“It gives me far more satisfaction to be here with you than it would to be surrounded by so-called stellar, super-chefs,” said Carlo Petrini to the chefs and proprietors present at this morning’s launch of the 2003 Slow Food Osterie d’ Italia guide.
Giovanni Ruffa of Slow Food Editore gave a brief overview of the history of this, the thirteenth edition of the guide, “a vital part of Slow Food’s success in developing a new generation of educated, sensitive consumers”. From the first edition, when only 40,000 copies were printed, Osterie d’Italia has expanded in dimension and print runs, hence in importance too. Last year, 100,000 copies were sold, and this year’s initial print run of 90,000 copies has already sold out (even before the book’s official launch) and a second print is in process. “Haute cuisine is well and good,” so began the guide’s editor Paola Gho, “but accessible only to 5% of the population. We’re interested in where the remaining 85%, who perhaps can’t afford Michelin star food but have the taste and desire for quality …. Osterie d’Italia, Gho argued, provides a guide to people seeking genuine food made from quality ingredients, and according to local traditions.”
“Believe me,” Petrini told the audience, “your knowledge, what you do, is far more valuable than any form of high cuisine.” Focusing on the connection between small-scale agriculture and Italy’s osterias, Petrini urged those present to sustain and appreciate this link, because, “interdependence is the key to your survival and success – you cannot make good food without good ingredients”. The chefs and families behind the osterias mentioned in this year’s guide, he continued, constitute a “small army that defends not only a region’s recipes but also the produce that inspired them”. A profound understanding of their region, their produce and traditions is what Petrini asked for. “You must all be aware of your cultures, because you are interpreters of a civilization that existed well before you … Don’t fall prey to the allure of chasing Michelin stars … Your masterpiece, your challenge for the next couple of years is to keep prices reasonable, to cook with your heart and to keep the link between agriculture and osterias alive.”
In conclusion, Petrini told the audience, “Often, those haute cuisine restaurants are empty places. Your noisy osterias full of people and warmth are invaluable. I don’t drive to Naples to eat trendy ‘architectural food,“, he said, “I drive to eat and learn about the roots of a place”.
At a special lunch staged to celebrate the launch of the guide, six collaborators will be commended for their contributions to this year’s edition.
1,700 osterias have been reviewed in this year’s guide, and 189 of them awarded the ‘Chiocciola’ (snail) for excellence. The 2003 Osteria Italia Guide is on sale now (16 euros for members, 20.14 for non-members)