WITH HANDS IN THE DOUGH

Rug­gero Rav­agnan, An­drea Tor­tora and the Pif­fer broth­ers open the doors to their kitchens to dis­cover a new way of work­ing the most tra­di­tional raw ma­te­rial in Ital­ian food cul­ture: flour. Brought to­gether by pas­sion for their craft, their ar­ti­sanal skill

All About Italy (USA) - - Contents -

Cook­ing is a love story, it is a re­la­tion­ship that needs to be cul­ti­vated, cod­dled, pre­served and de­fended. In an era, full of changes and un­cer­tain­ties, the kitchen helps us not to be afraid of ev­ery­thing that is hap­pen­ing around us, be­cause it re­minds us of who we are and where we come from. Be­cause in all these years, of chaos and progress, what has not changed is our de­sire to eat. And to eat well, to which we at­tach our­selves, to feel safe and no longer vul­ner­a­ble.

If there is an Ital­ian gas­tro­nomic prod­uct that can be and re­mains the foun­da­tion of cook­ing, it is def­i­nitely flour. Worked on in many forms, to cre­ate cakes, breads or piz­zas, good old flour has jour­neyed the road to achieve to­day’s ex­cel­lence in the prod­ucts it pop­u­lates.

Since it is true that man does not live on bread alone, it is equally true that pizza and sweets de­serve their ex­clu­sive space.

RUG­GERO RAV­AGNAN

If there is a prod­uct ca­pa­ble of ex­press­ing Ital­ian­ness, con­vivi­al­ity and taste, it’s def­i­nitely pizza. This is the tri­color sym­bol in the world, am­bas­sador of not only lo­cal food, but of a cul­ture, a his­tory and a tra­di­tion that with pride re­sists many at­tempts at im­i­ta­tion. This time, how­ever, we will not go to Naples to talk about pizza. Let’s leave Ve­su­vius be­hind and move north-east, to Mestre, in the prov­ince of Venice, in an es­tab­lish­ment that has be­come the lo­cal gourmets rec­om­mended restau­rant. The owner Rug­gero “Lello” Rav­agnan opens the “Grig­oris” doors to us and ex­plains what haute cui­sine and re­fined dishes means, what it means to be the cre­ator of a prod­uct so tra­di­tional and widely shared, and at the same time does not cease to amaze the palate.

Pizza is def­i­nitely the best-known Ital­ian prod­uct abroad. What are the se­crets of a good pizza? Do you be­lieve that, de­spite ev­ery­thing, it will re­main the sym­bolic dish of our coun­try?

For a good pizza the first rule is its di­gestibil­ity, so in the kitchen we need to know what we have in hand and how to make it. Whether it is wheat or flour or sea­son­ing that will cover the dough. Grig­oris’ cul­ture is to use raw ma­te­ri­als of the high­est qual­ity and try to work them as lit­tle as pos­si­ble so as to re­spect their in­tegrity. I think, how­ever, that the pizza has lost a bit ‘of vis­i­bil­ity, es­pe­cially abroad, tainted by all the haute cui­sine.

Re­cently, Ital­ian pizza has also been de­clared a UNESCO her­itage ...

It was not the pizza that re­ceived the recog­ni­tion, but the “pizza sys­tem”. So UNESCO has awarded the con­cepts like con­vivi­al­ity, the art of pizza mak­ers in rolling out the dough, the cul­ture that re­volves around the world of pizza, not so much the piece of pizza it­self. I would not like to open a pizze­ria where the oven is hid­den, I would not have fun: the beauty is all in those 3-4 me­ters where we work and where we bake, see and touch the raw ma­te­ri­als with our own hands and all just a few steps from the cus­tomer.

Not just pizza ... You also devoted your­self to re­work­ing the “can­nolo”. Where did you get this no­tion and how is the re­sult?

The can­nolo was born from a shared ef­fort with Cor­rado Assenza (Si­cil­ian con­fec­tioner, ndr). We found our­selves in front of a slice of pizza, we started dis­cussing op­tions and af­ter 4 months of test­ing and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion we re­al­ized that with the left­over pizza dough, you could cre­ate a par­tic­u­larly crunchy form that could be made into a can­nolo, then stuffed with cod and tomato. A cre­ation that we al­ways present at events as en­trée or as an aper­i­tif. A very cheerful dish that cre­ates en­thu­si­asm and cap­tures people.

Pizza is def­i­nitely a tra­di­tional prod­uct in Ital­ian cul­ture, but be­hind the scenes how many ex­per­i­ments, tests, re-elab­o­ra­tions are there to cre­ate new tastes and new fla­vors?

