Discover with us  the magic of Italian wine heritage

krater-wineOenotria, “land of vines”, this was how the ancient Greeks called  Italy. Its variety of landscapes and climates, from the Alps to the shores of Sicily through  chains of hills, mountains and volcanoes, offers an astonishing range of grape varieties that have been cultivated for thousands of years  in their terroirs.

mappa-x1 vectorized

Under the Romans,  vines were planted throughout the Empire, grapegrowing and winemaking techniques became more advanced, the varietals that best matched soil and climate were selected to improve  quality.

The concept of vintage already existed, as the ancient books report that the fabled Opimiam wine of 121 B.C., an excellent vintage of Falernum, was aged and drunk decades later. 

This red thread that leads to modern times was never cut, though invasions, wars and fights split the country into city states, duchies, kingdoms along two thousand years of entangled events . 

Enjoy a glass of History!

PostHeaderIcon Kings of Italian cuisine 2015 crowned in Florence, on the 11th April

kings of italian cuisine

The magazine “Italia a Tavola” kept the polls open for 8 weeks and found itself deluged with 145.392 votes!

And the winners are :

BEST OPINION LEADER :  EDOARDO RASPELLI  , gastronomy journalist and reviewer, tv personality
BEST MAITRE AND SOMMELIER :  PAOLO CIARAMITARO , maitre at the enchanting Villa Crespi on the Lake Orta
BEST BARMAN : FRANCESCO CIONE  barman at THE STAGE, a new restaurant inside the multi-experience store Replay in Milan)

luca montorsinoLuca Montersino is a Chef that has always focused his work on a healthier pastry, saying no to preservatives, trans-fats, coloring agents, artificial sweeteners and additives. The few ingredients needed in pastry must be natural and excellent, as he explains in his project “Golosi di Salute” (Glutton for Health). Sweets are not an enemy of your health, if the quality of the ingredients and their nutritional and caloric values are carefully considered and used.  Junk ingredients are to blame for intolerances and allergies.

Montersino wrote many cookery books and gives courses at the Gourmet Grocery Store  Eataly, where he has a corner wherever they are in the world.
Often a guest on tv gastronomic shows, he keeps on living in the village of Alba, the paradise of foodies.

edoardo raspelliEdoardo Raspelli has been on the gastronomic scene for ages, as a columnist, journalist and severe food critic for the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera and magazine L’Espresso, La Stampa and others, author of restaurant and hotel guides, consulting expert and host in many tv programmes ( even in two films). In these last 17 years he has presented “Melaverde”, a television series that delves into the culture and traditional cuisine of the various different regions of Italy, discovering old recipes and highlighting local foods.

Chef Massimo Bottura and Donatella Cinelli ColombiniChef Massimo Bottura and Donatella Cinelli Colombini

The award ceremony was preceded by a debate on the Italian style from the soil to the table.

Particularly thought-provoking were  the words of Chef Massimo Bottura, who complained about the absence of support from the Italian Trade Promotion Agency ICE, which unfortunately is not Sopexa, the equivalent in France, very powerful and helpful to promote French cuisine and products all over the world. We Italians lack the organization that assists in bringing forward the excellence of our products abroad. We have to be our own Sopexa, the “State” is missing. It’s an old story, in every field, perhaps dating from the very beginning of Italy as a unitary Nation.

Bottura was later awarded not only by “Italia a Tavola”, but also by Accademia Dantesca of Florence with “Premio Ciacco”  for “his significant contribution to the Italian cuisine as Culture”.

( Ciacco is a glutton, a character in Dante’s Inferno of the Divine Comedy, condemned to eat filth and mud instead of the fine foods and wine he was used to during his life ).

Let me point out that Bottura’s restaurant “Osteria Francescana”in Modena has been elected , for two consecutive years, 2013 and 2014, the third best restaurant in the “World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards”, has three Michelin stars, has been the highest ranked Italian restaurant across the globe for many years, won the “Best Chef of the Year” in 2012 by US bible “The Daily Meal”.  Focusing on the perfection of the ingredients and rooted in the greatness of Italian traditions, influenced by experimental art and social and historical issues, he lets his creativity fuel the evolution of the Italian cuisine, leading a new generation of Italian Chefs.

Another personality awarded for “the promotion of the terroir through enogastronomy” was Donatella Cinelli Colombini, whose winery in Montalcino is most renown.  She conceived “ Cantine Aperte” (Open Cellars) in 1993 and founded the Wine Tourism Welcoming, which has seen over the years an increasing number of tourists discovering the Italian wine territories. She also established the Casato Prime Donne Project and its Award dedicated to women.

Maurizio Martina, Minister of Agriculture, has been awarded for his commitment to uphold oenogastronomy and territory. He acknowledged delays and inadequacies of his department, but he’s been there only for a year , and he seems to care. We shall  see…

Baldassare Agnelli, owner of a century-old factory of professional cookware, has been given an award for “spreading in the world the Italian style in the culinary art”. His pans are so beautiful that if had one, I wouldn’t use it,  but simply hang it and gaze at it like a sculpture. To celebrate this jolly day of Italian cuisine, 15 famous Chefs and 7 Barmen have staged a show cooking, flanked by the artistic creations of 22 young designers of IED Firenze and Moodart.  Bling costume jewellery from Crystal Couture Milano were displayed to match each recipe and design.

