Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

The memories of childhood. The afternoon snack with bread and olive oil. We used to eat lots of lamb meat ,”and my son still likes it today,” he says proudly.

We meet Giovanni Luca Di Pirro, Executive Chef of the Castello del Nero Hotel & Spa, on a cold November morning. On Tuesday 16th Michelin Guide announced Star’s restaurants. A star was confirmed for restaurant of the Castello, “La Torre”.

But, as Di Pirro explains, the Michelin Star “is certainly not an arrival point. It’s a great satisfaction, something to be proud of, but above all it gives us the will to improve.”

Di Pirro, how would you define your cuisine?

“Modern and contemporary cuisine, linked to the Tuscan territory and all its products: from pigeons, ducks and chickens, to the fish of our shores. We collaborate with our suppliers: we get fruit and vegetables, for example, from our trusted grocer in Tavarnelle, and with him with we share a curiosity for food and do some research together”.

What makes you enthusiastic about a product? What are the criteria?

“First of all the tasting, this is the main thing. I think I have a good palate. Starting with the texture, and then the flavours: I hardly choose with my eyes. Now I’m creating a new recipe with the ‘ Casentino arista’ (pork loin), cooked at low temperature, tender, with truffle sauce and truffle. “The quality of the raw material is essential. Often, cooks complicate things a bit too much”.

Is there a dish that represents you?

“I’ve got a few. I love pigeon, I love to make pasta, lamb, and fish in particular.” I’m fond of so many dishes. I love cooking, but I also love eating”.

And your favourite dish?

“The classic Tuscan snack that we used to have as children, bread with olive oil, or bread with wine and sugar. I still have it today, these ingredients come from the past, and bring back good memories of my home and my childhood. My father was from Abruzzo, I remember those flavours like it was yesterday, lamb and the cappelletti that my mother used to make – she was from Romagna. And one thing I like is pasta with no sauces. I like to taste particular grains, in their purity: pasta with just a bit of olive oil, to better taste the wheat”.

How does a chef behave when he goes to a restaurant?

“When I go out to dinner, often with my wife and my son, I like to relax, without judging. Over the years I learned to understand that behind every dish there is an entire and complex world. When you go to certain places you have expectations, and sometimes you are not satisfied, but you have to be patient”.

So what happens when you are on the other side of the barricade?

“Humility is important. When I approach a client, I prefer to listen to criticisms personally, so I can explain how the dish is made, and explain my reasons. I like comparison and honesty. Unfortunately, sometimes this comparison is missing. And some people prefer to write their comments on Trip Advisor”.

What is it like to work in a luxury five-star hotel?

“It’s 360 degree restaurant, the work starts in the morning and ends at night. A hotel is a bit like a home, the customer comes to be comfortable, has individual needs. We must guarantee comfort, tranquillity, and an excellent service: the guest needs to pampered, but without being too rigid. I try to make it clear that customers appreciate it more when you are being professional but a little less formal, more flexible. And the team responded very well”.

What is the meaning of the Michelin Star?

“It helps you to grow and makes you understand that there is always space for improvement. It is an extra incentive, a starting point. A satisfaction that gives you fuel to grow, and also an important goal”.

Matteo Pucci