That is the se­cret of an es­tab­lish­ment that makes pizza: ques­tion­ing, creat­ing, be­ing cu­ri­ous be­cause cu­rios­ity trig­gers the en­thu­si­asm and the de­sire to cre­ate new things. Our goal is to pro­vide our­selves with a space re­served ex­clu­sively for re­search and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion where we can grow, cre­ate new com­bi­na­tions and doughs.

What is your fa­vorite pizza to eat? To pre­pare?

Let’s say that I like to eat a pizza orig­i­nat­ing from Cam­pana: fiordi­latte, San Marzano toma­toes, Pap­pac­cella pep­pers and Castel­porto red sausage, an ex­cep­tional hand­made salami. To pre­pare, how­ever, I pre­fer one that we make with Joselito ham and a cream of hazel­nuts and mas­car­pone, sprin­kled on top with a cheese ri­cotta in flakes. Amaz­ing.

GRIG­ORIS

Via Asseg­giano, 147 30174 Mestre VE www.pizze­riagrig­oris.it

That is the se­cret of an es­tab­lish­ment that makes pizza: ques­tion­ing, creat­ing, be­ing cu­ri­ous be­cause cu­rios­ity trig­gers the en­thu­si­asm and the de­sire to cre­ate new things.

AN­DREA TOR­TORA

To make great desserts you do not have to limit your­self to be­ing “only” a con­fec­tioner, you have to be­come ar­chi­tect, cre­ator, de­signer and sculp­tor of the works made. Only in this way is it pos­si­ble to cap­ture the pub­lic and its palate. Be­hind ev­ery bite of a slice of cake, a cream puff or a pas­try there are hours and hours of tri­als, risks and math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions by those who want to be able to get the right dose, com­bine dif­fer­ent tastes, to make the per­fect dessert. An­drea Tor­tora, a pas­try chef born in 1986, knows this well. De­spite his young age, he is one of the masters of this chal­leng­ing area, that is such a tasty and vi­tal part of cook­ing. At present his hands make sweets for the lucky guests of the Rosa Alpina Ho­tel in Alta Ba­dia, and the St. Hu­ber­tus Restau­rant, do­main of the three-star chef Nor­bert Niederkofl­er. At 30, An­drea Tor­tora was elected “Best Pas­try Chef” by Guida di Iden­tità Golose and by Gam­bero Rosso.

The pas­try is a section of the or­ches­tra, and is en­trusted with two very par­tic­u­lar mo­ments of the restau­rant ex­pe­ri­ence: the wel­come, through the bread, and the farewell, through the small pas­try.

The present mo­ment in Ital­ian cui­sine is the best ever, how much do you think pas­try has contribute­d to achiev­ing this re­sult?

The pas­try is a section of the or­ches­tra, and is en­trusted with two very par­tic­u­lar mo­ments of the restau­rant ex­pe­ri­ence: the wel­come, through the bread, and the farewell, through the small pas­try. It is fun­da­men­tal to be in full har­mony with the di­rec­tion spec­i­fied by the Chef of the kitchen.

The pas­try is per­haps the most dif­fi­cult of the cook­ing arts. How much study and pre­ci­sion does it take to pre­pare a high-level dessert?

One life is not enough. A dessert could be per­fect to­day but to­mor­row may al­ready need some tweak­ing, even if only for ex­pand­ing our point of view. The ob­jec­tive, in­ten­tion, is rarely static. I’m al­ways look­ing for an “evo­lu­tion­ary pur­pose”. I want to cre­ate some­thing new, some­thing in­no­va­tive.

What would you coun­sel a young as­pir­ing pas­try chef?

I would rec­om­mend get­ting ex­pe­ri­ence, stay­ing hum­ble and trav­el­ing the world. Be­cause only the in­fec­tion of other ideas and the aware­ness of other cul­tures can lead to get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter.

Is your great­est pride the panet­tone that bears your name?

No, no, let’s say it is a prod­uct in which I have al­ways be­lieved in and that I have al­ways eaten as a child be­cause it was also made in the fam­ily. It’s cer­tainly some­thing that I have in my heart and to which I feel bound. I think it’s a prod­uct that’s very fash­ion­able to­day, but qual­ity is not a fash­ion. This is why my panet­tones are baked in lim­ited edi­tion, and each piece is hand­crafted with im­por­tant ma­chin­ery as well as with my own hands. The hu­man fac­tor re­mains pre­em­i­nent.

Your work at the 3 Miche­lin starred restau­rant must cer­tainly be big grat­i­fi­ca­tion, but doesn’t it also put a lot of pres­sure on you?

There are 7 bil­lion people in the world, and there are just over 100 3-star restaurant­s around the world. There cer­tainly is pres­sure, but I be­lieve that main­tain­ing qual­ity and con­sis­tency is the right thing to do af­ter achiev­ing recog­ni­tion like this. When we got the third star I thought “What now?”. I’ve worked with Nor­bert Niederkofl­er for 10 years and we had this goal, we’ve achieved it and now there is a yearn­ing for some­thing else. What is the new chal­lenge?

