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albiston

A chat with chef Igles Corelli

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Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Igles Corelli, chef-owner of Locanda della Tamerice in Ostellato, about 30 km east of the city of Ferrara. It is an honor to have him as guest for the first chat hosted by the Italy forum. A big thank you goes Pia, Igles's wife and who some of you might know already from her participation on the forum, for acting as Italian-English translator for Igles.

The chat will take place between Wednesday and Sunday of this week (19/1 to 23/1), but please feel free to start posting your questions anytime.

(We will start with a day of delay respect what shown in the eGullet calendar because of chef Corelli’s appearance on an Italian TV show on Tuesday.)

For those unfamiliar with Igles Corelli work here’s some introductory information:

Igles Corelli, chef of Locanda della Tamerice in Ostellato, might not be a household name abroad yet he is one of the professionals whose work has been functional in defining what the Italian “cucina del territorio”, creative cuisine based on local traditional ingredients, is today. The best way to explain his cooking philosophy is probably through his own words:

A chef has two apparently opposed duties: to protect the memory of tastes and their cultural tradition, but also to contribute to the evolution of eating habits.

His influence on the modern Italian gastronomic scene is not limited to his cooking. Corelli organizes one of Italy’s most interesting food events, Sapere e Sapori, and is wholeheartedly involved in the education of the next generations of Italian cooks. He is also a founding member of the Jeune Restaurateurs d’Europe and Eurotoques associations.

Biography

Born in 1955, Igles Corelli starts his cooking career in 1976.

After experiences between Modena and the Adriatic coast of Romagna, followed by a year on cruise ships, he becomes the chef of the restaurant Il Trigabolo of Argenta in 1981. A former pizzeria-restaurant, this will become with the years one of Italy’s finest establishments; its influence on Italian restaurant cuisine, though not often receiving the recognition it would deserve, is still relevant today. Il Trigabolo was one of the first, if not the first restaurant in Italy, to break away from both the old fashioned hotel classics and the at the time flourishing Nouvelle cuisine to propose what is today widely known as “cucina del territorio”: for the first time the best traditional and local ingredients were being used to create new dishes, leaving free rein to the creativity of the kitchen staff. The success of Il Trigabolo was the result of a sum of factors: a capable and creative brigade under Corelli’s guide, an owner, Giacinto Rossetti, always on the look-out for the best products and the use of avant-garde technology, like the now famous pacojet, years before these would enter many of Europe top kitchens. Some of the dishes invented here, like the Lasagnette croccanti (crunchy lasagne), have been since then copied and reinterpreted by many Italian chefs becoming downright classics.

The recognition of the critics arrives soon: in 983 the restaurant is awarded its first Michelin star followed by a second in 1987. In the following years Il Trigabolo will receive numerous praises and awards from the Italian critics: Gambero Rosso’s Tre Forchette, Espresso’s 19,5/20 and Veronelli’s Sole award. Corelli continues to lead the kitchen of Il Trigabolo till 1993, when the restaurant closes down after economic difficulties.

During the years at in Argenta Corelli starts the Sapere e Sapori (Knowledge and Taste) cultural association, which organizes the homonymous annual event dedicated to promoting quality foods and wines, and to creating an opportunity for chefs to meet colleagues in a spirit of exchange and cooperation and for gourmets to try the cuisine of top chefs from Italy and the world (see below for more details).

Corelli’s cooking has also been the culinary backdrop of a number of political and cultural events. Notable among others is his participation to the Gala dinner for the international launch of the Slow Food Manifesto in the December of 1989 in Paris, alongside acclaimed French chefs like Michel Trama of Aubergade in Puymirol and Jean Marie Meulier of Clos Longchamp.

In 1992 Corelli meets Pia Passalacqua, who will become both his life and business partner: they open Locanda della Tamerice in Ostellato in 1995. The Locanda is located in an area of particular beauty, at the limits of the Po delta national park, and rich in unique products, which often appear on the menu.

Corelli involvement in teaching has grown in the last decade and he has recently become the coordinator of the Professional Cooking Courses organized by Gambero Rosso. From 2001 he has also taken part and starred in various progras produced by the Italian national Television RAI and by Gambero Rosso Channel among others.

Two collections of his recipes have been published last year, both in Italian. Gribaudo collected Corelli’s favorite game recipe in the book “Selvaggina” while Gambero Rosso brought out “In cucina con Igls Corelli” a collection of Corelli’s best recipes.

For anyone interested to get to know Corelli’s cuisine better “In cucina con…” is a good starting point. From the classics of Il Trigabolo to the latest creations, this recipe collection is a fascinating journey through his inventive reinterpretation of tradition and his curiosity for new ingredients and dishes. The book benefits from Corelli’s teaching experiences: the recipes, thought for home cooks, are well explained and the initial basics section covers all the prep work needed to successfully replicate the recipe. The only limit for the home cook wanting to replicate the recipes lies in the occasional use of uncommon ingredients such as game birds. Yet a book of Corelli’s recipes without game would be terribly incomplete, lacking an important part of his repertoire. The comments to many of the recipes throughout the book, explaining inspirations and ideas behind the dishes manage to permeate the book with Corelli’s warm personality and cooking philosophy.

