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La terza stella nella cucina italiana

Il 1985 è un anno ricco di novità per la ristorazione italiana.

Alcuni ristoranti già famosi, che faranno la storia culinaria nella nostra penisola, spingono per una visibilità maggiore sopratutto a livello internazionale.

Un giornalista americano si interrogava sul perché nessuno chef italiano avesse ancora preso la terza stella Michelin.

La guida veniva accusata di essere filofrancese all'inverosimile. Consideriamo un fatto importante sul perché tarda ad arrivare il riconoscimento più prestigioso all'Italia gastronomica: in quel periodo in terra gallica si sta compiendo la rèvolution gastronomique, sotto l'anatema nazionale della nouvelle cuisine.

Gualtiero Marchesi, reduce da esperienze professionali all'estero aveva appena ristrutturato il suo ristorante a Milano in Bonvesin de la Riva, e proponeva senza successo le verdure sbianchite.

Questo articolo è da leggere con attenzione perché rappresenta un passaggio chiave per la storia della nostra cucina.

The stars that elude italy

Published: May 12, 1985By Paul Hofmann, New York Times correspondent, in Rome.

Each year restaurant owners, chefs and the growing ranks of food fanciers eagerly await the thin shower of stars that Michelin, the French tire company, bestows in its red hotel and culinary guidebooks.

Suspense was particularly keen in Italy earlier this year because there had been rumors that Michelin Italia 1985 would at last include a three-star listing - for Gualtiero Marchesi's restaurant in Milan. For 30 years Michelin has published an annual guidebook for Italy in Italian, French, English and German with all the familiar symbols and those elusive stars, but never more than two for any Italian establishment.

When the 1985 edition appeared, Italian hopes for at least one three-star restaurant were again dashed, but Michelin France 1985 contained one more top-ranked restaurant than last year, bringing the three-star score to France 19, Italy 0. And the anonymous Michelin researchers found only 10 Italian eating places worthy of two stars. Last year there were 11. The restaurant demoted to one star was Dodici Apostoli in Verona.

Other internationally known guidebooks may give Italian cuisine more satisfactory acknowledgment, but Michelin's selections are still regarded as the gastronomic Nobel Prizes. Italian connoisseurs are also rankled by Michelin's decision to assign three stars to a West German restaurant, Aubergine in Munich, and to two places in England, the French-inspired Gavroche in the Mayfair district of London and the Waterside Inn in Bray-on-Thames.

If those restaurants are, in Michelin's phrase, ''worth the journey,'' are there really none in Italy deserving of such praise? Or, as some critics ask, is culinary chauvinism a factor?

Italian cooking styles have made inroads in France. Macaroni with an accented long final E sound may be a disparaging French nickname for Italians, but spaghetti, risotto, pizza and espresso have become menu terms and household words there. Italian chefs and waiters are no rarity in Paris and on the Cote d'Azur. And French tourists in Italy clamor for prosciutto from Parma, lasagne Bolognese and zuppa Inglese. And a lot of wine from Italian vineyards is being quietly blended into popular French labels to fortify them.

A decisive factor in its ratings, a Michelin spokesman said, is letters from readers. The guidebook encourages them to make suggestions and promises that their opinions will be considered in future inspections. Said Corriere della Sera of Milan, Italy's leading newspaper: ''The red guidebook continues denying us the three stars that pay tribute above all to French restaurants.''

If Mr. Marchesi, the owner of the elegant two-star restaurant at 9 Via Bonvesin de la Riva, a side street on Milan's east side, was disappointed, he didn't show it. It's hard to merit the third star, he said like a good player of the gourmet game. ''I am convinced that my dishes can honorably compete with anybody's, but maybe we still are somewhat lacking in choreography, also because we in Italy don't really have a three-star public,'' he said.

The trouble, Mr. Marchesi added, was that Italians were eating all too well in neighborhood trattorias and didn't feel the urge to spend 90,000 or 100,000 lire (about $45 to $50) a person for a meal, wine extra, at Gualtiero Marchesi or another deluxe place the way the French or the Americans do in their countries.

Italians like a lot of pasta and, when they want to pull out all the stops, maybe a little lobster, the owner-chef said. ''Now, spaghetti isn't very elegant, not yet. It took the French hundreds of years to make onion soup into an elegant dish. I'm trying to do the same for spaghetti.''

Besides running his restaurant, which seats 70 people, the trim, dark Mr. Marchesi also acts as a food consultant to industrial corporations and writes a weekly column for L'Europeo magazine of Milan in which he dispenses such advice as how to enhance pasta, risotto, salads or fried eggs with white or black truffles or how to handle venison in the kitchen (''First, bathe pan in white wine . . .'').

Michelin Italia 1985 mentions as specialties at Gualtiero Marchesi: fresh lasagne with basil butter, braised mullet fillet and sauteed celery and medallions of veal with bittersweet sauteed vegetables. Among the wines: Prosecco and Settefilari.

Like Gualtiero Marchesi, none of Italy's other two-star restaurants are in Rome or, for that matter, anywhere south of Florence. Milan, though, has a second two-star place, La Scaletta, near the Porta Genova train station.

Is there a Gallic bias in the fact that Michelin found three places worthy of two stars in the French-speaking Aosta Valley and in Piedmont, the two Italian regions closest to France? They are Cavallo Bianco in Aosta, Al Rododendro in Boves near Cuneo and Guido in Costigliole d'Asti.

The others on the two-star list are Antica Osteria del Ponte in Abbiategrasso near Milan, Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, San Domenico in Imola, Boschetti in Tricesimo near Udine and Harry's Bar, of Hemingway fame, in Venice. Six of the 10 winners are in small towns, a circumstance that seems to confirm the impression shared by many connoisseurs that the onslaught by fast and processed food, under way in Italy as well as the United States, is forcing the cult of good cooking to retreat to holdouts in the provinces.

Of all the 2,911 eating places listed in the 1985 Michelin Italia, 184 rate the one star that signals an especially good restaurant in its class.

Lovers of lasagne and Lambrusco are cheered that a well-loved trattoria in Bologna, Al Pappagallo, which started in the 1920's with six tables, has under new management regained the Michelin star it lost years ago.

In Milan an aide to Mr. Marchesi said, ''We have just redone our restaurant. Maybe next year we'll make the third star.''


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