PLEASURE AND SUBSTANCE.

We are thrilled to announce a brand new column of our blog: Il Mestiere del Gusto will be a monthly appointment to explore the work, the visions and the passion of some young persons from the Italian fine dining business: chefs, maitres, sommeliers, restaurant managers will unveil us the backgrounds of a beloved industry.

For the first interview our Marta slipped in the kitchen of the restaurant Alla Pergola in Sarcedo (VI) to capture the chefs Alex De Anna and Santo Panariello at work and to understand what happens behind the scenes of a fine dining restaurant. Here it is what she found out.

A journey through Italy in 50 squared meters: Alex, born 1989, Venetian with an important working experience in Michelin starred restaurants in Trentino, is a fine meat and fresh pasta expert and a passionate butter supporter; Santo, born 1990 in Naples but grown in Tuscany, trained by Ilario Vinciguerra, committed to bakery and pastry-making, is the defender of fish and olive oil. Both Alex and Santo work as chefs at the historical restaurant Alla Pergola in the province of Vicenza; formerly a famous location for banquets and feasts, Alla Pergola is now evolving into a fine dining restaurant thank to the experience and the creativity of the new chefs.

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Alex and Santo love the traditional Italian cuisine but they revise it with a modern eye; a touch of modernity is found in the traditional venetian dishes that keep their original taste but are prepared with modern cooking techniques to develop new, fresh textures: for the chicken liver soup the chefs let the hen broth simmer for 24 hours, prepare an egg puff pastry – steamed yolk finely sliced – to simulate the “tagliatelle”, use the boiled hen meat to create tiny fried meatballs and add drops of homemade chicken liver paté.

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Modernity also manifests in all those dishes mixing the different origins and views of the chefs: the tastes from Northern Italy’s cuisine are contaminated by southern ingredients and flavor and result in original dishes that let us travel through Italy with a mouthful. An example? The amazing pappardelle with nettle and smooth clams: the preparation of the fresh pasta takes about one hour and a half and alternate kneading and drying phases to get coarse and full-bodied pappardelle; the sauce celebrate the atavic venetian tradition of cooking with wild herbs and plants and make it modern and sophisticated with the “marine” tastiness of the raw smooth clams. “Appearance is important but we aim at pleasure and substance “ Santo says “ with our dishes we of course try to affect our guests but at the same time we want to let them enjoy fine dining in an easy, immediate way”.

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The modern guest ask us to be at the forefront: for example, it is of utmost importance to devote some time to personally meet our customers and to listen to their feedbacks” tells me Alex when I ask his opinione about the modern fine dining world “ but what the tv shows us about working in the fine dining industry is far apart from the reality. Being a chef requires self-denial and dedication: our job is highly competitive and complex and cooking is just an aspect of it! A chef needs to be confident with purchasing, prices, food cost analysis, staff training and coordination without neglecting the most important thing: the quality of what we serve to our guests”.

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It’s 11 p.m. The shift went perfectly and the restaurant is almost empty: I let the staff relax and enjoy the calm atmosphere after a long woking day. Of course I can’t wait to taste the winter menu so we decide to have another chat during the Christmas time!