Sapere e Sapori

From 1989 onward, the Sapere e Sapori festival has brought together chefs, top products, gourmets and art. The event’s highlight is the gala dinners: the guest chefs, from 3 to 5 every evening, each prepare one or more courses, inspired to the theme that is annually assigned to the event.

The festival has hosted many of the best Italian chefs, (Pierangelini, Vissani, Iaccarino. Marchesi and Cedroni, just to name a few) and given the opportunity to Italian gourmets to discover the cuisines of top chefs working abroad, as Winkler, Vergé and Senderens. Occasionally the event has showcased the cuisine of particular countries. Some of the highlights include US cuisine (1993) with the likes of Susan Spicer, Mark Miller and Lydia Shire as guest chefs, and Spain (1994), with a group of young emerging chefs; among them the still relatively unknown Ferran Adrià.

The next edition of Sapere e Sapori is planned for this year in Rome.


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Ciao Igles!

first of all thank you very much for taking the time to be here with us.

During your career, both at Il Trigabolo and at La Locanda della Tamerice, you've worked in what we Italian call la provincia, i.e. outside the major urban areas. This situation is not uncommon in Italy, I would even go as far as to say it is the rule: highly prized places like Le Calandre, Dal Pescatore, Gambero Rosso-- just to name a few-- are all outside big cities. If we exclude La Pergola in Rome, one could say that none of our best establishments is in any of the major Italian cities. The trend might be slowly changing, see Cracco in Milan for example, but it's too early to say if it really will.

This situation seems quite unusual when compared to countries like France, the UK or the US, where Paris, London and NY all host some of the best restaurants in their own national scene. This in itself seems a bit strange. A big city would seem like the ideal place to open a restaurant aiming at excellence: a big customer base, high incomes (depending on the city clearly), higher number of tourists, etc. Yet this doesn't seem to work in our country. Even someone like Gualtiero Marchesi had to close his restaurant in Milan and move to Erbusco.

Is there a special reason for this in your opinion? Costs for the restaurant owner? Customers needing a break from the city life?

Keeping the same theme, but on a more personal note, I seem to recall reading in the Gambero Rosso article on Il Trigabolo (could have been somewhere else though) that after the restaurant closed, you were offered the position of chef in the restaurant of an important hotel in Rome. You chose to open La Locanda della Tamerice instead. Apart Pia :biggrin: were there other reasons that pushed you to chose the countryside instead of Rome?


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Igles and Pia,

it is nice to have you both here and I would like to take the opportunity to ask if you could increase your regular presence here as I think it would really add much to the discussion. Within your very busy schedules of course!

Also, I saw Melly and Franco Solari from Ca' Peo recently and mentioned that Pia occasionally writes on EGullet. They were very flattered that you chose to include a variation on one of Melly's classics (lattughe ripiene in brodo) in one of your books and asked me to say hi, if I came across Pia on EGullet so here it is!

My question. There has been a series of discussions both here and in the Italian forums about the position of Italian high-end restaurants within the wider global haute-cuisine market. My personal opinion is that France matters because they are the masters of haute-cuisine, the US matters because of its sheer economic power, and Spain because there were few preconceptions attached to its cuisine and so a very creative approach has been well accepted by both the Spanish and the international public.

In all of this Italy has probably the least busy haute cuisine restaurants. While you need sometimes months to get a reservation at the top US, Spanish or Franch restaurants, getting a table with few days notice in Italy is the norm. This is perhaps great for the customer but not so good for the restaurants themselves and might ultimately be a brake on the development of high end restaurants in Italy. I believe it all comes from preconceptions: we are the country of simple cuisine and simple restaurants and both (many) Italians and (many) visitors don't want "fancy" food in Italy.

Do you agree? Is there something that could be done?

Thank you for your time,

Francesco

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Igles, how many times have people asked you if you have anything to do with Captain Corelli's Mandolin?

I wish I had known about you last summer when I was in the Mantova area. But I'm not too worried as I am in Italy to dine quite often. I'll visit you soon.

I have always been a fan of what seems to be your niche of preparing cuisine; the traditional base reinterpreted, but not "over the rainbow" so. In fact, I think my first meal of that sort was in 1982 outside of Milan at the Antica Osteria del Ponte where I took note of the Moulin de Mougins and Georges Blanc influences. Nonetheless, I have had so many wonderful meals (more Italian in nature) in that niche. So I am wondering, then, are there dozens, scores, or hundreds of restaurant chefs in Italy whom you consider working along your lines; i.e. what Albiston calls "creative cuisine based on territorial ingredients? Or is it a rather exclusive group? Maybe you could name a handful of chefs you feel most simpatico with in this regard. Also, I sympathize with Franco's statement about the lack of recognition (and patronage) that great chefs in Italy have to fight against. Among the food crazies I have gotten to know because of eGullet, it's a puzzlement to me why they keep going back to France (and now Spain) while totally ignoring Italy, which to my mind is the most gourmand country in the world (if you really understand what being gourmand is).

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Chef, thank you for joining us.