In ad­di­tion to those within your fam­ily, did you have other sources of in­spi­ra­tion?

Surely the fam­ily gave me the start, then ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence I had, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, gave me some­thing that shaped me. An ex­pe­ri­ence is not im­me­di­ately as­sessed un­til af­ter 4-5 years. Ev­ery­thing I’ve done I would do again, be­cause it helped me be­come what I am to­day.

RESTAU­RANT ST. HU­BER­TUS

Strada Mi­curà de Rü, 20 39036 San Cas­siano BZ www.st-hu­ber­tus.it

PIF­FER BROTH­ERS

Rein­vent­ing, rather than in­vent­ing, is the key word for Ivan and Mat­teo Pif­fer. Their work is based on this con­cept, giv­ing new life to a food that many take for granted, but that has lit­tle to take for granted: bread. In a world of in­no­va­tions, ex­per­i­men­ta­tions, rev­o­lu­tions, we of­ten for­get the sim­ple things, the things that are the ba­sics in our cul­ture or, in this case, our kitchen. Be­cause in the midst of this nou­velle cui­sine we al­most never no­tice the fun­da­men­tal, dis­tinc­tive el­e­ment, which can never be lack­ing on our tables. Pan­i­fi­cio Moderno, in Trento, is the com­pany where the Pif­fer fam­ily con­tin­ues a fam­ily tra­di­tion, rein­vent­ing bread, work­ing it ac­cord­ing to new recipes, but al­ways with re­spect for the tra­di­tion of this food.

Flour of ka­mut, spelt, coal, hemp ... we dis­cover new va­ri­eties of bread ev­ery day. Has there been a re­cent reeval­u­a­tion of this prod­uct?

For many years we have been work­ing with flour and ce­re­als and for us it is es­sen­tial to let the con­sumer know about the ori­gin of the ce­real. To do this we phys­i­cally en­ter the grow­ing fields, this is what our pro­fes­sion is based on. We try to get the most value from ce­re­als and wheat, it does not mat­ter what you call it ka­mut or what­ever, the im­por­tant thing is to give the cus­tomer the in­for­ma­tion on where and how the wheat is grown, as well as who ground it. If we go back 10 years, maybe the bread had dif­fer­ent shapes but the same taste, now we make a sin­gle form that en­hances the au­then­tic taste of the ce­real it con­tains.

In the midst of all this haute cui­sine, does mak­ing bread get closer to tra­di­tion, al­most to the hum­ble be­gin­nings of cook­ing it­self?

From what we see in the in­dus­try there are both; those who carry out an idea with bread com­bined with haute cui­sine in­gre­di­ents, and those who bring one linked to the sim­ple con­cept of the prod­uct. We be­lieve that in shi-shi restaurant­s it may make sense to give a well-de­fined space to bread, com­bined with a va­ri­ety per­haps linked to the area.

The iden­ti­fy­ing essence of the prod­uct must al­ways be first. That is our bread, the ce­real comes from a lo­cal farmer and we like to bring it to the ta­ble be­cause it must stay as a habit of those who eat.

Do you feel like in­no­va­tors of such an ev­ery­day prod­uct?

In our area we could be called this way, be­cause in any case we be­long to a rather un­chang­ing cat­e­gory. Our par­ents car­ried on a tra­di­tion with sim­ple flour, in the last few years we have gone fur­ther by work­ing the yeast and dif­fer­ent kinds of flours. This is why we feel a bit in­no­va­tive, even if we have not in­vented any­thing. Our in­no­va­tion lies in de­creas­ing the vari­a­tions, fo­cus­ing on the ori­gin of the ce­real, giv­ing more in­for­ma­tion to the cus­tomer. The habits of those who eat have also changed. 20 years ago we all ate with the fam­ily, now we eat out. Many do not buy bread, it is con­sumed less and less. The mar­ket evolves with these changes.

In gen­eral, is there any dish you like to pre­pare?

We like eat­ing more, the work takes a long time but con­sid­er­ing that there is also a restau­rant in the shop lunch is al­ways guar­an­teed. We’ll say that oven cooked veg­eta­bles are very good (laugh­ter, ed).

PAN­I­FI­CIO MODERNO

Pi­azza Lo­dron, 21 38122 Trento, TN www.pan­i­fi­ciomod­erno.net

This is why we feel a bit in­no­va­tive, even if we have not in­vented any­thing. Our in­no­va­tion lies in de­creas­ing the vari­a­tions, fo­cus­ing on the ori­gin of the ce­real, giv­ing more in­for­ma­tion to the cus­tomer.

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