The taste of the meadows and the scent of the forests: Greta Gemmi

13 September 2023

One of the enduring themes of Cheese is the revitalization high-altitude lands by young people. It’s a theme perfectly embodied by Greta Gemmi, a young chef from the Slow Food Alliance who, along with her family, runs the kitchen at Al Resù in Lozio, a small town of around 350 residents in the Camonica Valley.

At an altitude of 1000 meters, the restaurant is surrounded by woodland, and it’s the forest that diners can discover in many of the dishes offered by Greta Gemmi, rediscovering forgotten local products, wild herbs, innovative transformation techniques, and surprising pairings.

From one generation to the next

Greta, of course, doesn’t do it all on her own. There’s one person in particular who has contributed significantly with their knowledge and hands-on approach. “My Grandma Angela opened a bar here in 1978. She was the first to bring ‘regeneration’ to this place, along with my grandfather Remo, when they bought an abandoned campground.” In mountain villages, gathering places are vital, and indeed, the simple bar quickly became populated with locals and visitors, filled with conversations, good food, songs, and, in short, life.

Gradually, the offerings from the kitchen expanded: not just simple sandwiches but everything one would expect to find in a mountain restaurant—and more. From polenta in the cauldron to casoncelli, from hearty soups to stuffed chicken, boiled meats, and tripe. With Remo’s passing in 2011, it fell to his son Natale and his wife Maria Grazia to support Grandma Angela and decide what to do with the place. Over the course of a winter, it underwent a radical transformation, opening its windows to the valley and the woods and reopening in June 2012.

Amidst the mountains of Greta Gemmi

Springtime at Al Resù

And Greta? Now 25 years old, she has breathed all of this in since she was a child. She has absorbed this fresh mountain air, made it her own, learned from her grandmother’s teachings, added her touch, incorporating innovation into the recipes and refining techniques and tools. In all of this, Grandma Angela “makes a fundamental contribution, taking care of the garden, vegetable processing, and continuing to live on the premises, just as before.”

This journey was a gamble: “In 2017, we couldn’t find staff to run the kitchen, so we faced a choice: either I took it upon myself or we would have to close. I was 19, and I decided to give it a try, with little experience. During my years at culinary school, I had done three internships, but to be honest, I learned most of it on my own, improvising, trying and trying again, studying from books.”

The scent of the landscape

Then there were great teachers, like Vittorio Fusari. She remembers when he told her, “Even if you’re cooking a simple potato, your job as a chef is to turn it into a great dish. Don’t try to do something extravagant, don’t mess it up, but showcase your main ingredient.”

At Al Resù, we bring the scents to the plate. We are fortunate to live in a vast, generous, and clean area. We can engage with a pristine environment that provides many wild ingredients, and for the rest, we rely on a network of direct suppliers. We have a garden where we we try to grow as much as possible. We have a star ingredient, lichen, a salad, a symbiosis between an alga and a fungus, which is collected and preserved dry, and used as a salad throughout the year for its nutritional properties. We use mountain pine, larch, dandelion, wild asparagus, mushrooms, walnuts, and hazelnuts… We have our own chickens, our own rabbits, while for flours and cheeses we rely on a network of local suppliers, small producers who are not part of traditional channels.”

Participants at the Dinner Date on September 18 will taste an appetizer of lichen and dried sardine salad, potato pastry, and alpine cheese cream, and the main course, smoked venison loin, leek cream, and curd, all crafted by Greta.

A bright future

It’s no wonder that these foundations have led Al Resù to achieve such well-deserved success. In 2018, Al Resù was included in Osterie d’Italia with the highest recognition, the coveted Slow Food Snail. In the 2023 edition of the guide, Greta Gemmi was awarded the Best Young Chef prize, named after Vittorio Fusari. Greta concludes: “It’s a motivation to continuously improve.”

Come meet Greta at Cheese, and, if you’re feeling adventurous at Al Resù, in the Camonica Valley!

by Silvia Ceriani, [email protected]

Cheese 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the City of Bra from September 15-18. See you there! #Cheese2023

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