Allegrini 2018


The Italian restaurant world is enjoying good economic health thanks also to a group of enthusiastic thirty year olds. WineNews interviewed Enzo Vizzari, director of the "The Restaurants of Italy" 2016 guide and of "The Wines of Italy" 2016, which anticipated the "Sommelier of the Year" award goes to Alberto Piras of "The Place of Aimo e Nadia". These are the comments of the director of one of the most important and influential guides to restaurants in Italy, published by the newspaper publishing group, "La Repubblica", on the eve of the big mid-August holiday.

“After many challenging years economically speaking, considering the balance between restaurants closing and opening”, explained Vizzari, “things are slightly better. I have had to cancel restaurants from the guide several times, in recent years, even before finishing the lists, while this year it hasn’t happened nearly as much. Perhaps the worst of the crisis, because it is truly a crisis on all levels of Italian restaurants, is really over.
There has surely been an Expo effect to consider, in the Lombardy region and Milan in particular, where there have been a myriad of new openings; in some cases, top tier restaurants, but we will be able to assess these better later this year. Those who have opened restaurants, focusing solely on Expo numbers, have probably made a mistake. In any case, it seems that the worst is really over. Regarding quality”, added Vizzari, “this is a favorable moment. Food is very good and even though I hate to say it again because I have been repeating this for some time now, food in Italy has not been this good in years, at all levels, and especially top tier. In other words, there have been more and more restaurants that I give 16-17 points upwards and 2-3 hats”.

Is price, considering the new sensitivity fans and consumers have developed during the crisis years, still the discriminating factor, with high prices equal to high quality?
“Not always, but a top quality restaurant - that is, that uses high quality raw materials, which I forbid my staff to specify because I think it is obvious, tautological, that you cannot prepare haut cuisine without high quality ingredients, so you spend a little more and consequently prices are a bit higher. In comparison with foreign countries, I must say, one spends less in high-end Italian restaurants than in France, England, the USA or Spain.

Would this be due to rediscovering local quality raw materials, beyond the “Km zero” slogan?
“Sure. Great cuisine uses excellent basic products. There are onions and onions, chickens and chickens. Haut cuisine is not using Breton lobsters or 80 euro a kilo prawns. In terms of trends, the reinterpreted tradition is continuing, in the wake of what chefs like Bottura, Alajmo, Crippa, Scabin and so on have done, which I claim to have first baptized "New Italian Cooking" a few years ago, including also a set of guidelines at the beginning of the guide. It is a fact that this trend has been going on for about ten years - maybe it’s better to call it a movement - of chefs who have been cooking unquestionably Italian food, looking at their roots while incorporating technically advanced techniques and intelligent enough to be open to suggestions and ideas. We are already in another stage, another generation of younger cooks, who are following this path - Iannotti, Dal Degan, Salmoiraghi, Sposito and many others, around 35-36 years old. The public may not have heard their names yet, but this new generation is establishing itself. There is a very strong group of top quality Italian restaurants”.

The preview of the guide will be presented on October 8th at the Stazione Leopolda in Florence along with wine guides the newspaper "La Repubblica" has already been given: Piedmont, Region of the Year; Luca Abbruzzino of the restaurant Antonio Abbruzzino Young Chef of the year; Lunch of the Year went to Matthew Baronet of the restaurant Del Cambio in Torino, “which for me”, said Vizzari, “ is the most beautiful historic and contemporary restaurant in Europe”, and the Lifetime Achievement Award to Alfonso Iaccarino of Don Alfonso Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi. “But, I shall give WineNews another gem”, added Vizzari, “the Sommelier of the Year is Alberto Piras of Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia”.

Vizzari is a big fan of and expert on French cuisine. Not wanting to make comparisons on which food is the best, but in terms of perspective, of "fresh air", who is best?
“Italy is certainly very far ahead. It is way ahead of Spain, whose fashion, as was easy to predict, has waned, as it was unthinkable that the fashion for Northern Europe would last too long either. South America is growing a lot, but certainly regarding freshness and the Italian top quality “platoon”, Italy at this time, is perhaps superior even to France”.

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