World famous pastry shops, a new finedining scene, cocktail bars and new gastronomy entrepreneurs are renewing the city. Once again and thanks also to its Chinese half
Italy is the country of a thousand bell towers, Prato was the city of a thousand chimneys, today it is one of a thousand food and wine specialties. Prato has been called "the Manchester of Tuscany" for the incredible industrialization that had transformed it in the nineteenth century, but it is also the city of the Chinese, the home of Prato biscuits, Prato peaches and an unexpected series of typical products , new or secular.
Prato has always been a rich and cultured city, boasting a cathedral frescoed by Filippino Lippi, the world-famous Contempoeanea Luigi Pecci art center, examples of industrial archeology such as the Fabbricone, now home to a theater and destination for architects on a pilgrimage. Prato has been able to reinvent itself throughout history and today has decided not to leave its destiny to chance. Not even culinary.
At 20 km from Florence, it has about 1/10 of the population and, as tradition has it, there is no good blood between the two. But so much for a level playing field we do not agree historically with Pistoia and this has translated into a programmatic will to create, conserve and protect a unique food and wine heritage.
The concentration of Slow Food Presidia is impressive: there are the Biscuits of Prato (which for heaven's sake even if they look like nooks, they are not at all!), The Bozza Prato, silly bread, typical of the rural tradition, the Mortadella of Prato PGI so special and aromatic due to the addition of Alchermes, the dried Figs of Carmignano. They even invented a supply chain flour, the GranPrato, and a real pride of the local food and wine called Eat Prato, very popular and which takes place twice a year. Obviously there are also the Prato Peaches – which alone are worth the trip.
The pastry shops
The star of the pastry shop hovers over the city, and the pastry shops are the real local flagship. The reason? Professor Daniela Toccafondi, Councilor for Productive Activities, Trade and Tourism with University and Europe of the City, explains this to us: “Prato has always been a rich city, a crossroads of businesses, travelers and astute entrepreneurs. It was a city in which it has always eaten well and that together with the fabrics has exported other excellences bringing them far away and making them famous ". The Biscottificio Mattei has been making Biscotti di Prato since 1858 and boasts in a single city two pastry masters such as Luca Mannori, chocolate guru, World Pastry Champion and holder of the original Setteveli cake recipe. A few hundred meters away, the Pasticceria Nuovo Mondo by Paolo Sacchetti, wife and heir Andrea "Sacchettino" Sacchetti from which come out mythical and unmatched Pesche di Prato and leavened like the Giulebbe. Sacred monsters aside, other young people are also making their way as Luca Borgioli, pastry chef at I Frari delle Logge, won third place in the FIPGC contest at the national level for the Best Modern Single Section.
New Wave from Prato
Other than the province, in Prato there are places like Schiaccino, a place that if you landed in Milan would make a fortune: young boys, enthusiasts, selection of natural wines, large sourdough focaccia with sourdough and special grain flour filled with excellence, of the territory . Beautiful the place, the environment, good food and were even able to organize an event like Winezilla – the first Prato fair of natural wines. You will hear about them. Even the cocktail bar scene wants to emerge, thanks to the Nunquam factory which produces white Prato Vermouth, bitters, bitters, alchermes and even Ju, a Tuscan London Dry Gin, and places like Apotheke Prato, De'Sto or the Cul de Sac – so much so that the Florence Cocktail Week in May has evolved to become the Tuscany Cocktail Week.
There is also an embryonic scene of fine dining in the city, led by the restaurant Pepe Nero (which everyone in the city swears is now in the odor of a star). But not only the suns. They returned to the city to stay, the young people of Paca, a new gastronomic restaurant that alternates insights such as the Sushi of Chianti with more classic Pappardelle with wild boar, shallot and pine nuts – made with a professional hand and with an excellent quality / price ratio. Try the Steak, which here finds its gourmet dimension, becoming a main course for two, with a haute cuisine service. The young chef Francesco Preite has been serving omakase and sake menus to his fellow citizens for eight years (but it is necessary to present them for 9 pm, one time shift), the Dek Bistrot in piazza delle Carceri which serves seafood, raw fish and Mediterranean dishes. At the Pecci Center, Angiolo Barni (patron and chef) has found a home that unites Tuscan tradition and contemporary cuisine, as well as the gastronomic restaurant in the expansion designed by Maurice Nio, and in the new opening of the bistro, with outdoor tables and a suggestive view of the original amphitheater designed by Italo Gamberini.
Prato, however, is also the most famous Chiantown city in Italy, grown in the nineties when local textile industries moved into the industrial area, leaving a whole slice of the city abandoned. Today it teems with life, restaurants and small shops, and given that even "the Chinese" have moved to produce outside the city, now we face the emergence of industrial spaces abandoned for the first time to themselves. Thus cultural associations such as Chì-Na were born, right in the infamous Via Pistioiese, and initiatives such as the WOM, Wonderful Market of vintage clothing, streetware and handicrafts in Corte Genova, in the spaces of the former Lanificio Umberto Bini and now a space shared among young creatives . To them it seems normal, but for those who come from outside to discover spaces like these or like the Lazzerini Library in the former Cimatoria Campolmi, another restored textile factory where students study under a vault of windows and steel.
The integration in Prato was a will as well as a duty, thanks to a far-sighted municipal administration that can now reap the benefits of its work. With the 2019 elections, the first two councilors of the Chinese community joined in and there are already so many four-handed businesses that are giving new economic and cultural strength to the city. Trade flows in the blood of new and old Prato, and this may have been the land on which the future of this city will be built. The history of the MySea restaurant is precisely this: two Chinese-born partners who grew up in Milan, two from Tuscany, a restaurant that combines the Italian tradition of raw fish and the all-oriental passion for crabs and lobsters freshly caught from the aquarium. The clientele is as mixed as the property and in the kitchen there is the chef Davide Chen, an almond-shaped eye, a Florentine dialect, a Tuscan DOC (despite appearances). Raw crudités, Mussels au gratin with parsley and roasted lemon panura, Taglierini pasta with fresh lobster with rigorous homemade pasta and the inevitable Catalan lobster. Why inevitable? Because this is the most loved, ordered and consumed dish by the people of Prato. Why Prato is really a surprise.
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