The chef and patronne of Sud has won the 2020 Michelin Chef Woman Award by Veuve Cliquot. The story and the vision of a Neapolitan girl, practically self-taught, who has become increasingly good, in a small restaurant in Quarto
Usually the home pages of starred restaurants are 'light', enjoyable or at least reassuring. That of Sud, the club of Marianna Vitale – winner of the 2020 Michelin Chef Woman Award by Veuve Cliquot – is practically a social manifesto. "Sud is a small idea with many words. Love and passion, fury and fatigue. Anxiety and joy, research and work. Words that are the bricks with which we have built our way of being in the world: the way of the South". We understand a lot about this southern girl, like the Sicilian Martina Caruso, who won the award in 2019. Neapolitan from Porta Capuana, born in 1980. Vitale has a decidedly unique history in Italian catering: it is true that her father was a professional cook ("who over twenty years ago prepared very modern dishes" she emphasizes) and she he would have liked to go to the hotel school. But she was not born a chef "because my mother did not agree with my idea, at that time the expectations in the family were different and it was said that it was a school only for boys" she says.
He was a tour guide
Hence a classic school path. In 2004, Marianna graduated in Spanish Language and Literature. As a first use it illustrates to foreign tourists every nook and cranny of San Gregorio Armeno and Decumani in a language that the Neapolitans find familiar for a domination of two centuries. But the passion for cooking resists, and how. To materialize, he needs a turning point that arrives in 2008 when he experiences, for a year, in the kitchen of Palazzo Petrucci at the court of Lino Scarallo. It is from him («a hard worker with a low profile, who sets himself only one goal: to restore) that he learns the basics of simple and local cuisine. Ambition soon led her to a project of her own, flanked by Pino Esposito, sommelier and husband. In Quarto, a difficult town in the Phlegraean Fields, opened the Sud restaurant in May 2009: among the general surprise, in just three years, the Michelin star arrives, again confirmed by that edition.
Creative folk cuisine
In reality, Vitale has followed a lucid course: to enhance the products of the territory, knowing very well the tradition but without being conditioned by it. She defines it as 'creative popular cuisine' because "it is not like the always quoted reinterpretation of tradition: here tradition is never abandoned, because the Neapolitan lives his cuisine as a mentality, it is rooted in him". She was very good, because apart from the aforementioned passage from Scarello, he is self-taught. "There is no real figure who has inspired me in this sense, it has always been my desire to become a cook, so I did everything to make this dream come true. I looked a lot at women like me, especially European ones, in Spain and France, and following their example I learned a lot even on my own she says. Dried pasta and poor fish are the comet stars, interpreted in intense, warm and refined dishes.
Angelina, the other club
In confirmation of its 'popular' vision, in February 2019, it inaugurated in Naples a modern diner 'that proposes Neapolitan cuisine that is fun and attentive to waste. "Her name is Angelina like my grandmother and, more than her recipes, the aspect that has always struck me is her way of managing the kitchen with little money even though she had to cook for many people, because the family was large. For this reason the menu is marked day by day and is based on simple ingredients. It is also take away cuisine, because they are dishes that you can always take with you, both at home and when you go to the beach. There is a bit of everything, from pasta dishes to macaroni omelettes, from rustic pizzas to soups and so on. And that's the one that started again after the lockdown "
It is not the first recognition
Winning the 2020 Michelin Chef Woman Award by Veuve Cliquot – as part of the fifth edition of the Atelier des Grandes Dames, the network that aims to celebrate female talent in haute cuisine wanted by the Champagne house – adds to a palmarès already full of awards: just think that in 2015 she scored a double as best cook in Italy for L’Espresso and for Identità Golose. "I have never felt like a phenomenon, it is very important to have a group like mine. Then there are prizes that are pleasing but above all give the motivation to continue and to make it clear that even in Quarto – with a thousand difficulties – good things can be done "explains Marianna, who is a of the 43 Italian chefs at the head of starred restaurants. All over the world, for the record, there are 168. The next milestone? Maybe a double Michelin star? "I will not abandon Sud and Angelina, a reality that I love also and above all for the commitment they have involved in their realization. Maybe I will be able to work in a larger or even smaller place, perhaps reducing the covers. The only certainty is that I will try to always go forward with the same goals, from there you don't change ". answers the best Italian cook. And certainly one of the most cultured and determined.