We’ve partnered with Vogue Italia to explore the Italian Touch – the unique Italian attitude towards life, craft and food that makes our country and the people who live in it so special. Today we explore the ways that Italy’s chefs are combining the country’s rich traditions with innovative and forward-thinking ideas to create a style of cuisine like no other in the world.
In every Italian household recipes jotted down on old notebooks, like grandma’s meatballs, are handed down. We get inspired by tradition and revive it, and we are free to interpret it. Because the Italian touch means being able to go beyond memories.
Typical, genuine food, cooked ‘the old way’, is something much coveted by Italians. We look for authentic tradition, regional recipes and ‘the genuine ones’, and Pellegrino Artusi, born in 1820, is still a major reference for food in 2016. Sushi and hamburgers have not affected our love for pasta, pizza and risotto, and at home, in the trattorie and also in prestigious restaurants, tradition is still strong – although Italian chefs still prize innovation as much as tradition.
According to international trends, thanks to our DOP, IGP top quality certifications and Slow Food Presidia, our rich culinary traditions have been mapped and protected. Italian cuisine should be protected by UNESCO, like the Colosseum, not to lock it inside a museum but to keep it alive.
Does the original pesto recipe include a little butter or not? And does the amatriciana contain garlic? The search for the traditionally correct version, to be replicated faithfully, as it was historical truth, is one thing. But the so-called “revisited tradition” – so trendy some time ago– is quite another. Yet today the Italian touch is definitely doing much more than that regarding haute cuisine. Without memories there is no future, but if we get stuck with memories only, traditions will disappear, too.
Our grandma’s recipes, the afternoon snacks when we were kids, the gestures and scents of our home kitchen: the Italians have something that sets them apart, makes them special. Every Italian has plenty of memories from the kitchen, and these memories vary from one region to the next, from one family to the other. This way the shared repertoire of dishes and combinations that inspires contemporary creative cuisine even gets to include individual experiences, with totally personal outcomes.
“My secret ingredient is my memory. This more than anything else characterises my approach to cooking, it is always present in my recipes and is part of what makes them distinctive. Each one of my dishes contains a little bit of my memories” explains chef Pino Cuttaia, holder of two Michelin stars. His restaurant, La Madia – a phrase that in Italian refers to a cupboard once used to store bread - evokes a sense of intimacy, the ingredients and recipes of his childhood, moments in the past and daily life in Sicily a long time ago. Hence recipes like the ‘Uovo di seppia’, a recipe seemingly inspired by the classic local recipe of pasta with stuffed squids sauce, or the symbolic ‘Parmigiana del giorno dopo’, the day-after Parmigiana. Another favourite, the Pizzaiola, a pizza topped with smoked cod, evokes the idea of recycling, and has the same scent of pinecones burning in the fireplace.
Food and cooking are deeply connected to memories and tell stories that are personal and collective at the same time, based on the symbols of its people’s food history. In food and in life, the most authentic Italian touch is one’s personality.
This article originally appeared on Vogue Italia.