The first event of Terra Madre is a Dinner Date held in homage to the late Vittorio Fusari, a historic friend of Slow Food who sadly left us in January of this year.
At Vittorio Fusari & Friends we’ll remember him at the table, through the food he loved and shared.
As the title suggests, we’ve invited some of Vittorio’s friends and fellow chefs with whom he’d developed a common approach to the kitchen over the years, one that’s refined and profoundly authentic. One of them is Peppino Tinari, owner of Villa Maiella in Abruzzo.
“I first met Vittorio many years ago, in Iseo. Then he came to my restaurant, together with his wife Patrizia and son Giacomo, who was still a child. I remember that I served him barbecued lamb ribs, and he told me: ‘They’re so good I’d eat them raw.’ I thought he was exaggerating, but we spoke for a long time, and from that conversation one of the signature dishes of Villa Maiella was born: sirloin lamb tartare. Preparing it is a tremendous effort: if you work with lamb’s meat you find yourself handling tiny pieces of meat that must beaten with a knife, breaded and lightly fried in boiling oil. It’s an innovative dish that many others have tried to imitate, and which we serve with a reduction of Pecorino wine and a pecorino cheese fondue.”
The friendship between Peppino and Vittorio grew deeper over time. Peppino came up north, and Vittorio returned to explore the mountains of Peppino’s Abruzzo and meet the local producers of honey, wine and oil.
THE KITCHEN AND THE LAND
All Vittorio’s friends will tell you how important his connection to the land was: he saw it as something to which we must give as much as we take.
Two symbols of this connection at Villa Maiella are the pig farm and the vegetable garden where figs, apricots, peaches and around 40 aromatic herbs grow. “Before I started here my vision of the land was superficial and generic. Then I started to explore, to learn, and I haven’t looked back: we switched from pink pigs to black ones, and bought five hectares of land to raise them on; through a continuous process of experimentation and dialogue we’ve studied the best method of raising them, and so we’re now able to produce finely marbled meat.”
Quality in the kitchen is also achieved through an exploration of the local area in search of the right suppliers. And this is something Villa Maiella prides itself on. “I’m married to my suppliers. It’s a demanding marriage, however: I’m ready to pay the right price as long as they provide quality product. Then it becomes a loyal bond. I have my supplier for cornflour, for oil, for honey, all monogamous relationships based on profound respect, and the certainty of a constant supply of quality. When you find a supplier like that, you don’t betray them!”
SHELLING THE BEANS
Listening to Peppino speak you get the impression he’s an easy-going guy. But it’s not a happiness achieved through shortcuts, but earned from hard work and the support of his wonderful family.
He describes a typical scene of family-work life: “Today when I walked into the restaurant I found my mother and father—Ginetta and Arcangelo, who founded the place as a wine shop in 1966—at a table shelling the beans; Angela, my wife since 1984, was working with the pastry, my son Arcangelo was busy in the kitchen and my other son Pascal was sorting stock in the cellar. That’s it: we rely on ourselves. And this is a great source of strength. We have different roles, and that’s important too: each of us does their best in their chosen field. Did I mention how happy I am?”
For those us lucky enough to be in Turin, a taste of Villa Maiella, its history, its ideas and its quality will be on offer in a Dinner Date in homage to Vittorio Fusari.
by Silvia Ceriani, email@example.com