Interview with the master and sommelier of the Franciscan Osteria in Modena. That reveals the honors and burdens of a room master. Between rigor, passatelli and zero alcohol. In 25 career years
"This is the historic office of me and Massimo, it has existed for about 15 years. A space only ours .
I'm with Giuseppe Palmieri, called Beppe, restaurant manager, maître historian and sommelier of the Franciscan Osteria in Modena, in his "secret refuge" a stone's throw from the restaurant, a place full of contemporary art, a long wooden table, like those of the famous Franciscan Refectors of the Food for Soul project, for their meetings and a wardrobe room where he, very elegant, changes every day before the service. Called "the most famous waiter in the world", Palmieri is practically a legend in the sector. But he mocks "I consciously chose the role of wingman years ago", but without victimization, indeed "the real revolution takes place in the dining room. It is here that the economic success and ideas of a chef are decreed. What makes the difference? The human factor . We at La Cucina Italiana spent a day with the staff of Massimo Bottura's restaurant, (the service in the July issue, co-directed with the chef) twice better in the world according to the ranking World’s 50 Best Restaurant, also meeting him, since 2000 at the service in via Stella, in Modena, in the room taken 5 years earlier by Bottura. Born in Matera in 1975, a strong and determined character, he has a blog with the evocative name Glocal, a manifesto of his vision of food and catering, a book «Room and Kitchen (Artioli 1899, pp. 169, 35 euros), logbook of his experience in Osteria Francescana. Entrepreneur, he managed for 7 years a grocery store selling high quality sandwiches, in Modena, the legendary Geni Alimentari Da Panino, which after the lockdown decided to close but only to look at new adventures and «keep up with the times .
How do you manage a hall from the first in the world?
«It has always been natural for us to look at the collective, there are no groups: for this reason, from the oldest to the youngest we have always placed and related on the same level. I built it immediately: to function, our structure could not be vertical but horizontal, making us equally responsible ".
What does a good waiter stand out from?
«I love to repeat that waiters are made, not born, experience, work ethic are required. Then the leadership and talent actually emerge on their own. A leader is recognized for his sense of responsibility towards his colleagues. I find the term "collaborators" detestable. If you invest in an authentic way on a relationship of esteem and friendship between colleagues in a strong way, great respect is born, there are no subordinates .
Explain yourself better
«If you have a dream, you need others to make it happen: everyone must give something, with the same commitment, with the utmost pride. Then of course, it takes self-discipline and an exceptional psychophysical condition that allows you to go beyond your limits. We must be well, be happy with what we do. If the individual is not aligned, it compromises the work of the whole .
It is said that even if Hell is in the kitchen, Heaven must reign in the dining room. How do you find time to recharge and how do you manage to always transmit harmony, even in your busy days?
"There is a very important moment for me and it is when I come to my" bedroom ", as I call it, right in this studio. Here I change and pick up my clothes. I have a ritual that particularly relaxes me: I rinse my face, always rest the keys on the same place, brush my teeth, choose the dress, polish the shoes, tie my tie. In all, I don't spend more than 10 minutes .
Very short as relaxation.
"It's the spirit of the room, you can't stop."
It is always very elegant: is shape also substance?
«I think so, given my role. Even in what I wear, I want to give importance to my past, and therefore to things that are of a certain age. Let me give you an example: a shirt or a jacket even if they wear out, I am certainly not to be archived: first of all because they remind me of experiences and those lived moments give value. Then because a quality garment, the older it gets, the more beautiful it is. Imperfections give charm .
Is there a dish that you associate with many meals eaten with the staff of the Osteria Francescana? Maybe a holiday recipe?
«I think what I loved most here was the passatelli in broth. When we grant them, and occasions are really rare, that dish takes on the connotations of a kind of comfort. It represents us more than others because it is a great historical recipe from Emilia. Then it has a symbolic value: it is the recovery dish par excellence, although prepared with noble ingredients. Broth is a luxury: to make it good, you need excellent raw materials and a long time. Finally, there is a world in the dough for passatelli: the bread crumbs and another main ingredient for us of the Francescana, or the crusts of Parmigiano Reggiano. Finally, to prepare them you need the contribution of an entire community because you have to collect many ingredients. Usually it works like this: there are those who remember that there are two bags of leftover bread or a little grated Parmesan. Then in 2 or 3 the broth is prepared. It is one of the dishes of our collective in which I have not seen anyone reject the encore. Then, every time there is a comic aspect … ".
«Yes: the moment you use passatelli, the rough path from the pot to the chair begins. We see broths falling, people sliding. We laugh. This too is part of the party, of the magic .
In the Franciscan hall, there are incredible works of contemporary art: what do they represent for you?
"Those who make avant-garde re-discuss the classics: here, these works are the proof, the summa. On the other hand, I like to think that we have always lived in rigor. "
In fact, his motto is "low profile, very high performance". It has a military feel to it.
"Exact. From an artistic point of view there is a work that represents me and that I find at the same time a milestone. It has been exhibited for several years right here in Franciscan: Us Navy Seals by Vanessa Beecroft. For the first time a woman managed to photograph these deployed US Navy soldiers. It means breaking a bulwark. The same approach that guides the creation of our dishes .
You are a great sommelier: how does the staff toast?
"It does not do it. In our history of the Franciscan, in 25 years, we have never drunk a glass of wine. We love what we do so much that we couldn't do otherwise. The luxury of a good glass of wine, whether it is a Nebbiolo, a Sangiovese, a Lambrusco or a glass of Bordeaux, we grant it when we are not operating. The secret for those who do our job is concentration in the intensity of the effort. Always".
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