First, let me say that I have never been to Italy but I intend to correct that omission soon. My grown daughter spent a couple of weeks in the Tuscany region last year. Her reports on the food are an inspiration to plan a trip. Basis her experience, I have the following question:

Why would anyone want to "elevate" Italian cuisine to some perceived "upper" level? As far as I can see, one of the charms of Italian cuisine is the connection with the basics and excellent ingredients. I guess that I am saying that one of my expectations for my first trip to Italy is that I will find an exalted version of "home cooking." Perhaps that is the "signature" of Italian cuisine and it should not try to emulate what is going on in the rest of the world but build upon its strengths. I realize that my comments here may be controversial but I anticipate your response and perhaps a bit of education prior to my adventure.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Chef, thank you for joining us on eGullet. I will preface my question to say that I love both Italy and Italian food of all stripes. I particularly love the fact that Italy is leading the charge in the battle to maintain the biodiversity of our global food supply. How, if at all has the Slow Food Movement effected your cooking and your view of food? Do you feel that the movement is compatible with creative and avant-garde cooking? Ifso, please explain why and if not, why not. Thanks again for your thoughts.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Chef thank you for joining us here on egullet.

I assume your assoication with Slow foods is a natural one with Northern Italy's standard of earth to mouth.

On our last trip to Italy we went to Il Rigoletto in Reggiolo amoung others and found it good, but somewhat outside would I would expect for restraurants in Emilia-Romagna. How does your food compare to the foods you would expect to see in the region?


Never trust a skinny chef

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Ciao, Igles, e grazie per parlare con noi!

I've spent parts of three summers in Italy and the rest of my family spent a year in Firenze before I was born, so memories of Italy (theirs and then mine) and Italian food have always been part of my heritage, regardless of my ancestors having come from elsewhere. I've always loved Italian food and a delicious Italian meal is still one of my favorite things.

Anyway, I think that when most Americans think of "Italian food," what they're really thinking of is Italo-American food based on Southern Italian heritage (Campagna, Calabria, Sicilia, etc.). And what I think of first when I think of Italian food is regionality. Anyone who's been to different regions of Italy knows that every region has its own specialties and all regional cuisines are distinct from the others. So my question to you is whether you feel that there is any commonality that makes a dish or a type of cuisine Italian to you, as opposed to Piemontese, Toscana, Calabrese, etc., or whether the differences between Northern and Southern Italian cuisines may be greater than the differences between some regional Italian cuisines and, say, Provencal style. A subsidiary question could be whether there are some nationwide newfangled trends nowadays. I look forward to your answer.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Hi Chef Corelli!

In my long and checkered wine career, I've had the good fortune to drink Ramonet Montrachet, Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne, Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Eiswein, Trimbach Clos Saint-Hune, Haut-Brion Blanc, Chave Hermitage Vin de Paille, Chateau d'Yquem, Krug Clos du Mesnil...

...but in my lifetime, I'm certain that the greatest white wine I've ever had was a carafe of Cinque Terre Bianco at an outdoor cafe in Spezia, served with a gnocchi al pesto, after a long day of hiking on goat trails by the sea.

What do you make of this?

Cheers!

Rocks.

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Dear Igles!

Could you agree with my opinion, that northern Italian cuisine is maybe the "softest" (morbida) cuisine one can find. Almost never really spicey, realtively low in salt, for me many dishes of the Piemonte/Lombardia/Emilia have a hard to describe, mellowing character. In this regard, I'd call it an almost feminine, maternal cuisine (no wonder, in general kids do like it so much). It's somehow also a wonderful paradox that there are many Italian male home cooks and vice versa a high percentage of female chefs at the professional top level.

So I could think that Italian way of life (rarely being inflexible or hard pressing) or Italian language (a notoriously melodic, soft, rounded language) is perfectly reflected in their dishes. Is this too far fetched?

Futher, I'm convinced that Italian "arte di mangiar bene" (pleasure) has a as much to do with ingredients as with the conviviality of it's consumers and their relaxed attitude towards food. I have all the memories of sunday lunches, when wonderful food was served. The food was very important and was always discussed, but it never outshined the "being together" experience. There was always a playful implicitness that - in my eyes - demonstrates that Italy is maybe the oldest aristocracy in matters of fine eating (opposed to fine dining) in western world.

I think that Italian, rural restaurants (see Francescos remarks) offer not only truly great food, but also an un-solicitous atmosphere which I think is essential for Italian restaurants clients (an I must confess, for me as well). Remarkably, on can find a similar atmosphere from the simple family trattoria up to highly rated restaurant. This is one reason why I believe Italians are somewhat reluctant to interest in a cuisine which stresses cuisine too much. Is there something with my rationale?


Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Ciao! We are going to Bologna this weekend and while I’ve heard it’s hard to have a bad meal there (in my opinion that’s anywhere in Italy), I’d love to have your thoughts on two nights of great meals there. While I don’t mind spending a lot for dinner in Venice, for example, I don’t feel that we need two super nice dinners out in Bologna. I’ve researched a lot on this, but am curious to hear where you would dine.

Grazie.

