Andrea Riboni: from Pollenzo to Veneto reinventing traditions

At 6 years old, left alone for a moment in his aunt’s coffee shop, he tried to make an espresso without actually using any coffee, much to the amusement of the unlucky customer who’d decided to put their faith in this enterprising child who dreamed of becoming the Pope.

Delusions of grandeur? Far from it, according to Andrea Riboni, one of the young protagonists of Cheese 2019 whose story we share today.

“These were the years of the first big pastoral visits by Pope John Paul II which were broadcoast on TV, and I was fascinated by the idea of traveling and learning about the world. But I was still a long way from finding the key which would allow me to connect all these experiences.”

Now 36 years old, Andrea Riboni, a native of Feltre in Veneto, has found his calling in Locanda Solagna in Quero Vas – as featured in the Slow Food good restaurant guide Osterie d’Italia.

From left to right: Raffaele Minute, Andrea Riboni, Daniele Turro, Fausto Choosy Giazzon.

THE BEGINNING OF THE JOURNEY

His journey started when he was 28. Having finished a first degree in law at the University of Trento, Andrea signed up for a second at the University of Gastronomic Sciences: “I wasn’t satisfied by what I’d learned up to that point. I listened to my heart, thought about what I really wanted in life. And it wasn’t legal codes or case studies! In my time in Trento my true passion had always cooking!”

After a sabbatical year spent in Vancouver practicing his English, Andrea discovered the vastness of Canada and its local cheeses, its berry wines and the incredible level of care and dedication necessary for the production of ice wine. “When I arrived in Pollenzo I was able to put what I was learning into practice immediately. I contributed towards the creation of the Academic Tables, the university canteen where students are able to learn about and taste dishes from some of the best chefs in the world. The Slow Food University is practical, based on action. If you want to get involved you’ll find you have the opportunity to become the person you really want to be, beyond the classroom learning.”

Panorama of Quero Vas in Veneto.

LETTING THE LAND SPEAK

According to Andrea, the land must be allowed to speak through our daily actions, from our choice of raw ingredients to our culinary interpretation of them. In the kitchen of Locanda Solagna he’s joined by Raffaele Minute: 29 years old, for whom every recipe can be adjusted and reimagined using almost exclusively local products from the Veneto region.

Their raw milk cheeses come from their neighbours in Segusino and Cesiomaggiore, who also provide “cooked milk” (a local variety of panna cotta), fresh robiola and Piave PDO from Lattebusche. Their polenta with schiz is made with the freshest schiz cheese (a speciality of the region made with just-curdled milk), a mousse made with the same schiz, and a polenta made with a mix of black rice flour, corn and pea sprouts.  “Raffaele knows the ingredients really well but he’s also a master of technique, we have fun surprising the customers who come to eat here with our playful mix of tradition, ethnic cuisine and a selection of unusual vegan dishes.”

LOCANDA SOLAGNA AT CHEESE 2019

At Cheese Andrea Riboni and Raffaele Minute will be cooking for us in Back to the future: return of the alumni, Friday September 20 at the Garden Restaurant in Pollenzo. There’ll be bringing one of their calling cards: cheese-stuffed ravioli. “Normally we would make them with morlacco, but for Cheese we’re going to prepare something really special: Capéi del Prete pasta with mushrooms and Blu61 cheese, cooked grape must and grilled duck.”

by Elisa Virgillito, e.virgillito@slowfood.it

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