The first suggestion @ Trippi – Montagna in Valtellina (SO)

Considering myself a "gourmet traveller", it’s quite hard to establish bonds of affection with any restaurant: nine times out of ten the desire to experiment wins over the certainty that an already tried place can give.

Anyway, living in extended working exile in a famous mountainous region in northern Italy, roughly corresponding to the hydrographic basin of the Adda river (Valtellina… where the choices about quality food cannot be defined numerous), it’s not unusual for me to play the part of the usual customer.

Trippi -which has become my "refugium pecatorum" ever since- has undergone several changes in the past few years. Before 2014, under the previous owner, signs of exhaustion were exceedingly clear. It’s only when the chef Gianluca Bassola took over the place that the things begun to change: in a few months the song wasn’t the same anymore. Continue reading “The first suggestion @ Trippi – Montagna in Valtellina (SO)”

Low cost star @ Sarri – Imperia

Sarri Imperia

I think I lost count of all the "cheapest Michelin starred restaurant" lists that are duly rediscovered at every presentation of the red guide, mainly because (at least concerning Italy) many reports regard restaurants whose prices are absolutely aligned with equally-prized eateries which, however, integrate their offer with a business lunch at a reduced price, whose composition has nothing to share with what you can buy at full price.

It’s quite strange that none of the aforementioned rankings mention this establishment in Imperia where, both lunch and dinner, customers can order a surprise tasting menu, whose dishes are also available à la carte, at the competitive price of 38€.

Andrea Sarri is an old acquaintance of the "tire guide", having been chef and owner of the Agrodolce in Oneglia, where he already earned the red asterisk. The location change coincided with the conversion to chef/farmer: a line of thinking having in Enrico Crippa (Piazza Duomo at Alba) its leading authority. In fact the words "from our orchard" appear quite often in the menu. Continue reading “Low cost star @ Sarri – Imperia”

Route change? @ Villa Crespi – Orta San Giulio (NO)

Villa Crespi Orta San Giulio

Villa Crespi is Antonino Cannavacciuolo’s main restaurant, whose popularity has exponentially grown in the past few years. In fact the waiting list is about two months for every day of the week. For the not informed, we are talking about one of the most mediatically exposed chef in Italy: judge in Master Chef and host of our version of Kitchen Nightmares. Direct consequence of his acclaim is the opening of a bistrot restaurant in Novara (you can find here my review in Italian) and very soon in Turin too.

This kind of popularity tends to attract far less demanding customers (if we can say so), and premature estimators may ask themselves if this excess of success (forgive the rhyme) can have an impact on the overall quality of his restaurant.

For sure the amenity of the location was not affected: we are still in a wonderful moorish style villa near the shore of the Orta lake with baroque halls, silver cutlery and long clothed tables with no concessions to the nordic minimalist style. Service seemed a bit in trouble during our last visit, but we also have to consider that the end of the season was near, and the tiredness of the staff was palpable. Continue reading “Route change? @ Villa Crespi – Orta San Giulio (NO)”

Enthusiasm @ Spazio Milano – Milan

Spazio Milano

We can nearly call it "younger brother syndrome". Opening the second bistrot-style restaurant is an established trend for successful chefs. In this way they can propose the cuisine of the mother house, which has usually really important prices, in a simpler and more affordable way.

And the facts are, results are usually good… at least in the ones I experienced myself: I can only mention 108 at Copenhagen (extension of the famous Noma, for years considered the world’s best restaurant) and Cannavacciuolo Café & Bistrot, second house of one of the most mediatically exposed chefs in Italy. But Niko Romito, multi-starred chef from Abruzzo, doesn’t want to be outdone and added further interest in his own project "Spazio".

In fact, all the three restaurants under this brand are extensions of his professional cooking school "Niko Romito Formazione", and hire former students of the above. Under a wise and experienced supervision, the low average age of the staff becomes irrelevant, and all the energies derived from the overwhelming enthusiasm channelled in the right direction. Continue reading “Enthusiasm @ Spazio Milano – Milan”

The dark side @ I Tigli in Theoria – Como

Tigli in Theoria - Como

Actually it reminds me more of an asterisk, but trying not to be ironic, the Michelin star is undoubtedly one of the most wanted prizes for a restaurant, considering its international fame and the real capacity to attract customers, with effective economic advantage. A power that other Italian guides retain much less.

Of course, just after a chef can pin the red badge on his apron, customers have to be cautious about the dark side: it’s widely believed that in newly-starred eateries, you can see prices leaven just like the bread .

To be honest I’m not particularly scandalized. Obtaining and keeping the award requires considerable investments and, when the milestone has been reached, there’s nothing wrong with reaping the benefits of one’s labour. Too bad someone gets carried away sometime. Continue reading “The dark side @ I Tigli in Theoria – Como”

The last bastion @ Il Tabernario – Sondrio

Il tabernario enoteca delle alpi sondrio

Basically ignored by the “great” critics, not considering a quick appearance on Corriere della Sera in a list of wine shops in Lombardy, Tabernario (subtitle “Enoteca delle Alpi” ) is one of the most promising eateries( maybe the only one) in the city center of Sondrio, largest town in the Valtellina wine region, whose offer in this sector didn’t exactly shine in the last few years.

Opened at the end of 2011, the local didn’t find immediately his own identity: the formula is polyvalent ever since, and covers lunch, pre-dinner, dinner and afer… but it’s only when Daniele Pennati, an old acquaintance of my Italian language blog, took over the kitchen, that the gastronomic offer headed toward a precise direction, going away from the simple preparations of the beginning.

The cuisine of the young chef has always been characterized by a strong and original personality, even tricky for the traditionalist local clientele, but the placing in a more informal setting, compared to the ones of the previous experiences, seems today to square the circle. Continue reading “The last bastion @ Il Tabernario – Sondrio”

Angry French @ Mirazur – Menton

Mirazur Menton

Well, ok. This is not exactly Italy, but I hope you’ll forgive me, considering that Mirazur is no more than 50 meters from the Italian border, and the chef owner (Mauro Colagrego) is Italian/Argentinian. I will also add that he will be one of the four judges of the Italian version of the TV program “Top Chef”.

As usual, the 2016 edition of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant award has not brought significant achievements for France, and our cousins beyond the alps (how we call them) didn’t take that very well, because they still consider themselves the keepers of haute cuisine in the whole world. However the reaction was tragicomic: with the endorsement from the government they invented “la liste“, a list based on a scientific algorhytm, whose results are much more appreciated. Too bad the winning chef committed suicide just after a few days (obviously for independent reasons), casting a macabre shadow over all the operation.

I’ve expressed some doubts on the World’s 50 best too in my Italian language blog, but I can agree that the world is not looking at France as the homeland of gastonomic avant-garde, since the attention has been focused firstly on northern Europe and then on Italy, or at least this is what I hope ;-). Continue reading “Angry French @ Mirazur – Menton”