All this at the Grand Hotel Baglioni, flawlessly organized by Alberto Lupini, director of  “Italia a Tavola”.

Journalist Alberto LupiniJournalist Alberto Lupini

Chef Daniele Zennaro from Venice's "Vecio Fritolin" cooked the most tender squids I’ve ever tasted  ( and I’m especially good at cooking fish, so believe me, I don’t know how he did it ). The squids of Barena were covered in an inky sauce and accompanied by a slice of exquisite Mozzarella Campana Dop and two vegetable sauces : artichokes/spinach and tomato/pepper.

Irina Freguia is the nice patron of Vecio Fritolin, near the Market of Rialto, where you are sure she and Zennaro go everyday to pick up the freshest fish and vegetables for their restaurant, my favourite in Venice.

Daniele Zennaro at workDaniele Zennaro at work  Daniele Zennaro at work1

Tano Simonato (one star Michelin guide for his restaurant in Milan with the original name “Tano passami l’olio” Tano, hand me the oil), has a name that surely is from Sicily and a surname from Veneto, but he is thoroughly Milanese in his openness. Always smiling and in very good English  he explained to me his creation : “Soffice di robiola e albume all’olio extra-vergine con tuorlo disidratato, caviale fatto in casa e tartare di scampi”. Let me try to explain : mousse of Robiola cheese and egg-white, scampi (langoustines) tartare, dehydrated yolk and home-made caviar.  Home made? Original Tano has “destructured” mussels, oysters, crayfish, squids and its ink, plus a particular vegetable, then made all this into little spheres to look like wild sturgeon little eggs with a secret procedure I won’t reveal even under torture. Divine!

     Tano Simonato Tano Simonato1  Marco StabileTano Simonato

Would you put a sprinkle of soil on a plate?
Chef Marco Stabile did it! He said he just followed the topic of the conference “from the soil to the table”. He cooked the Carnaroli Superfino – the ultimate rice chef’s choice, Acquerello, enriched with wheatgerm and seasoned for a year to enhance its flavour – in a broth made with a pinch of forest soil. Then he creamed it with Grana Padano cheese and topped it with some fake soil, a grainy mixture of mushrooms, topinambur and leaves, all served in the same elegant tins where Acquerello rice is sold. Definitely smelling of undergrowth, it was quite a peculiar sensory experience.

Marco Stabile1Marco Stabile  Simone FracassiSimone Fracassi

Marco Stabile is the Italian president of the association “Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe”, his restaurant “Ora d’Aria” in Florence is awarded one star from the Michelin guide.

Master Butcher from Arezzo, Simone Fracassi simply offered Battuta di Chianina (raw chianina beef), seasoned with chopped  carrots, celery and courgettes . Swarmed with people.

Claudio Sadler  Claudio Sadler1Claudio Sadler

Claudio Sadler, one of the founders of “Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe”, 2 Michelin stars, author of six recipe books, prepared  "Cremoso di cavolfiore con crespella di grano arso, crescione e caviale Asetra Calvisius" (the Italian Caviar, farmed in Brescia).

Here Sadler is adjusting his glasses after bending over to compose his blinis made of “grano arso” (a particular wheat with a smokey aroma), laid down on a cress cream , topped with sour cream and a minuscule cauliflower pie, garnished with caviar.

Enrico BertoliniEnrico Bartolini    Enrico Bertolini1

Enrico Bartolini, one starred chef at the Devero Restaurant near Milano, cooked “ mezze maniche di Carla Latini al cacciucco ed emulsione al lime”. Delicious. 
But what is “cacciucco” and who is Carla Latini ?
Cacciucco is a popular fish soup as they make it in the port of Leghorn, obviously revisited and made essential by young prodigious chef Enrico. Carla Latini is a lady who has being producing pasta from the old cultivar of durum wheat Senatore Cappelli, abandoned after Second World War in favour of more “modern” and easy to cultivate varieties. Pasta made in artisanal pastifici with Senatore Cappelli cultivar has an unmistakable perfume, is richer in proteins and gluten, a gluten that many people apparently intolerant to gluten can digest without problems, because its molecule has not been “messed up” genetically and it is “recognized” by the digestive system – but that’s a long story to tell, here, the one about mutant-food in general and why people get fat and ill- .

Again squids in their ink with a crunchy veil of polenta for Leimer and his “ Inzimino di seppie con pappa al nero e sfoglia croccante di mais “.

Inzimino di seppiezimino di seppie  Inzimino di seppie1Richard Leimer

Zimino is a thick soup made of spinach and squids , a traditional recipe of Genoa’s cuisine here reinterpreted and dignified by the Executive Chef of the Baglioni Hotel, Richard Leimer, here above on the left, setting up his dainty dish. Poor squids, so ugly and yet so good,  I love them.

Like a film star so sure of her glamour and the love of her fans that shows up at a première without make-up, so the much praised Chef Filippo La Mantia offered simply linguine with cherry tomatoes confit, seasoned with “cacio”, the Tuscan cheese, and first class extra-virgin olive oil, plus a hint of cinnamon and ginger. And his fans went wild just the same.

