Do you know of the Godia potato? Or the aromatic herbs that grow on the rocks of the Amalfi Coast? Can you imagine a vegetable garden on the mythic island of Capri? Oh yes, Italy is now teeming with enlightened locavores who are changing the boot's traditional landscape.
Deep in our hearts, we still hold onto the traditional image, largely of Neapolitan origin, of an everlasting Italy that remains for many the motherland of tomatoes and mozzarella. A recent documentary by a French television channel was titled "Mozzarella, the Business of White Gold”, which just goes to show you the firepower of a product that in the last 15 years has taken over the planet. And of course there are the pastas, in all of their forms and with all of their sauces. There are 200 officially recognized varieties, no less! And finally, the most obvious and also coming from Naples, is pizza.
The second image we have, which has been particularly proven by the success of the Eataly centres that have spread across the world, from Rome to New York and soon Paris, is the power of Italian brands. Lavazza, Illy, Barilla, and Ferrero are driving this Italy-centric world, demonstrating how Italy is the undisputed country of delicious quality products.
So with all of this already in stores, it would be easy to sit back and relax for a few more centuries by simply changing logos to match the latest trends. But no, Italians are not like that and the younger generations intend to make their lands even more fruitful by spotlighting other local products. This includes in the most legendary of places like Capri, where everything normally comes by boat from the mainland. Thus, to discover the hectare and a half of Caesar Augustus's vegetable gardens, which chef Eduardo Vuolo devours with his eyes every morning before preparing his dishes, is to understand that the choice here is not what is regional, but that which is ultra local. What's the chef's motto? "Never sell your dreams short". It is an ambitious program, but one with a clear objective!
And now Italian locavores are popping up all over the place. Take for example Alois Vanlangenaeker, chef at Il San Pietro di Positano, who each morning transforms into a mountain goat, scaling the rocks of the Amalfi Coast to collect aromatic herbs, fruits, and vegetables in his organic garden. He also uses only that which is local – fish supplied by fishermen from the neighbouring village, olive oil produced with olives from the restaurant's garden.
Too far south for you? No worries, locavores are everywhere! On the coast of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, for instance, the restaurant Agli Amici dal 1887, which enjoys an exceptional setting by way of its geographical situation between the Alps and the Mediterranean Coast, would have made a mistake if it had searched for excellence far away. And since chef Emanuele Scarello is a child of the area, there is the added bonus that he can help you discover delicious treasures that you would not be able to taste anywhere else.
Take for example the Godia potato, named for a tiny village where the production will never break any barriers, but which will provide you with a potato of rare finesse. It is the potato Emanuele uses to make a dish that is once again traditional and one which we would be wrong to forget from the list: gnocchi. Run by the Scarello Family since 1887, the restaurant takes advantage of its family heritage, while also transforming it.
This is how locavores can work with other flavours, change techniques, and modify ancestral recipes without betraying anything of their terroir, while also keeping up with modern times.