Oh, and we’re planning on coming to Locanda della Tamerice at some point (we live in Italy for the time being) and am wondering if you are taking a ferie at all this winter.

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Chef, thanks for joining us for this chat.

On this site we discussed how resistant to change Italians can be when it comes to culinary traditions. See this discussion about Vissani for example Click Here. It seems that many Italians might not give a chef the kind of respect he or she deserves if they are cooking something that varies from the norm, tradition or "the Italian way". What are your thoughts about this issue? How do you express your creativity and manage to run a successful restaurant?

Thanks

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Welcome Chef Corelli,

I don't really have any questions for you yet. I am writing to simply express my appreciation of Italian cookery and your approach to terroir based cusine (I'm sorry I don't know the Italian word for it). I'm a French Chef and a native of Lyon. Which is an area of France especially reknowned for it's terroir based cuisine. I have been to Italy, unfortunately it was before you opened your restaurant. I was very impressed with the overall quality of the food in Italy. The freshness, the care with preparations, the simplicity. Especially the simplicity. The simple thing such as fresh earthy mushroom, fruity olive oil and a little aged cheese. This is where my heart lies in cuisine. And I thank you for continuing and elevating terroir based cuisine.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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HELLO HELLO!!! TO ALL OF YOU!. OK, here I am. I just spent the last 30 minutes (at least) reading, no ... that is untrue ... listening to my wife who was translating all questions. I'm flattered! So many, so intriguing ... it will take me a couple of days to go through the whole thread. Thank you, and please, let me thank Albiston for his invitation and for his warm-hearted introduction of myself and my professional experiences.

That's it. My first post in this Forum is just to say: "Please, be patient, I'll reply to all questions ... it's just a matter of time. I'll be happy to start in this way a dialogue with so many people who share my passion for good food, a dialogue that hopefully will last beyond this Q&A" and, also: "I'm really honoured of being officially part of this community".

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Ciao!  We are going to Bologna this weekend ...

Dear A_Broad, my first answer is for you, since I understand that your deadline has almost expired.

It's weird that I should contradict you about the quality of restaurants in Bologna ... The general opinion of Italian gourmets about restaurants and food in Bologna is that the city that for many many years (until the '70ies, more or less) was considered the homeland of good, tasty, generous food has lost its crown. The reasons claimed are substantially the lack of needs. The city seems to be crowded for most of the year by visitors (there are many important exhibitions at the local fair hall). Restaurants don't really need to fight to get customers, nor to keep them. In addition, traditional Bolognese cookery keeps its appeal. It's tasty, it's easy to be understood. People living in Bologna are, always generally speaking, quite "traditional", not too adventurous regarding food. "Value for money" is often related to quantity. Therefore there are few chefs and few restaurant owners willing to change (with research, with creativity, with care) what seems to be an easy trail.

I love traditional Bologna cookery, because it's part of my DNA. I've been grown with pork meat, with Parmesan cheese, with "pasta" prepared with egg-dough, with the greasy softness (as someone else has highlighted here) of Emilia Romagna's tastes. So it's hard for me to say that quality of food in Bologna is not as it could be. Nevertheless, here are a couple of addresses in which I'm confident.

First one is run by two friends of mine (Piero Pompili and the chef, Arnaldo Laghi). You need a car or a taxi to get there. It is not in Bologna city, although it's at about 500 mt. from the city borders or about 10 minutes from city center:

OSTERIA DEL MINESTRAIO

via Andrea Costa, 7

località Rastignano, Pianoro (BO)

ph. 051 742017

closed on mondays

They serve only pasta dishes. You may choose the tasting menu composed by a series of up to 10 different types of "primi piatti", some traditional, some creative, each offered at 3.50 euros. In addition there is a good selection of cheese, "salumi" and, for a sweet conclusion, tempting desserts. An interesting wine-list, a professional but not pretentious service and a warm environment, make it one of my favourite restaurants in Bologna. It is small (about 20 people) and it is usually fully booked. They have been awarded by Gambero Rosso Rstaurant Guide with the "Oscar qualità-prezzo", this year.

Another very good address is:

IL CAMBIO (next to Hotel Maxim)

via Stalingrado, 150

Bologna

ph. 051 328118

closed on Saturdays for lunch and Sundays (all day)

Here the chef Massimo Poggi offers a creative approach to traditional cuisine. His "maestro" has been Gianni Angelini, who is now working in US.

There I suggest to taste the creative side of the menu, because it's worthwhile (although they also offer traditional dishes such as "tortellini", "passatelli" or cappelletti"). Don't miss the "Zabaione ai crostacei con scampi, carciofi e foie gras", "Gnocchi al nero di seppia con vongole", and "Sorbetto ai frutti della passione". The Italian gastronomic press is keeping it's focus on him. Price (wine excluded) is about 50-55 euros.

Of course you are welcomed in my own restaurant. We have opened today, after a short period of winter holidays, but I'm committed with a TV show shot in Rome, therefore I won't be back until Feb, 15th.

:smile:

Igles

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During your career, both at Il Trigabolo and at La Locanda della Tamerice, you've worked in what we Italian call la provincia, i.e. outside the major urban areas. This situation is not uncommon in Italy [...]

