Nicola Di Lena: Knight for his commitment to ethical pastry making – Italian cuisine reinvented by Gordon Ramsay

Nicola Di Lena: Knight for his commitment to ethical pastry making

Nicola di Lena didn’t expect all this media attention. Yet his choice to leave a certain (and prestigious) job for an uncertain activity, certainly more demanding, at least on a human level, made him appear on all the front pages of national newspapers. Originally from Ginosa, in the Taranto area, but born in Switzerland, Nicola Di Lena, born in 1981, until a year ago was the mainstay of the sweet area of ​​the Seta** restaurant, inside the five-star luxury Mandarin Oriental Milan hotel, next door to chef Antonio Guida. Then his choice, after 8 years, to return to his native Puglia, to open his own business with his wife Alessia Semeraro, always at his side. And now, on March 20th, he will be at the Quirinale – with 29 other Italian excellences – to receive the recognition of Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. The reason? The its social and ethical commitment in favor of the excluded, which has marked his professional path in the last year in San Vito dei Normanni, in the province of Brindisi, thanks to “Comma”one therapeutic pastry which, from December 2022, will be welcomed into the laboratory people with disabilities And women who have suffered violence.

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The genesis of the ethical pastry shop project

«I certainly didn’t expect all this in just one year of activity, he tells us excitedly on the phone. «My wife and I had decided to return to Puglia, the “ethical” pastry shop project came later, that is, after meeting Vito Valente, president of the social cooperative “Includi”, which deals with the work integration of people with disabilities. The. was already present in the area XFood restaurantof the non-profit organization Something different, which since 2014 within the ExFadda urban laboratory, allows young people with disabilities to work between the dining room and kitchen, led by chef Giovanni Ingletti. «Hence Valente’s proposal to think about the format of a pastry shop. “The name Commahas the subtitle “a story that continues”, because not only does it follow up on the restaurant format, but it could also include other stories like this, in Puglia and who knows where else”, explains Di Lena with enthusiasm. At the beginning the proposal only envisaged a workshop for children with problems, “I thought that, instead, a cake shop with retail sales would give greater visibility to the initiative”. And so it was.

The “special” collaborators

Di Lena immediately accepted the project, not only to share moments of lightness and joy, but to teach a trade and introduce these fragile subjects to the world of work thanks to a serious training course. «Five guys currently work with us, Mimmo And Francesca they are the veterans, but two other figures from the Brindisi hotel school will arrive shortly, both minors, who will be accompanied by a tutor”. Precious help from the kids, who immediately became passionate about the project. «They go crazy to make biscuits, biscuits, lady’s kisses, tartlets with mousse creams, not even having time to finish the job before they are already breathing down their necks wondering what else they can do. When the kids are in the laboratory, deliberately visible to the public, thanks to the large windows, «they are very happy and we are equally happy, or rather, I will say more, when they are not there, we miss them because they have so much to teach. They are, special period, without the comma!”.

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