One day, Italian food critics will have to apologize for the time they have taken to recognize the great talent of Riccardo Camanini. Born in Bergamo, in 1973, into a working-class family, he trained by learning in silence from the example of great professionals, both in Italy and abroad: Raymond Blanc, Alain Ducasse and Alain Senderens in France; Andoni Luís Aduriz in Spain; and Gualtiero Marchesi in Italy. The four years he spent with the master of Italian cuisine led to a simple yet complex style, The importance of erudition, a deeply rooted artisanal way of combining ingredients: there are no chronometers or thermometers in Camanini’s kitchen today, and no dish goes into the dining room without being empirically tried, lessons learned in the years at L'Albereta, in Erbusco.
From the age of 24 to 40 he was head chef at Villa Fiordaliso, on Lake Garda: years which, he recalls, he worked hard organizing delicious banquets. An essential time for understanding that a restaurant means, above all, organization and fatherly care for all its human resources: all his employees are hired full time, something very rare. Merit, blood and tears behind which his talent is evident; discreet and cultivated, something that did not take the Michelin guide long to endorse.
On 14 March 2014, all this materialized in a dream: to open his own restaurant. It is splendid, just a few curves along the road from Villa Fiordaliso, and also on the shores of Lake Garda.
Now, Riccardo works with his brother, Giancarlo, who quickly (though humbly) took the reins to manage the restaurant. Universal acclaim by food critics and the public was immediate: in recent years, no restaurant in Italy has grown at this speed. Its merit is due to this cook who is fully aware that there can be no innovation without understanding the past: Italian cuisine has foundations that go back far beyond the birth of the country (Italy was founded in 1861). Before going to sleep, Riccardo Camanini devours books by Apicius, a Roman gastronome who lived at the same time as Jesus Christ; Bartolomeo Scappi (1500-1557), someone who Ferran Adrià defined as the greatest chef of all time; or Georges Auguste Escoffier, the gentleman who is at the heart of the haute cuisine of the Novecento
But he also applies a rule used by the most enlightened cooks: learn it all, then forget it all. A rule that defines his unique style and affords refinement to Italian cuisine by using the allure of haute cuisine (Pasta cacio e pepe
(pasta with cheese and pepper) cooked in pig’s bladder, is probably his most famous dish); a style that spans a past that we thought had vanished (the almost extinct Sbernia sheep, it’s meat marinated in honey) to a present that has been freed from colonial influences (for dessert they serve dolciumi
that are traditionally eaten at Italian village parties, and not macarons or petit fours).
And, if you stay on at the restaurant well after your meal, don’t be surprised to find this chef polishing the cutlery, like an employee on the first rung of the ladder. The captain is always the last to leave the ship.
By Gabriele Zanatta