Chef La MantiaChef La Mantia and somellier Alessandro Scorsone 

Chef Viviana Varese opted too for something very light, “passatina di pomodoro con ricotta e sgombro”. Beside her, the winner of the Designer’s Competition, stylist Veronica Albera of IED Florence , showing the red dress inspired by the dish  presented in a goblet : “ tomato purée, mackerel and soft cheese”.

Chef Viviana VareseChef Viviana Varese      Chef Viviana Varese1

Viviana was Best Chef of 2010 at Identità Golose, awarded one star Michelin the following year and today is a foodstar on Real Time tv. Her restaurant, Alice, is inside Eataly in Milan.

Very busy chef Deborah Corsi, assembling a little pig terrine and wafer of spit-roasted pork.

Deborah CorsiDeborah Corsi  Deborah Corsi1

Really good, even if I would have liked to taste her version of cacciucco, the famous “cacciucchino”, but of course she had to propose something different. I’ll have to go to her place on the seaside in San Vincenzo, Perla del Mare, near Leghorn, to enjoy her fresh fish.

Grand Hotel Baglioni

The party continued at the top floor of Grand Hotel Baglioni, with its breathtaking view of the artistic treasures of Florence. Now the scene was all for the pastry-chefs and the barmen. 

Peter BrunelPeter Brunel and I  Peter Brunel1

Here I pose with Peter Brunel, Executive Chef of Caffè dell’Oro in Florence, the outstanding restaurant of the Ferragamo family, on the river Arno just off Ponte Vecchio.  Awarded a star from Michelin when he was only 28, Brunel is a lover of art and architecture, where he draws inspiration from . This is his “ colomba Loison alla nocciola, pesca e gelato al formaggio ficu”.

Loretta Fanella, another foodstar pastry-chef much wanted on television, painted this green symphony “ gelatina ai piselli con plumcake banana e lime e semifreddo al fiordilatte”  (gelée of green peas with plumcake banana and lime, and , eehhm, how can I translate here…flower of milk ? semi-freddo is almost an ice-cream, not fully frozen and maybe with a mousse-like consistency, but colder, anyway less fluffy…oohf, well, come here in Italy and taste it yourself!)

Loretta FanellaLoretta Fanella      loretta fanella1

  baobab by fuscoBaobab            gianluca fuscoGianluca Fusco

Baobab , by Gianluca Fusto, who assembled  dark chocolate cream, namelaka of milk chocolate, vanilla jelly, black cherries and mascarpone ice cream with coffee (what’s namelaka? A trendy  cream with a japanese name, a sort of ganache with added milk, glucose and gelatin to get an extra-creamy texture). I’m sure there is something else, but I’m losing my tasting faculties in this tour de force…..

Again Chef Montersino with his eclair “ Sinfonia n.9” .

Sinfonia n.9Sinfonia n.9  ilarrio vinciguerral'oro di Napoli

And then, last year’s winner, Chef Ilario Vinciguerra with “L’oro di Napoli”, a “pastiera napoletana” revisited and concentrated in a little globe of food design. Gosh!  After all this, I have to admit that I tasted only a drop of “Sangue di Giuda”, a sweet red gently sparkling wine from Oltrepo’ Pavese in Lombardy. It seems that it was called so (“Blood of Judas”) by the friars who deplored its aphrodisiac follow-up. Made traditionally from  Croatina, Barbera and Uva Rara, it is exultant of aromas of raspberry and blueberry, full bodied and has that delicate red foam that cleans the palate after salami, cured cheese and, of course, sweets. Sangue di Giuda of  Mr Fiamberti’s  200 years old winery was the only wine at the Terrazza Brunelleschi.

mr.fiambertandiMr. Fiamberti and I

And then I excuse myself, but I confess that, among the barmen, I tasted only Celery in Bloom by  Thomas Martini, from Harry’s Bar in Florence, here with Giorgia Gaini showing her lovely design and a necklace to match.

Giorgia GainThomas Martini with Giorgia Gaini

Top-notch event, I say to affable and courteous organizer Alberto Lupini, thanking him for the invitation. Tomorrow there is another lunch with “Italia a Tavola” at Mercato Centrale, but I excuse myself that I won’t be able to join them. It’s time to take some fresh air strolling around Florence, it’s not cold and the sky is clear. I’m enjoying the walk to Piazza della Signoria and feasting my eyes on Cellini’s bronze sculpture of Perseo with the head of Medusa, when the phone rings and a friend of mine asks me to join him at Moyè, because he still has to eat.
I certainly can’t eat anything anymore, but I reach the restaurant with specialities from Puglia, where at midnight they are so kind to give him a fantastic dish with vegetables, ham and a luscious “burrata”.
I limit myself to enquire about it : the milk of buffalo comes from Puglia and the burrate are made there, in Florence, under your eyes, by the “casaro”. I have to taste it : squisita!  Thanks, Moyè. (translation from Pugliese dialect : now it’s time!)

Thanks, Florence!

Untitled34The casaro

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