Vittorio was a generous and kind man. He was a passionate and engaging chef. He was a sensitive cook and militant.
For him the restaurant has always been a place to meet, to exchange ideas, to discuss with sweetness and vehemence together, to create dishes carrying on his revolution, the one for a more fair world. A place of meeting and open, without barriers, where the pensioners of the country, the dishwashers and the many, young and inexperienced, who knocked on his door to ask how you could become a cook and that he has always welcomed by giving him a jacket and letting them do under his watchful, vigilant and loving eye.
Vittorio didn’t just want to cook well, he wanted to change the world with cooking. It was his way of doing politics, of commitment.
He was stubborn and pure. There was no way to let a lake fish into his kitchens that didn’t come from his lake and when he explained why it was never just a matter of taste: “You see Eugenio” he told me many years ago, long before the food had the social role that it is recognized today “if I use the fish from Lake Iseo I will help the fishermen and in doing so they will make an effort so that the waters can be cleaner and my small choice will leave a bigger mark, it will be for everyone”. Here is the community. Being a conscious community was his great perspective, perhaps the ultimate meaning of his work. To bring his revolutionary cuisine to as many people as possible. Under the excuse of food, he would gather people, who would then necessarily end up becoming friends, around an ideal.
Whether it was the meatballs or a slice of salami for the Calicistas of the Face or the dishes that he thought for the many, many, events that he made in his life, his preparations had to be democratic and have a deeper meaning. You thought you were going to eat his puff pastry and you found yourself discussing how the world was full of injustices and what could be done to fix it at least a little bit. “We are what we spend, not what we eat. With our everyday choices, we can decide who we give our money to, what future to invest in.”
And then there was the wine. Franciacorta first and foremost, a place he loved viscerally. It was useless to try to reason on the hypothesis that there was a more suitable territory to produce bubbles. There was only Franciacorta. And Vittorio did everything he could so that this little corner of land between his lake and Brescia would be known and appreciated by as many women and men as possible. Thanks to wine, many years ago, that magic that was the Face was born and we were lucky enough to meet such an extraordinary man on our way.
In 2009 he was one of the founders of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance project, one of the first to understand the importance of directly supporting local producers, guardians of biodiversity, to enable them to continue to protect often difficult areas and produce quality.
His collaboration was immediately intense and has never waned in the last ten years. He was with us a little more than a month ago in Bologna, at the national meeting of the Alliance, and he was also with us last September, in Bra for Cheese, where he recounted his experience as a norcino in a conference and in a beautiful workshop, reiterating once again his being a cook-craftsman, a convinced supporter of the value of manual skills, the need to preserve local know-how and traditions. Norcineria was a passion of his and he was working – with his partner Patrizia and friends from the local Slow Food Convivium – on the launch of a Presidium on the ret, a simple and ancient sausage from his Franciacorta, which he produced directly.
Returning to the Alliance, also thanks to its contribution it has transformed itself from a small group of Italian chefs into a network that today counts over 1100 chefs in 25 countries, stimulating interest and enthusiasm for the discovery of local products at every latitude. He was a great communicator and has been our ambassador on many occasions, such as when the Alliance of Chefs in Morocco was founded. Vittorio accompanied us, he was enthusiastic about the dishes of Moroccan cooks and was able to convey the highest sense of the project even in such a different and “distant” context. For this reason, the entire network of Slow Food Alliance chefs is now losing one of its main nodes. But it is all Slow Food that suffers for his disappearance, and we will feel the emptiness that he leaves even more when, on the occasion of our small and big events, we will spontaneously think of him, look for him, as many times in the past, finding him always available.
We will miss Vittorio’s sweet voice and deep eyes, words and hands that almost caressed the food and cooked it. But they will continue to live his battles and his ideals, his desire to be around a table to party and change the direction of our lives.
The entire Slow Food community embraces Patrizia, Vittorio’s wife and leader of the Slow Food Oglio Franciacorta Lago d’Iseo convivium, and their young son.
Eugenio Signoroni, Slow Food Editore