Is there a special reason for this in your opinion? Costs for the restaurant owner? Customers needing a break from the city life?

[...]

Dear Alberto, I can't still believe that I'm here, chatting with the whole world! Really, thanks for this opportunity.

My opinion about location of restaurants in Italy is that, usually, none of us has a "managerial" approach to the business. When it happens, as it is the case of La Pergola in Rome, or Craccopeck in Milano, the choice of investors was obviously directed to BIG CITIES and a well trained chef.

When you open a restaurant in the countryside, in a small city, in "la provincia" it's just because you and your family live there. There are few exceptions to this rule: Gualtiero Marchesi has moved from Milano to Erbusco, but it was Moretti who opened the restaurant there, in Franciacorta, where one of his companies, Bellavista, is based and where, probably, he had some kind of roots and, for sure, some facilities. When Marchesi has recently opened a second restaurant (I don't know if by himself or through some supporters) he has chosen Rome. The same goes for Alfonso Iaccarino. Someone from his staff is running, under his name, the "Baby" in ... Rome. Moretti, always him, has invested in a relais in Tuscany countryside, asking Ducasse for consultancy, but Tuscany is a rich and peculiar countryside, with the highest concentration of foreigners, both visiting or resident.

So if you start a restaurant business in "la provincia italiana" and you wish to be quickly successful, you need a hell of a lot of money and you need to start with fireworks. Beautiful location, highly professional staff, a great chef.

Second option, the most common one in Italy, when you start you are not thinking of a "great" restaurant. You love and you are skilled in cooking (often simple home-cooking), there are family members able to support you, financially and, even more, with their work, possibly you or your family own a suitable building ... you start ... and your passion is so strong that you don't feel fatigue, even if you work 18 hours-a-day for 7 days-a-week. Nobody regrets if you invest all your money in the restaurant: simple table clothes slowly give place to richer fabrics, glasses become crystal-ware, table cutlery from stanless steel is replaced by silver plated items, the wine-list becomes wider, deeper ...

This is the tale of most "great" restaurants in Italy, close to leave the forestage to the 2nd or 3rd generation. Most of them started their activity around the 70ies. Some of those that were acclaimed quite quickly at that time are still praised today probably because the main motivation was not success, but passion. Improvisation was replaced by professionality, conquered with time, labour, continuous commitment. Creative skills, knowledge about ingredients, care for everything haven't changed since the beginning ... and you end up becoming "Nadia Santini". You get the attention from the media and the new problem you have to add to the daily ones, is to keep your position. During the 70ies and the early 80ies it was easier to get the attention from the press, but far more difficult to keep your customers, once you decided to ride on a roller coaster rather than on a safe train. The landscape around "great-restaurants-to-be" was flat and void. Few Italians accepted or clapped the nouvelle cuisine revolution. On the other hand, there were few restaurants to compete with.

I accepted the job at Pizzeria Il Trigabolo, because I was living in Argenta and I was tired by working on a cruise ship. I had a unique opportunity and wonderful experience there, for 13 years. The owner, Giacinto Rossetti, was crazier than a chef. Trigabolo was not run by a real family, but for 13 years we have been as a family. I resigned because I didn't agree with the policy of the new owner, who bought the restaurant after a sensational bankruptcy. At that time I had already met Pia and we both wished to stay together as much as possible. So, working together was a good option.

Ostellato was probably chosen by the fate. Pia, who is from Genoa and was living in Milano (and had a brilliant career as marketing director) hated the idea of being "confined" in a small village. I had some good proposals, such as being the exec. chef for La Terrazza (Hotel Eden, in Rome) before Enrico Derflingher, or managing an Italian restaurant in a Beachcomber 5 stars hotel in Mauritius ... but, but, but ... I knew that I was going to loose my freedom. None of us, me and Pia, are used to accept "orders" from others. We preferred to be responsible of any decision, mistakes included. So when the mayor of the village offered us to rent the place, with a bit of support from their side, because they were investing in tourism, we decided to accept the challenge.

It still is a difficult challenge every day, and probably I would have never done it without Pia. Customers may enjoy a break from city life, but have hundreds of easier options. If we had the money ... probably we may have chosen Milano or Rome or a nice and easy touristic place, like Portofino or Ischia or Positano or a rich and charming countryside like Toscana or Langhe in Piedmont. Costs for starting a restaurants are more or less the same everywhere, except for renting or buying an estate. In Ostellato we hadn't to pay the licence and a small part of the refurbishment. In addition to this, the advantage of not being in a city, for someone like me, is that you have a generous nature around you and I love to cook what is offered spontaneously. I think that "wild" is intriguing: wild fruits, wild herbs, wild animals ...

It's late now ... iI will continue my replies tomorrow

Igles

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Chef Corelli,

Thank you, merci, grazie. You're accounts are so true. Especially after hearing what you have to say I can't wait to taste your cooking. It would also be my pleasure to cook for you (the offer is a most humble one).


