. In St. Moritz, Rota brought the entire baggage (better: heritage) of the Cerea brand to St. Moritz: attention to research and use of the best seasonal raw materials, flair and originality in the creation of dishes, rigour and talent in the execution. Flying high, while remaining humble. It's not for everyone, but it is for Cerea. Staying true to one's DNA, daring but always following in the footsteps of tradition and excellence.
It was a gala dinner for a milestone reached that had the refined elegance of not presenting itself as a self-celebration but rather as a moment 'to be lived,' explained the Cereas, 'in our style, which is convivial and fraternal. Paolo Rota has done an exceptional job since his arrival here as executive chef, and the second star is proof of that'.
Potato rock and herring caviar and sweet potato cornetto and smoked eel. All photos of the dishes are by Fabrizio Pato Donati
Casoncello in olive
Cuttlefish chips with red prawn tartare and lemon gel
A menu where taste and sight satisfy each other, telling a story of land and sea, but always profoundly Italian. In a culinary baptism, as it was for this writer, you go a little blind and, therefore, it is not certain that you will like everything, but really everything. The opposite happened to us: we liked everything, but really everything. And we thought about what (tv host, ed.) Gerry Scotti told us a few hours earlier at lunch: 'At Da Vittorio's I spent my first earnings and I hope it will be the same for the last ones. An unmissable appointment, the quality and freshness of the raw material is unmatched. Like his seafood dishes'.
Francesco Cerea, the DV St. Moritz brigade and Camilla Lunelli
Che cavolo di risotto
Gnocco stuffed with black truffle fondue
Bourguignonne of veal cheek, caramelised onion and mustard
More smiles, more handshakes, more warmth and love. And one certainty: we enjoyed ourselves.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
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A professional journalist, she was born in a good year for wine. She has worked in every field, from sports to politics, because following your curiosity is the best way not to bore and get bored. She has no allergy or food bias, so she'll taste everything. If you want to maker her happy, read her book of illustrated stories, Il tempo di uno sguardo
The Kulm Hotel in Sankt Moritz and chef Mauro Colagreco
Buongiorno Da Vittorio once everything is served on the table