The first eno-gastronomical tour organized by "Mercanti | Business Curators of Italian Lifestyle" took place in the Abruzzo region of Italy, between October 23-26, 2022.
October 23 | Welcome to Abruzzo
Abruzzo welcomed us at BR1 Cultural Space, the 17th century hotel with interiors decorated like a contemporary art museum, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Our host, Chef Roberto di Marco, took us on a marine culinary adventure, built around his iconic dish that won the prestigious Gambero Rosso recognition in 2005: mugnaia allo scolio. The jazzy atmosphere was completed by the panoramic view of the silhouette of La Bella Adormentata. Our route also included a stop in Pescara, at Mercato Coperto, where Chef Lorenzo Cigliano prepared an Aperitivo moment, in which we tasted local Abruzzo products (Pecorino cheeses with different maturing periods, prosciutto and local snacks, seasoned with Cerasuolo -the local variety of rosé wine).
October 24 | The history
The second day was about the passion to preserve the culinary heritage of the region and make it relevant today. We first met the fascinating Fausto Zazzara and his diffuse wine cellar, itinerant in several points of the old borgo of Tocco di Casauria. For 3 hours he took us through all the corners of his passion: he built the only winery in Abruzzo in which he produces only sparkling wine, according to the classic method, using local varieties (Montepulciano for rosé and a blend of Pecorino with Chardonnay for the white one). Fausto personally supervises every bottle of sparkling wine he produces, he mechanically rotates bottle by bottle 40 times in the process of producing sparkling wine, checks them, packs them, follows them on the market. He has an artisanal production of 10,000 bottles per year, and his spumante is in the menus of all the Michelin restaurants in Abruzzo.The evening brought together at the same table, as guests of Chef Franco Briga - 4 characters who wrote history in the elite European restauration: Chef Roberto di Marco (Gambero Rosso awardee), Chef Davide Pezzuto (Michelin awardee), Chef Radu CM Ionescu (whose restaurant, Kaiamo, is included in the world's 50 Best Discovery list) and the avant-garde architect Leonardo de Carlo - the one who designed the interior design of most of the exceptional restaurants in Abruzzo. Chef Franco Briga impressed us with his vintage kitchen and the tribute paid in his menu - to an iconic Abruzzese brand, which made history a century ago in Italy: the Aurum liqueur.
October 25 | Excellency
To make this innovative culinary meeting unforgettable, we brought together two masters of international cuisine who created the menu in perfect symbiosis. It is about the event that surprised the local Italian community, lovers of fine dining: the 4-hands cooking show at the D.One Ristorante Diffuso, located in Montepagano. On this special occasion, Chef Davide Pezzuto (1 Michelin star), trained in Heinz Beck's team ("La Pergola", Rome), worked exceptionally in tandem with Chef Radu CM Ionescu (one of the most creative Romanian Chefs of the moment). The result was amazing. A tasting menu consisting of six courses, in a refined alternation between dishes that evoked Abruzzo and the Carpathians. Pezzuto's imagination offered guests the strong aroma of "sea pebbles" ("Ghiaia di mare") - delicate gnocchi reminiscent of the multicolored pebbles of Roseto beach, combined with seaweed, squid and sea urchins. In contrast, Ionescu's dish - "Those who are alike, gather", took the participants on a journey of Eastern flavours - venison fillet with hazelnut sauce, juniper and Sighisoara truffles.In a striking phrase, typical of the popular expressions of the inhabitants of Transylvania, Radu Ionescu put all his creativity into the dish "When you steal your hat alone" - a manifest dish, consisting of a fake truffle filled with local vegetables and aromatic herbs, enriched with local mushrooms.The return to the origins was also emphasized by Pezzuto in the dish in which he re-interpreted the artichoke from San Pietro Vernotico in an Abruzzo key, adding celery, turnips and almonds. Although in the end, the harsh and soft accent, at the same time, came from "Fagottello cacio e ova", one of the first creative recipes of the then young student of Beck’s.The surprising finishing, entrusted to Ionescu's skills, was given by a delicate and refined dessert, designed as a tribute to the Adriatic coast. In an oyster shell, he inserted a mousse based on coconut, black tea, seaweed in local Italian cognac and waffle sand. The evening ended with emotion, in the applause of everyone.
October 26 | Farewell
The last day in Abruzzo was the one in which we gathered our thoughts, impressions in conclusions that far exceeded the level of expectations with which we started this tour. We'll be back soon with new challenges for you!