A palate of Venice…
By Laurent Feneau
In the glorious kitchen of Cipriani, Renato Piccolotto reinvents Venetian cooking with his incessant desire to challenge the limits with the passing seasons and influenced by his voyages to foreign countries.
The hotel Cipriani is located on the Giudecca, a small Venetian island just opposite Saint Marks square, and is one of the most beautiful and well-known in the world. This prestigious establishment also owes its reputation to the numerous famous celebrities who have passed through since their doors opened in 1956. From Clint Eastwood, Kenzo, George Clooney and Paul McCartney along with other actors and actresses, musicians and fashion designers, they have all deeply appreciated the warm welcome and friendliness of their hostess, Natale Rusconi, who has now replaced Giuseppe Cipriani. In this luxurious and exquisite sophistication, this restaurant is indisputably commensurate with this universe full of luxury and exquisite sophistication. For example, this is where the famous recipe of "Filet de Carpaccio" was made to celebrate the birthday of the painter Carpaccio, and which is today internationally known. Or, the Bellini, this famous cocktail made with Champagne and peach juice whose recipe is preciously kept a secret In short, legendary, top-quality culinary specialities which we owe, above-all, to Renato Piccolotto who has been the head chef in this kitchen for twenty years.
Cooking as a tribute to the City of the Doges
It all started in the 1980's when the young Renato had just finished school and began to work in the kitchens of this prestigious establishment for a summer job. Under the wing of Giovani Spaventa who was then the chef at the Cipriani, this apprentice cook progressed very fast so fast that this "master chef" asked him to take over when he left in 1990. Since, Renato has stuck to the tradition which is that of simple but generous culinary delights whose main objective is "to stay, as much as possible, with the original taste of the products". The inspiration of this transalpine chef has been primarily inspired by the Venetian culinary style inherited from La Serenissima, the great Venice where spices from around the world for used for the first time. "It is said that the Venetians invented the tablecloth and the fork, but above-all they invented the risotto which their ancestors, great discoverers and spice connoisseurs since Marco Polo, have cooked in a million and one ways! Me, I prefer the "Spring" risotto speciality with green asparagus tips and grated Parmesan", confides this great chef.
This Cipriani chef is very attached to respecting the principles of Venetian cooking and is particular interested in the recipes of yesteryear which he attempts to transform into a more modern taste. "Some of their yesteryear recipes would be impossible to make today. The tastes are much too strong and numerous products used then would be considered too fatty today. In short, this would probably not be a hit with our clients! So, this sort of cooking has to be updated, sometimes using new products and often with modern cooking techniques, but always with original flavours", says Renato Piccolotto enthusiastically.
From Italy to Japan
Like most of the great transalpine culinary masters, this chef makes a religion of fine products. From his childhood in Treviso, he has always kept a soft spot for "radicchio rosso" (red Italian chicory), this odd red Winter lettuce with an appealing bitterness which is found in various dishes on this restaurant's menu. "There is the risotto with red chicory cooked in Chianti, a soup of red chicory and barley with fromage frais from Treviso, but it can quite simply be served in a salad or just fried with pomegranate juice", this Chef explains with a greedy twinkle in his eyes.
Venice undoubtedly gives Renato's cooking the essential of his specificity, but this Master Chef also likes to draw his inspiration beyond this lagoon. He has multiple and international references. Besides Gualtiero Marchesi, founder of Italy's "nouvelle cuisine", he very much likes Nobu, currently one of the most popular Japanese Chefs, and also Michel Roth who he met in Brazil during one of the gourmet weeks abroad which Natale Rusconi organizes every year for Renato Piccolotto and his team. "I love French cooking for all the culinary techniques used and the way it combines techniques and products whereas in Italy the priority strictly remains the product", he explains.
In the meantime, having a meal at the Cipriani is more like a culinary show
organized with incredible precision. Besides the classic Carpaccio served in
a sauce which Renato keeps secret, the menu overflows with surprising propositions.
From a sublime puff pastry filled with lagoon shrimp to bass in a salt crust
and then a fine tuna steak with herbs, without forgetting the delicious homemade
pastries, the choice is vast but always orchestrated by a talented and professional
team of maîtres d'hôtels.
Over these twenty years Renato Piccolotto has met many celebrities and been able to show-off his talent, but he has always kept his cool. This Venetian cooking maestro defines himself as "a sensible man with simple tastes and occupations". His incredibly rare and precious free time is spent with his wife. "Always present when I need her, she has always supported me in my work", he admits fondly. Even more important than just being a great Chef, Renato Piccolotto Is first and foremost an Italian .
"If you were "
- A quality: listening to others
- Character flaw: shyness
- An animal: a lion
- A country: Australia
- A piece of music: anything by Led Zeppelin
- A film: "1900" by Bernardo Bertollucci
- A book: "Ulysses" by James Joyce
- A famous woman: my wife
- A meal: pasta Pomodoro
- A wine: a bottle of Amarone - a red wine from Verona