Edited by chefzadi (log)

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Second option, the most common one in Italy, when you start you are not thinking of a "great" restaurant. You love and you are skilled in cooking (often simple home-cooking), there are family members able to support you, financially and, even more, with their work, possibly you or your family own a suitable building ... you start ... and your passion is so strong that you don't feel fatigue, even if you work 18 hours-a-day for 7 days-a-week. Nobody regrets if you invest all your money in the restaurant: simple table clothes slowly give place to richer fabrics, glasses become crystal-ware, table cutlery from stanless steel is replaced by silver plated items, the wine-list becomes wider, deeper ...

I think Chef Corelli has hit the nail on the head with this one. It's a fantastic insight into real life and in particular the realities of life in Italy. So my question is this:

In the UK there seems to be a culture of supporting and mentoring cooks - the "big" name chefs take them under their wings and after nurturing them for some time they are send of to restaurants in New York, Melbourney, Sidnay, Hong Kong, Paris where they develop their skills further. Then when they come back they take over one of the many reastaurants that big names (e.g. Gordon Ramsay) have. Jamie Oliver's "fifteen" project is similar. Of course it's not all roses and benevolent "wiser" cooks - it is more about taking care of interests and having the need for good chefs. In Italy there doesn't seem to be this mentoring culture since there doesn't seem to be the need by one famous chef to handle many different restaurants. Is this really the case or am I missing something?

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Katia, I would say that Chef Corelli pretty much hit the nail on the head with everything he's said in his post. His words don't just apply only to his experiences. Alot of it applies to the business in general. It's a very insightful and honest account of what a Chef of a particular calibur goes through. I'm loving every word of it!


Edited by chefzadi (log)

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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In all of this Italy has probably the least busy haute cuisine restaurants. While you need sometimes months to get a reservation at the top US, Spanish or Franch restaurants, getting a table with few days notice in Italy is the norm. This is perhaps great for the customer but not so good for the restaurants themselves and might ultimately be a brake on the development of high end restaurants in Italy. I believe it all comes from preconceptions: we are the country of simple cuisine and simple restaurants and both (many) Italians and (many) visitors don't want "fancy" food in Italy.

Do you agree? Is there something that could be done?

Francesco

Dear Francesco, first of all, a special "ciao" from Pia. She, who is the one with longer acquaintance with this Forum, regrets very much for not being present as often as she would like. Same goes for me ... although I'm a newbie as a participant, I've always enjoyed the depth of your discussions when Pia took some time to translate them for me. More than a busy schedule (which is also true), language is my problem! I need her, and she is also busy. But we'll do our best ... it's a promise! :rolleyes:

Melly and Franco Solari are very good friends for us. She is a superb chef, one of those able to perform tradition respectfully but with a contemporary approach. They both highlighted Ligurian cookery, which, to me, is one of the most "modern" of Italian regional cuisines, bringing its essentiality near to perfection. I wish I could taste their food more often! It's a pity that their restaurant is in some way neglected today by Italian critics ... Someone who still today prepares the pesto sauce with "mortaio e pestello", someone who cooks Rabbit with black olives and herbs as she does, or a place where you feel the warmth of a family as it is at Ca' Peo restaurant would deserve much more attention.

Coming to your question: few haute-cuisine restaurants in Italy need not even a fortnight to get a reservation. During the week you may get your table easily, even without a reservation, especially during 2004, a very difficult year ...

Apart from the economical crisis, that exploded after the introduction of the euro (but it is not only due to it, in my opinion), it seems true that (very) few Italians as well as (very) few foreigners are willing to accept "fancy" food in an Italian restaurant. If a dish looks refined, if it is "technical", if it is "essential", if it is different from what's "traditional" you risk to be labelled as a chef inspired by French or Japanese or Spanish cuisines. Why? ... I wish I had a clear answer!

There are other posts on this Q&A related to this subject.

1st point: Definitely good ingredients are one of our plus. Good ingredients don't need much complexity (but let me tell that a bad chef can spoil the best ingredient! and also that it is more difficult to remove, rather than to add!). If someone is experienced enough to select good ingredients, can prepare a superb Italian dish, often even without cooking anything (just think of a simple Tomato and mozzarella salad with fresh basil leaves and one of the many fruity olive oils produced here!).

2nd point: Quoting Albiston signature by memory, who was probably quoting you, "Italy is a country with 55 millions of food experts ...". We pretend to be experts, but really few can claim the title. Mamma is the best chef in the world and most Italians are continuosly looking for the tastes of their infantry, using the dangerous "taste of memories" as a touchstone for comparisons ... similar to,or different from mamma's cooking, meaning good or bad! Unfortunately it is not always true that Italian home food is "good", particularly in recent times. But even in the past ...

I risk to be boring, please forgive me for acting as a lecturer ... but the matter is really interesting.

