For a gourmet trip to Italy one of the top Italian cities is, of course, Florence. With a multitude of gastronomic experiences on offer, from simple street food to Michelin-starred dining, it really is a fabulous destination for food and wine lovers.
The charming city of Florence proudly celebrates its very own unique culinary culture and is home to some first class and world-famous restaurants including the award-winning Enoteca Pinchiorri which boasts three Michelin stars and is a member of Relais Chateaux and Les Grandes Tables du Monde.
One of the most iconic restaurants in Florence, Enoteca Pinchiorri effortlessly achieves the perfect balance between the past, present and future, offering a timeless dining experience that takes contemporary cuisine to another level entirely. Founded by the alchemic partnership of Annie Féolde and Giorgio Pinchiorri, Enoteca offers an enchanting Florentine dining experience. From the sophisticated atmosphere of the interior through to the exemplary and extensive wine list, the sleekest service and the truly epicurean menu it is, quite simply, a gourmet oasis in the heart of Florence.
The essential ingredient to Enoteca Pinchiorri’s ongoing and unwavering success lies in the kitchen where Executive Chef Riccardo Monco and his team create his striking and utterly delicious seasonal dishes. This summer, Envy Italy’s co-editor Sharon Kilby caught up with Riccardo to discover how the renaissance city influences his work, both in Italy and beyond.
- Food is part of life in Italian culture; when did your passion for cooking start and how did it evolve?
It really started when I was a child, at my maternal grandmother’s house. I am lucky that quality ingredients have always been part of my background. In Italy we are fortunate; we grow up learning how to distinguish good from less good products. Over time, becoming a chef has always been my prerogative.
- Can you remember the moment you decided to become a chef; what inspired you to make it your career?
After attending hotel school, I was lucky enough to start immediately with Michelin-starred restaurants and I never left them; I knew the type of restaurant that fascinated me, where the cook’s work is not just about preparing food but also expressing creativity. For me, everything unfolded in a spontaneous and natural way, without ever having to send around my CV.
- Having been at Enoteca Pinchiorri for two decades, how has your style of cooking grown over the years?
I have been at Enoteca since 1993. To me, Enoteca represents the restaurant par excellence; Giorgio Pinchiorri and Annie Féolde have been able to build a solid restaurant capable of resisting trends. We are contemporary, and we have embraced changes; perhaps this is what makes us so long-lasting and yet still eager to grow.
- For many years you have worked alongside the inspiring chef Annie Féolde. Which other mentors and chefs have also influenced you?
Everything influences me: the people I meet, the environment that surrounds me, my collaborators. I look at what happens in the world and I get an idea from it that I try to elaborate and make right for our restaurant. I believe in teamwork and always leave room for each collaborator who wants to make the final result better and more refined.
- What do you consider to be the key flavours of Enoteca?
Enoteca has an identity which is made of the desire to transmit our food and wine culture. From the importance of quality ingredients to the competence of the sommelier in suggesting the right wines. Our commitment is to make each dinner unique for our customers. This is what a top restaurant is all about; these are the key factors which have to always be present. Flavours can and must change to reflect our changing inspirations and desires, but commitment and passion must be consistent always.
- How do you describe your own personal cooking style?
The cuisine of Enoteca is the fruit of a collaboration. Personally, I like the simple, direct, understandable style, which immediately reaches the heart and I believe that the secret is taste; taste is the most important thing, then everything else comes next.
- Where do you find inspiration for a new dish?
Inspiration is always around the corner; it is enough to know how to capture and codify it, at the market, in the kitchen, during a trip, before sleeping. Inspiration is never-ending.
- How do the seasons influence your menus?
We work with the seasons but, above all, we pay close attention to the duration of an ingredient. I’ll give an example: peas are a spring ingredient, but they do not last all spring long, therefore we must be ready to change the dish at a moment’s notice.
- Can you tell us something about your suppliers, for example, where do you source your meat, vegetables and other ingredients?
We are very careful when choosing our suppliers, who are the fulcrum of our success. For example, the Razza Mora Romagnola piglet is bred only for us by the company Ca’ Lumaco. We have our own vegetable garden and several small farmers from whom we choose the vegetables.
- I understand that you have been involved in other overseas projects such as new restaurant developments; can you tell us about these?
We have been in Japan for almost 30 years. We started with an Enoteca Pinchiorri in Tokyo and 11 years ago we moved to Nagoya. For the first time this year, Michelin has released its guide to Nagoya and we have obtained one star. It is demanding work coaching the team there. We visit three times a year, but we can say that we follow them daily. For us it is not so different from the restaurant in Florence: the same effort, the same intensity.
- When you are not cooking, what do you enjoy doing?
I rest, I spend time with my family and my dogs, who are part of the family. When I can, I love to ride my bike.
- What do you love most about Florence and Tuscany?
Florence is magical, famous worldwide for its history and is populated by people from everywhere. It is like being at the centre of the universe, where cultures and religions live together for the pleasure of being in this city.
Tuscany has everything: hills, mountains, sea – what else could I ask for?
- What are you working on now and what are your plans for the future?
The restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri is at the centre of our thoughts; this is what counts. But who knows … a future Enoteca Bistro … who can tell?