What are your earliest memories of food?
My earliest memories of food are eating with my family and linked to the culture and gastronomic traditions from my region, Puglia. One of my favourite recipes is ‘Fave and Cicoria’ a typical peasant dish from Puglia made with puréed broad beans and wild chicory that I used to handpick as a child with my grandmother from the country fields around Molfetta .
What about your surroundings in Lombardy, Italy inspires your cooking the most?
Lombardy is a region with a strong agricultural traditions and offers a wide range of interesting ingredients. When I arrived in Franciacorta I spent a lot of time researching small, local producers including fishermen, farmers, cheese producers and meat breeders. I met with them all and then chose the best ones.
For example, porcini mushrooms from Val Palot, ricotta and fatuli (local goat’s cheese) from Val Saviore, red striped shrimps from Santa Magherita in the Liguria region, Bagoss (local cheese) produced in Bagolino and snails from Vigevano.
The tomato sauce is produced by a very small business in Rome, which has also given a small piece of land to Abbattista near Salerno where Vicidomini pasta comes from. The meat, including fassone beef and lamb, come from Guastavigna butchers in Piedmont and the rice is sourced from Riserva San Massimo in the province of Pavia.
How would you describe your culinary style in a few words?
Simple and authentic, mixing tradition with a contemporary twist.
My cuisine brings back memories of the dinner table, emphasising both traditional and contemporary combinations of flavours to create a bond between past and present and sea and land, with an Italian spirit. Usually I focus on three elements in each dish which are unique but at the same time work in harmony with each other. The result is a very elegant and light cuisine where the main protagonist is the flavour of each individual ingredient and the memories that they remind me of.
What are your most indispensable ingredients and why?
I don’t have an ingredient that is more important than the others. I love to use vegetables, mainly those that come from our vegetable garden, that change with every season.
Seasonal products are brought in every morning directly from the Bellavista hills, many from the family vegetable garden and a small farmyard which produces excellent quality chickens and rabbits.
Which of your signature dishes which you serve at your restaurantsLeoneFelice and VistaLago are closest to your heart and why?
The filet of fassone beef alla pizzaioloa (with tomatoes and oregano) and breaded mackerel with Dall’Ava dry-cured ham. Both are a true rediscovery of family recipes and traditional cooking methods, such as ash and stone cooking, highly valued for producing exceptional quality dishes.
If you were having your final three course meal, what would you order and why?
As an Italian I would have to order fresh or dried pasta as it plays a huge role in our gastronomic culture.
Then I would follow on with a special selection of Italian cheeses that represent our region and finally a dessert. I think dessert is one of the most important parts of a meal as it is the last memory of a meal.
What kind of experience or memories do you hope guests will take away with themonce they’ve dined at yourrestaurants?
I would hope they would feel joy, pleasure, fun and serenity: the same emotions I feel when I am in the kitchen. I would love my guests to go home having had an experience to remember.
Tell us something really interesting about L’Albereta, where your restaurants are located. Why is it a must for food-loving guests to stay there?
L’Albereta and its owners Carmen Moretti and Martino de Rosa have given me an extraordinary opportunity. After 20 years with Maestro Gualtiero Marchesi, the father of modern Italian cuisine, the Moretti family offered me a dream come true, the chance to take on a brand new project which they had personally developed. The previous restaurant space has been divided into two sections, a relaxed bistro called VistaLago with a stunning terrace overlooking Lake Iseo offering a snack menu throughout the day and a dinner menu with Italian and regional dishes as well as daily specials. Then there is the gastronomic restaurant, LeoneFelice, where I express myself and my philosophy.