Since the beginning of our history, Italian cookery or, better, cookery practised in this land developed along two main lines. Ancient Romans are considered refined gourmets, which was true, but only for the rich ones. Poor people ate the simplest food, breads, cereal porridges, vegetables, small animals. Our economy has always been based on agricolture, until mid of the XX century, at least. Being "fixed", they had more time to develop cookery, compared to the nomad populations on Northern Europe, whose food was necessarily simpler, mainly based on roasted meat. The climate, the soil provided our ancestors with good ingredients, quite easily available: to harvest a fruit is easier than to hunt a wild animal ... :wink:

The scene didn't change much during Middle Age and even during Renaissance. Rich and noble families were banqueting with complicated and often exotic food, poor people survived trying to trasform most of what nature was offering into edible stuff.

Most women were working as hard as men, farming, harvesting, fishing ... so they were starting to cook the daily meal early in the morning. Pots with simple stews or soups were left abandoned, at the corner of the stove, where they simmered slowly for hours, until lunch- or dinner-time. This is the origin of many traditional recipes. The taste of different ingredients was blended together by long and slow cooking, sometimes sticking to the pot ... Hunger was heavy and I think that nobody ever complained for a burned flavour in the stew!

It remained more or less so until last century. Noble families were replaced by rich bourgeois. The food prepared by "home chefs" was varied and quite refined, with a strong influence from French cuisine (it was Belle Epoque age and France was leading in many fields). As Nino Bergese wrote (he was the last chef of the last king): "It's difficult to feed people who don't need to be fed" (or something like that), meaning that you need a lot of creativity to satisfy people who is not starving.

Therefore, in my opinion, both concepts of cuisine belong to Italy: simple, easy country food and complex, conceptual, even exotic haute-cuisine. Also considering that Romans conquered almost all of the world known at that time, without imposing their life-style or culture but, on the contrary, importing in Rome whatever habit they judged valuable and that afterwards we have been one of the most invaded countries in the world, and have accepted and "digested" whatever was good in other cultures ... So "haute-cuisine", or even "fusion" started in Italy about 20 centuries ago, but few people today are willing to aknowledge this fact.

3rd point: Being a country with a relatively recent background of misery, we still confuse quality with quantity. Being convinced that mamma is the best chef in the world, why should we waste our money for tiny bits of glossy food in top restaurants?

Don't forget also our catholic background: if we suffer in this life we'll be happy afterwards ... pleasure is a sin, greed in one of the 7 Capital Sins ...

Despite the huge amount of words I realize that I haven't given a firm answer. I try to get to the point:

Yes, I agree that there are many preconceptions towards Italian cuisine, among Italians and among foreigners. I hope to have proven that they are not justified, but this is of no help because the evidence is that haute-cuisine restaurants in Italy are not as busy as their counterparts in other countries are.

I don't fear that this will do great damages. Mad people always exist :biggrin: and win against all odds. Food and cooking is a matter of love and passion. And many will go on because of that. Italians show their better qualities when they have hard times. Not being "managerial" in this case can be positive.

What can be done? Maybe the real problem doesn't rely in the style of cooking but in the style of service. Professional but warm, family-like service is more Italian than the nose-up attitude that many top restaurants consider "elegant". An icy yet technically perfect service doesn't apply to Italian character and keeps Italians and foreigners out of many restaurants. And we also should learn how to make proper calculations. It's possible that our top restaurants are cheaper that similar ones abroad, but they remain too expensive anyway for a standard Italian family.

We, as owner or managers, should be more united and use all the power that we may have if we are together, to claim for some support from institutions. Because we are one of the leading activities for our economy!

I'll try to be more concise with next answers! :blink::laugh:


Edited by Igles Corelli (log)

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I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your taking the time to express yourself. This is a true pleasure as well as very interesting and eductional for me. You/your wife are also gifted to be able to write so beautifully! The last topic was particularly timely since having recently returned from Le Calandre (I live near Washington, D. C.) I have friends who do not and cannot associate this type of creativity with Italy. I find their attitudes particularly frustrating yet they have an image that is inflexible no matter what I say or what they may taste. Thank you for your effort and your knowledge.

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Igles, how many times have people asked you if you have anything to do with Captain Corelli's Mandolin?

[...] I am wondering, then, are there dozens, scores, or hundreds of restaurant  chefs in Italy whom you consider working along your lines; i.e. what Albiston calls "creative cuisine based on territorial ingredients? Or is it a rather exclusive group? Maybe you could name a handful of chefs you feel most simpatico with in this regard.

Hundreds of times! :biggrin: But I'm not related neither to the Captain nor to the musician, Arcangelo Corelli.

Concerning my style ... I think that for me " creative cuisine based on territorial ingredients" represents a phase of my evolution. I started to work, let's say almost professionally, in a kitchen when I was about 14 (my parents owned a small "trattoria", but I became more "serious" when I finished the school and I was finally payed for the job. I was 18. It means we were around 1973. Nouvelle cuisine was about to flood from France to Italy. When it struck me, I was just a little bit older ... but I was still a young and un-experienced human being who was discovering that cooking was not only a job, but also a thrilling expressive means. I dealt with nouvelle cuisine as young people may do: with excitement. Every pore of my skin was spilling with creative ideas. Nothing was "strange" enough! Soon I realized that the more extreme your goals are, the most perfect techniques must be. And basis are also as important.

