It was a bittersweet dinner at Locanda al Gambero Rosso. A restaurant we’ve loved, that we’ve called our favorite in the whole world, will shut the lights and shutter their doors at the end of August. Our hearts are broken, but we are looking forward to the next chapters in the lives of Giuliana, Moreno, Michela and Paolo.
Being in the kitchen, for very long hours, day after day, will take its toll on anyone and Giuliana and Moreno have chosen to take a well-deserved break from the demands of running a restaurant.
We were honored that Moreno sat and talked with us throughout our dinner. We’ve always felt a strong connection to this delicious man who is so tied to the history and flavors of his area.
Moreno is a master forager, whose knowledge of the fields and woods in his area is unsurpassed. What Giuliana knows about how to finesse every bit of flavor out of these foraged bits makes her truly a Master Chef.
Long before terroir and foraging became trendy, people were combing the steep, rugged hills around San Piero in Bagno looking for something edible. It was survival foraging, not an enhancement to a plate, but something to keep going for another day.
Now, the term ‘cucina povera’ conjures up images of warm bean soups lovingly ladled into big soup bowls. The reality was much, much harsher. A daily diet of hoarded beans or chickpeas, the foraged greens and maybe a speck of precious meat grows monotonous day after day after day. Its not romantic, its sustenence.
And now, one of our most treasured links to this history is about to change.
Of course we asked, why are you closing? Can’t someone continue in the tradition of Gambero Rosso? Moreno shook his head and said, “Italians don’t care anymore.” This is something we’ve heard him say before, but this time it was said with such sadness and resignation that we asked him to explain.
He said ‘cucina povera’ is something that people want to forget, they are embarrassed by this history. In a parallel fashion, it’s something we, as first or second generation Amercians, can understand. Our grandparents emigrated to the US and wanted their children to assimilate, so out of embarrassment they chose not to teach them their native language, but let them speak only English. And so, subsequent generations lost a significant chunk of their culture.
Moreno, we think things are more positive than you imagine. The pendulum is swinging back as more and more people are looking to cherish and honor their roots.
People are encouraging Giuliana and Moreno to publish a cookbook. We say YES! We want a way to hold onto what you’ve painstakingly learned; we want a record of all the flavors, the history and the love you put into every dish you served. I’ll never make the famous zuppe dell’erbe the way you do, but every time I do make my version of it, I honor you.
Great opportunities await. Michela and Paolo will lend their fine sensibilities and sense of discovery to a new venture in Forli, with Giuliana and Moreno consulting...when they feel like it!
As the diners left and the night grew late, the feeling in this joyous restaurant was a determination to keep the spirit of Gambero Rosso alive. The battle cry as everyone was leaving was the same, “A Forli!", so we will travel to Forli to see the new adventure. In bocca al lupo!