From father to son: from tradition to innovation
by Marco Gemelli, ph. Lido Vannucchi
It has represented a stronghold of haute cuisine for sixteen years in Prato, a town of huge culinary potential – just think of the confectionary sector, from Paolo Sacchetti to Luca Mannori – but not always fully appreciated. Keeping high the interest of the food world on the city of the wool industry is chef Mirko Giannoni, soul of Pepe Nero together with his father Marino and his wife Sara Sanesi, maître and sommelier. A cuisine which Mirko shapes around the finest produce of an area generous in history and raw materials, vermouth and alchermes first of all, as well as meat from the Mannori butchers, bread such as the “bozza pratese Dop”, the dairy products of Calvana, the Bardazzi flours. Special care for the area’s raw materials means dishes of a strong personality such as vermouth risotto with Prato mortadella and red Sicilian prawns which is a constant on Mirko Giannoni’s menu. “This risotto,” explains the chef, “is in honour of my town. The union of all the ingredients took place in my head after having tasted the vermouth prepared by Sara, the emotion this aromatic wine gave me immediately drew all the other ingredients together and we created a dish with a great aromatic boost which honours my land and its people. After having chopped the mortadella di Prato, peel the red prawns and reduce the vermouth in a saucepan for 10 minutes and then blend it with xantana until it is smooth and creamy. In another saucepan, toast the rice with evo oil and more vermouth and let it cook with fish broth. When cooked, take it off the heat adding half of the previously chopped prawns. After having creamed the risotto with evo oil, serve with the remaining raw prawns and the mortadella. Finally, pour the vermouth reduction sauce on top of everything.” If Mirko Giannoni has created the dish, it’s his father Marino, class of 1931, who describes it in the dining room; still active after 46 years at Baghino, historic restaurant of Prato where many figures from the world of culture called, between the 70s and 80s, from Vittorio Gassman to Paolo Poli, from Franco Zeffirelli to Alberto Sordi. His successful career has seen him gathering acknowledgements and honours but in spite of the age, Marino works alongside his son every day with enthusiasm and dedication. Last but not least, an important element at Pepe Nero is contemporary art – one of Prato’s greatest pride, thanks to the Pecci Museum and various events which take place during the year – which is Sara’s occupation having always been an art lover. And since a few weeks ago, Pepe & Vino has opened an adjacent place with a smarter formula and 500 labels to match with crudité, platters and dishes from the restaurant but in smaller portions.