Eating like a King
Bra, Govone, Rivoli, Venaria Reale
“Le stelle sono tante milioni di milioni, la stella di Negroni, vuol dire qualità”. (There are many millions of stars, but the Negroni star means quality). A commercial jingle featured on one of the last Carosello shows (a cavalcade of television advertisements aired at 8:30 p.m. in Italy during the 1950’s 60’s and 70’s that children could stay up to watch before being sent to bed) before it ended, never to be seen on Italian television again.
Presenting Carosello again wouldn’t be a bad idea to tell the story of how the Piemonte region, in only a few short years, has become a main attraction in the firmament of regions capable of blending loisir, food and art. The intuition of creating a co-existence between historic-architectural heritage and contemporary art with cuisine in the region that brought Slow Food to life was a winning one and has encouraged four great chefs to transfer to four Royal Residences.
Crowned with olympic stars from above their white chef’s toques, Alfredo Russo, Davide Scabin, Ugo Alciati and Pier Bussetti have embraced the challenge, perceiving that they cannot limit themselves to simply recuperating Piemonte’s gastronomic tradition, but they must re-elaborate it with contemporary taste and creativity.
“Renewing tradition with imagination” is the maxim adopted by Alfredo Russo from Dolce Stil Novo who has accepted the invitation to move to the last floor of the east tower of the largest of all the Savoy Residences in Piemonte, the Reggia di Venaria Reale. Diners can enjoy a view fit for a king from the restaurant’s large terrace: the Castelvecchio, the Peschiera (fish pond) with the Penone-Pejrone hazelnut grove, the Fontana del Cervo while savouring the best vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce) with glazed citrus fruits or an egg pasta dressed with a mousse of parmesans that have three different maturations.
Davide Scabin, a more experimental and avant-garde chef, inaugurated his Combal.zero restaurant at the Castello di Rivoli in 2002. One of the most talented interpreters of vanguard European cuisine moved to the heart of contemporary art. This Food designer teaches industrial design at the Polytechnic University of Torino and enjoys breaking down foods to then recompose their ingredients: semi-solid soups and semi-liquid pizzas. “A dish of high quality cuisine must be able to be reproduced”, he states. This is a concept that Andy Warhol applied to works of art. From the classic Cybereggs, an egg yolk with caviar wrapped in transparent film and served with scalpels and made to explode directly in one’s mouth to quail and tripe soup or fassone veal cutlets breaded in bread sticks….
South of Rivoli leads to Bra, the capital of Slow Food, land of Barolo and Barbaresco wines. The Agenzia di Pollenzo is only a handful of kilometers from here. Pollenzo is the home of two avant-garde institutions on the international fine food and wine panorama: the Università di Scienze Gastronomiche (University of Gastronomic Sciences) – training and research centre for those who work towards renewed agriculture, the conservation of biodiversity and an organic rapport between gastronomy and agricultural science – and the Banca del Vino – for a total of 100,000 bottles arriving from 300 winemaking companies – that aspire to preserve the historic memory of Italian wines.
Ugo Alciati, former owner of the “Da Guido” restaurant in Costigliole d’Asti, moved here. In cool brick rooms, Alciati re-interprets traditional recipes with simple creativity and a lot of class. Among the unforgettable dishes: eel and glazed lemon Carnaroli risotto, grey rabbit from Carmagnola and bread and chocolate.
Pier Bussetti transfers historic Locanda Mongreno to the Castello di Govone, summer residence of King Carlo Felice, approximately 30 kilometres from Pollenzo in the direction of Asti. The restaurant is located in the castle’s former stables. Bussetti, Food design professor at Torino’s Iaad (Applied Art and Design Institute), is the creator of the Spoon shock notorious’ spark: a cube of fresh tuna on tomato with a small slice of ginger and balsamic vinegar to be eaten in a single bite and accompanied immediately after by a capsule containing a blend of oriental spices, white wine and dry vermouth.
At the end of this transversal voyage between art, architecture and palate, a witticism by Altan comes to mind: in an issue of MicroMega dedicated to food and a commitment to it Cipputi says “You are what you eat.” and his friend replies “My compliments to the chef.”
Date of last update: 11/01/2010
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