There is no doubt that this last year has meant sacrifices, anxiety and loss for many. There has been much talk about the gravity of the situation, of the difficulties people are still having to face; truly a dramatic moment in history. But, as is often the case, there is also a positive aspect to be found, if one looks around with an observant mind. And equally often, this optimism comes from young people, such as the ones we want to write about today.
It isn’t exactly what we could call a new concept, but certainly something we have never seen in our area: chefs who come and prepare a slap-up meal in the clients’ own kitchens! This is the project that brothers Simone and Alessio Ciancolini, 24 and 28 years old, had embarked upon shortly before disaster struck, preventing them from continuing their business in the manner in which it had been conceived and planned. But, being young, creative and willing to adapt, these young men found a way around the obstacle, and have resumed working brilliantly for the past month.
But let’s take a step backwards and talk about their journey; we spoke to Alessio, who admits to being the loquacious partner, whilst brother Simone prefers “action rather than words”! Alessio had completed his studies in comunication at the university of Bologna, specializing specifically in semiotics, and was pondering upon which subject to elaborate for his degree thesis. As an enthusiast of local tradition and gastronomy, he decided to take inspiration from “Il desco nel villaggio” a book written by Sara Raffi Lusardi, which, according to Alessio, is the gastronomic bible of Bedonia. Many traditional recipes can be found in this volume, all pertinent to our area….. and this was where brother Simone came in. Simone had trained at the catering college of La Spezia, so it was an obvious choice for Alessio to rely on his brother’s expertise in that sector, to give him the assistence he needed in completing his thesis.
So, Alessio had a degree in his pocket, and was raring to go – but in which direction? The book “Il desco nel villaggio” had done more than simply inspire him, it had planted a tiny snowball in his mind which was slowly gaining volume and momentum…….the idea of teaming with his brother to bring traditional food to our homes became a reality. As chief comunicator, Alessio created a Facebook page in order to promote the new venture, which was named “ABATEWALA“, a strong reference to an important historical figure of our area, cousin of Charlemagne, or Charles the Great. The page has currently been visited by over 2000 people, amongst which many requesting information, or their services.
The Ciancolini brothers set to work seriously, aiming for quality rather than quantity. They choose seasonal goods for their dishes, and try to give priority to any produce which originates from our territory; porcini (and not only!) mushrooms, chestnuts, truffel, cheeses, meats and vegetables from local producers. During the course of the first months of activity, a dense network of suppliers was rapidly set up, people who were only too happy to submit their precious produce into the artful hands of the boys.
Requests arrived from all over; they were called twice to Dimora Ghirlandaio, a luxury resort set in a historical context in Florence, where their service was very much appreciated. They also have customers amongst players of the National Rugby League.
Clients were curious and willing to live the experience, the business was taking off very well. Then – covid. Suddenly, it wasn’t possible to go into homes any more. It looked as if the venture had been short-lived, and the brothers, just like everbody else, were anxious for the future. But, it was at this point, that another idea which had been brewing for some time, became all-important, necessary. The boys had been thinking of buying a van with a complete kitchen installed. The freedom of movement that this would give them, would open up a world of new possibilities, allowing them to take our cuisine almost anywhere.
With the advent of the virus, things were held up for a while, also given the fact that the company they had turned to was in Bergamo (the first and most badly hit city in Italy). But finally their brand new van was ready, a fully equipped kitchen on wheels awaited them, and they were in business once again! Since the brothers are well known around here, there has been no lack of clients; they will turn up at your home, park outside without having to enter, finish preparing whichever meal has been previously agreed on, and hand everything over in full observance of all the rules.
A typical menu, which changes every week, following the seasons, could sound like this: Potato gnocchi with truffel, beefburgers made of local meat, chestnut fritters with local caciotta (cheese), empanadas (a touch of something different!) and much more besides. The adventure on wheels has just concluded its first month, and the outcome for now is optimistic. The future is very uncertain at the moment, but the lads would like to do some show-cooking (an event they have already experienced at the National Porcini Mushroom fair at Albareto two years ago) around the country, as soon as it will be possible.
Alessio and Simone have proved that with a little lateral thinking, and the will to adapt, there is always hope! As they say here – “Largo ai giovani” – make room for the young!