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Vitantonio Lombardo: “I don’t feel like a hero”

By 03/06/2019April 22nd, 2020No Comments

The only Michelin-starred restaurant in Basilicata is in Matera, the city of Stones: we can find in the kitchen a chef who, in order to return to his land, chose to go down to a cave…

The one who smiled the most at Giovanni Pascoli. Carlo Levi was struck by “its aching beauty“. Francesco Rosi fell in love with it, and made three movies there. We are in Matera, the city of Stones, the European Capital of Culture 2019. On the one hand the Caveoso, on the other the Barisano: urban agglomerations and rocky architecture that in the middle of the last century Togliatti defined as “national shame”. Dark and gloomy, caves for primitive men were the antechamber of death, like the cave for Plato, a place of ignorance precluded from the lights of knowledge. Just by digging in the rock, on May 28th 2018 a real task was accomplished: closed for hundreds of years between webs, bats and poor hygienic conditions, Vitantonio Lombardo opened his restaurant in just three months inside what used to be a deconsecrated church. In November 2018 he already had the Michelin star.

The first starred chef of the Lucan city, the only one in the whole region, the second one in the history of Basilicata: “I don’t feel like a hero”. The chef Lombardo could boast of records, but he wants to go against the tide: “Today I am lucky, my only misfortune is that I’m too busy and I can’t see my children enough”. After Caggiano he brought the star to Matera and finally “I came out of the cage that didn’t allow me to express my cuisine”. A sort of “longing of Africa” that brought him back home, in contact with an international clientele where he can indulge himself with his dishes. “I didn’t come for 2019 – the cook explains – I was a fool for everyone: here there was no telephone line”. The tuff walls of his cave, in fact, still preserve the original fossils, including seahorses and shells, when the waters submerged the city.

“In a city that has witnessed millenarian views, once submerged by the sea and today covered by the murgia, we find a basket of fish, meats, cheeses and vegetables as a stimulus for the continuous search for new things”. This is the opening of the Mathera 2019 tasting itinerary: a laboratory menu that plays between poverty and nobility, contaminating fish and meat, unusual combinations such as Lobster and Rooster with Peppers, Ginger and Campari or Battered Horse Meat, Cuttlefish, Blueberries and Shallot. “I was inspired by Alain Ducasse for my Pignata Open Future. I treated sheep like the French chef prepares lobster: fennel and lemon. Liquorice then lengthens the taste of meat “. His Classics are still Pizza in Black 2012 or I dropped the Egg in the Garden 2013 that, although he had chosen to take away, had to reinsert for the continual requests of the diners: “The customers make the dishes historical”.

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