Vecchia Malcesine: this is the year of the catfish for the first Michelin star on the Veronese shores of Lake Garda
“Keep calm … it’s just food”. First rule of a chef: don’t take everything too seriously. Second rule of a chef: never take yourself seriously. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Vecchia Malcesine, restaurant of the homonymous town, where Leandro Luppi brought the first Michelin star. On the Veronese shores of Lake Garda, the creativity of his cuisine meets the excellence of a territory even outside its waters. In addition to ennobling the local freshwater fish, including whitefish, trout, perch and lavaret whitefish, he pays particular attention to the surrounding nature in his menu. Among suspended lemon trees, native cultivars and Garda capers, the microclimate on the largest Italian lake is enviable: “it looks like a fjord wedged in the Mediterranean”.
What are the hallmarks and culture in your lake cuisine?
“Enhancing its identity: lake fish has always been used at home. Today we have the duty to bring it to gourmet tables”.
The lake cuisine is a brave choice. Do you think it is appreciated?
“When I started offering freshwater fish, 15 years ago, there were probably two of us in Italy doing it: the Serva brothers and us. Over time, the perception of this cuisine has certainly changed. It is no longer considered as a second-class fish: if well processed, it becomes an exceptional product for a high-end, intelligent and territorial cuisine. We cannot forget that there are more than 1500 rivers and streams, and as many lakes in Italy: lake fish is also territorial in Sicily”.
What do you choose to put in your dishes, nuances or intensity?
“Both. It’s like a painting: everything depends on the final result”.
Lately the culinary avant-garde is courting the Garda coast. What is the most innovative dish you have designed?
“I would say two. The first, my lake-carbonara: this dish was born 18 years ago, and it is still a success, both for the public and the critics. If a dish remains modern despite its years, it certainly is avant-garde. The second, conceived this year, is the catfish and kiwi. I have rediscovered a fish that was almost unused: a modern game of sweetness and acidity, along with a slight spiciness.”
Your dish signature?
“My hand. There is no greater gratification than a customer who recognize your dishes, even if completely different from time to time. This happens only with a well-established team: without my brigade, I couldn’t build my R-Evolution, the new tasting route at the turn of revolution and evolution. We work like an orchestra: the director indicates the path and the musicians work in that direction, including the dining room service”.
Andrea Martina di Lena