A journey through the most representative restaurants in the province of Como talking about sustainability and vegetable menus.
More and more often we hear about sustainability within the restaurant world. This is in fact one of the main virtuous catchphrases that have triggered a system of revision of some of our habits of life. The rediscovery of certain values are taken for granted by generations prior to ours, not so much for us who find ourselves changing some behaviors in the name of ethical principles that are important for us and for the environment around us.
Zero waste, healthy, sustainable cooking, enhancement of the plant product. All these dynamics are carried out by accommodation and catering structures that allow to give these themes an effective resonance also towards the private sector. Some great chefs who gravitate around Lake Como with their activities are an example of the so-called green turning point.
The sustainability and refinement of Raffaele Lenzi’s cuisine
Executive chef at the Berton restaurant – one Michelin star – inside the Sereno in Torno (Co), chef Raffele Lenzi has made passion the leitmotif of his life. Passion for cooking and well-being. A healthy cuisine, in harmony with the body. A cuisine that respects the earth. A cuisine interpreted as a source of well-being for the palate and the mind. Rich in vegetables and allowing the meeting of different cultures, preserving those distinctive features that have made Italian cuisine famous all over the world.
“The inclusion of the Roots, Tubers and Vegetables menu within the menu of the Berton restaurant stems from a lifestyle of mine that sees a diet in which the vegetable component is of great importance. I brought my daily life into my work, even if I am not fundamentalist because this – in my opinion – could preclude some doors of research and experimentation ”, begins the chef from Campania.
A small focus also on the family roots that probably influenced him in his convinced adhesion to a vegetable type cuisine: “In the search for green, if I look at my experience, there was never a lack of large trays of vegetables with mushroom aubergines, peppers, sautéed broccoli, a large number of vegetables that enriched the family table. Probably in my unconscious that’s where the passion for vegetables comes from: a dish is good if the vegetable is good “.
Raffaele Lenzi also focused on the relationship with the customer, on the possibility of conveying a vegetable tasting menu in the best possible way even to a large non-specialized public. “It happens that by choosing a” vegetable menu “of even 7 or 8 courses, you may think you are leaving the restaurant a little dissatisfied, with a little hunger. But when it becomes clear that a series of very interesting flavors and textures are extracted from vegetables, a good percentage of customers are willing to be accompanied in this experience ”says the chef.
The green turning point of the Perrotta brothers
Sossio and Daniele from the Casa Perrotta restaurant in Cernobbio (Co) are closely united by their unbridled passion for cooking. Despite their young age, both have acquired a considerable wealth of work experience in prestigious restaurants. In 2019 their dream comes true. By choosing Como as a stage, they renovated an old restaurant, adapting every single detail to their idea of catering and their identity, thus giving life to Casa Perrotta. A cuisine that is based on the meticulous search for the best raw materials, proposed in a modern, elegant environment, but with a familiar, home flavor.
“The so-called green turning point can be understood in different ways – Sossio and Daniele argue – both as regards the use of green raw materials (therefore bio, km 0, prevalence of vegetables), and as regards consumption, the materials used for packaging, cleaning products, separate waste collection. We always try to be attentive to all this, in particular in the choice of raw materials: organic products, at km 0, such that it becomes absolutely possible to study an entirely vegetable menu. In the last period we have seen a significant increase in requests for vegetarian or vegan dishes. More and more customers request them. Consequently, the restaurants that offer them are also growing. You can remain protagonists by differentiating yourself in the proposal. We are lucky enough to come from a region rich in typical vegetable products, Campania. We have some excellences both as vegetables and as fruit. Just think of broccoli, cherry tomatoes from Vesuvius, artichokes from Castellammare, annurca apple, hazelnuts from Giffoni, lemons from Sorrento and Amalfi. Our philosophy is to stand firm at our roots, to home recipes that tend to arise as poor dishes, but which we can enrich with the use of new techniques and combinations of flavors. In summary, we can say that we want to re-propose the flavors of the past in a revisited and modern way “.
Zero waste and product optimization: sustainability according to Mauro Elli
Mauro Elli has practiced his profession in the most luxurious hotels of the Ligurian Riviera and Switzerland, thus alternating the summer and winter seasons. In August 2003, the decision to open one’s own restaurant in which to be chef-patron, in Albavilla, a few steps from Lake Como. It is here that in 2007 he received the prestigious recognition that consecrated him as a successful chef worldwide: the Michelin star, which he still retains today.
Speaking of a green turning point, chef Elli offers a slightly different way of reading, leaving out concepts such as seasonality and quality – so fundamental in a self-respecting kitchen that you don’t even have to talk about it – and focusing on respecting the rules, on harmony with nature. , on the rediscovery of the habits of those who preceded us.
“The green turning point, in my kitchen, means putting together a series of products that are sustainable, bred and cultivated, carried out correctly and in full compliance with the rules. The challenge is to use the entirety of the ingredient, without neglecting anything and without waste. Transforming the vegetable in an imaginative, nutritious way that can give emotions from a gustatory point of view ”says the chef. “But the real turning point is trying to go back to using the product as it once was. How precious today is the saying that nothing is thrown away from the pig. What was done with the pig today we must try to do it with everything else. After that you have to let the imagination of great chefs free. Our ancestors, despite not having the concept of sustainability in their hands, lived a life in harmony with nature. Beyond the single operation it was a question of mentality against the waste that must return to us. This does not mean saving, but optimizing, making every operation sustainable. By doing this we will be able to safeguard the planet, have fun and eat much better than we do now ”.
The concept of green turning has extremely numerous facets. However, it is possible to identify some common points that are gathered from the ideas of the protagonists of the restaurant: reduction of waste, enhancement of taste, preference for the territory. Everything must be wisely conveyed to the unskilled customer. Today the kitchen and dining room staff must know how to guide the customer – increasingly willing to trust – through an explanation and total involvement in the taste experience. By doing so, a good level of sustainability can be achieved, without sacrificing the experience of taste, thanks to the chef’s creativity and love for cooking.