Ezio Santin, owner and chef of Osteria del Ponte became a chef late in his life. His story is once more a tale of passion and of how passion can change a life. Being adult, his approach to professional cooking has been "mature". In those year France was leading the game. France had THE Book of National Recipes, French chefs where the professionels, the had experience and knowledge about techniques, they started the Nouvelle cuisine revolution. In Italy "trattorie" were serving good 2home-style" food and restaurants were serving international cuisine, hotel-style (which means French -style). But a few chefs in France where changing the rules. I think it was a natural consequence that someone like Ezio Santin, who couldn't afford to spend much time to find his own way with years of attempts, has studied and referred to the "best available" on the scene. So indeed his cuisine has the French flair, but the one of the "new French style".

I can't say that I followed a specific model. I was too frantic to stick on one idea. But if I have to choose one I'd say Cantarelli. Probably scarcely known abroad now, because with his restaurant didn't survive his death, he was the most revolutionary of all tradiotionalists. Few traditional recipes, always the same, prepared by his wife in a way beyond perfection. The place, half drugstore, half trattoria or restaurant (impossible to classify it), was the strangest combination of contrasts. He had rare and expensive French wines (in Italy wine in restaurants was offered as "black" or "white"), served in fine crystal glasses, brought to the table with "Coca-cola" tin trays. Ligabue painting hanging on the walls where next to the rack with the boxes of a popular dish-washing powder soap ... After him Marchesi, Santin, Paracucchi and, obviously the "great" French Maestros, like Paul Bocuse, the Troigros, Trama, Blanc ...

My staff was a bunch of adolescents and we shared all kind of enthusiasm. Last year, when Trigabolo has been celebrated at Gambero Rosso-Città del Gusto in Rome, Stefano Bonilli has corrected the title of the front-page of his magazine, where we had been named as "the Beatles of Italian cuisine", introducing the brigade, ricomposed for the event, as, actually, "the Rolling Stones" of Italian cuisine ... because we had been more than trasgressive, indeed. :raz::biggrin:

After having jumped over the rules, or having turned them up-side-down, I started to reflect about my roots and I discovered that I enjoy dealing with flavours I'm familiar with. Before, my aim was surprise customers, shock them with rough contrasts, with unpredictable combinations of tastes, now I'm looking more for a inner comfort. Surprise, if there is any, must be searched deeper in what I cook, it's subtler.

What has been an achievement for me, is a starting point for many other chefs, usually younger than me, who in some way have benefitted by the experience made by the eldest. The "famous" ones are an exclusive group, but many others are working with local, fresh, high quality ingredients.

A few names in random order. Among the famous, a mixture of younger and older, I'd quote Melly Bianco (Ca' Peo, Leivi) and Paolo Masieri (Paolo e Barbara, Sanremo), both in Liguria. Angelo Troiani (Il Convivio, Rome), Grazia Soncini (La Capanna di Eraclio, Codigoro), not far from me, Aimo e Nadia Moroni (Aimo e Nadia, Milano), Gaetano Alia (La Locanda di Alia, Castrovillari), Ciccio Sultano (Duomo, Ragusa), Nino Graziano (Mulinazzo, Palermo), Antonella e Dora Ricci (Al Fornello da Ricci, Puglia), Lucio Pompili (Symposium, Cartoceto), Marco Cavallucci (La Frasca, Castrocaro).

Among the less famous: Marco Passini (Rosso Agontano, Ancona), Marco Bistarelli (Il Postale, Umbria), Piero Zito (Antichi Sapori, Andria), Adriano Baldassarre (Il Tordo Matto, Zagarolo), Enrico Pezzotti (La Trota, Rivodutri) and Anna Dente (Osteria di San Cesario, San Cesareo) all in Lazio, Cristiano Andreini (Andreini, Alghero), Carmelo Chiaromonte (Il Cuciniere, Catania).

There are many others, though.

[ ...]i t's a puzzlement to me why they keep going back to France (and now Spain) while totally ignoring Italy, which to my mind is the most gourmand country in the world (if you really understand what being gourmand is).

I'm as puzzled as you. Maybe it is because we are not good with marketing and communication. :sad:

Igles

I think I got what you mean for gourmand :wink:


Edited by Igles Corelli (log)

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[...] Why would anyone want to "elevate" Italian cuisine to some perceived "upper" level? As far as I can see, one of the charms of Italian cuisine is the connection with the basics and excellent ingredients. I guess that I am saying that one of my expectations for my first trip to Italy is that I will find an exalted version of "home cooking." Perhaps that is the "signature" of Italian cuisine and it should not try to emulate what is going on in the rest of the world but build upon its strengths. I realize that my comments here may be controversial but I anticipate your response and perhaps a bit of education prior to my adventure.

Dear Linda, I think that I have implicitly answered also to your question with my reply to Francesco. In some way you are right, "home food", when prepared in a proper way, is already at un "upper" level. But, during your trip in Italy, be careful when you choose your restaurant or your trattoria. Not always what claims to be homely is necessarily true and genuine and, on the other hand, don't feel upset or betrayed if what you eat doesn't resemble to what is defined typical Italian in the States. Tradition is dynamic and keeps moving ... :smile:

Igles

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