Stefano Petrillo tells the gaudenti story of his restaurant
Just behind the Mole Antoneliana, the symbol of Turin, stands Gaudenzio. The beating soul of this restaurant is the young Stefano Petrillo, who, firmly, defines himself as an entrepreneur plus than innkeeper. From the lack of awareness that only an eighteen-year-old can have, he begins the climb that sees him build his professional figure in several renowned places between Paris and London. At the beginning, he started on large premises, with great responsibility, but with an idea of the quality that did not reflect it; until he arrived at increasingly high-quality premises and with an exact idea of food service aimed at quality and natural wines. Soho House, Septime and Sager & Wilde are some of the places where he gained experience in the two European metropolises, before arriving at the awareness of creating a place of his own: the initial idea of opening it in Paris was, at the time, replaced by the more attainable one of opening it in his hometown, Turin. In 2015 Gaudenzio was born, a new bistro with the intent to reawaken the city with a breath of fresh air and novelty, which sees Stefano in the service, Shakil as a helper and dishwasher, and Giorgio and Matteo in the kitchen.
By Lodovica Bo
How did Gaudenzio’s idea come about?
In my work experience, I had a brief parenthesis at Estro in Venice, where I met the cook of the time who decided to embark on this adventure with me. My initial idea was to make only wine. Over the years, I had understood that to do well the cooking part, it would have taken more time and dedication. Then, when I got here, the kitchen was already there, so I thought: why not open a bistro, which is missing in Turin?
How would you define Gaudenzio’s soul?
Stefano: I liked the word Gaudenzio, gaudere, that means play. This restaurant has a strong, playful soul, supported by Giorgio’s kitchen, which I consider stable, clean, and elegant. It’s what I’d like to eat if I went out to dinner. The setting is to have a bit of play in the wine part, supported by the substance of the kitchen: a list of shots and one of the food, where we keep the base, changing only a few cooking styles, but nothing more.
Giorgio (chef): He does his shopping every day, looking for quality products, and he doesn’t compromise on that, so we do. We don’t have to invent anything, just a few cute combinations that reflect the wines in the dining room.
Stefano: In the section of wines, we never choose wines that are long in the mouth; we avoid them because I don’t find them easy to handle. My concept of a restaurant is that of stop & go, so opening 30 years old bottle doesn’t make sense to me. It’s a style due to the fame of the brands. Gaudenzio is in the middle category, the most difficult in this historical moment: it’s easy to make a luxury category, it’s easy to make a street food category, but it’s not easy to be in the middle. We work a lot with fish: back in Turin, where there was a long tradition of using veal and offal, we decided to differentiate ourselves a little by taste, a little by choice.
Is there a word you would use to define your service?
It is known for being “unconventional”: there is no wine list, and the wines are served blindly, with an initial proposal from you and subsequent feedback from the customer… why is that?
It’s the customer who decides at the end: we propose, and he chooses.
It would be nice if all of us would make proposals, without copying ourselves, without taking a position, but for convenience today, we go back to what is easy. This criticism is aimed at the fine dining in general, guilty of having flattened every level.
How do you manage to convey your message to customers, both with the choice of natural wines and service?
This happened especially in the first part of the restaurant, where I concentrated on “giving away” a course, giving a course for tasting. It’s all about giving the customer a little more than he asks. If, for example, you don’t like cannelloni, I’ll give you one to make you understand that ours are good. The same thing has been done about wine: giving you the opportunity to taste it. Customers responded in a different way: some hated it, others became loyal. It was our hallmark: not having done any initial publicity work, and even though I’m new to the city, the restaurant was immediately talked about, it got off to a good start as it brought a breath of fresh air.
How do you think we can start a process of raising consumer awareness of quality products and sustainable consumption?
I think the first step has been taken since the arrival of Eataly. Now I think the process is quite radicalized. Also, in the world of wine, there has been a significant growth towards artisanal and natural wines. I believe that today there is an awareness, even if the conflict of interests plays a vital role, because, in a city like Turin, the idea of letting the consumer choose freely is not left to us, but it is constantly influenced by the strong powers of the big companies. In my opinion, there is a great deal of confusion. Even the press and gastronomic guides are moved by significant forces, as sponsors of industrialized products, so the judgment can never be completely free. I am less concerned, however, with an awareness of the sustainable raw material, I think there is a lot of it today.
Today, we are different, as are all those who have a family reality. My team is small, we consider ourselves a family, and it is essential to work well.
How do you define your figure, like that of an innkeeper?
No, I don’t think the figure of an innkeeper is suitable for the restaurant sector. The innkeeper is something else. I call myself an entrepreneur. One of the aspects to which I must be more careful is the competition and the changes in the sector: it is, therefore, a more entrepreneurial part. I need to be aware of new ideas that are passing through, of markets, of wine fairs. The work that comes before the service is the most difficult and is a bit underestimated by restaurants. I find myself always projected into the future.
Positive and negative sides of your restaurant? Something you wanted to work on more, something you didn’t succeed?
Concerning the idea of a restaurant, the only thing I couldn’t get started was the idea of the glass and go, of speed. What we didn’t manage to do was to change the method of consumption, which you can see more in the big cities.
What do you think about the world of gastronomy today?
Today, entrepreneurial work is the most challenging part.
I think today’s stumbling block is the awareness, or rather, the lack of such respect for what one eats, which limits the use of certain foods, perhaps linked to seasonality or even compared to wine. What works today is the brand, which makes you lose the importance of what’s behind it: whether it’s the hand of the vigneron or the small producer. There is no longer the desire to discover a wine or real food because, with social networks, you can already see everything, and there is nothing left, curiosity disappears.
We have gone towards an exaggeration of everything (restaurants only of meat or only of fish). Many things are now done by chance, clinging to a hyper-specialization of all sectors. For me, today, are modern those restaurants that are considered by the majority of old, because they work in a familiar, simple.
Today we have lost an expressive capacity, and we need to review the function of the word, which has lost weight.
Were you fascinated by the article and curious to have a different gastronomic experience in Turin? You can find some pills on the website: https://gaudenziovinoecucina.it, and we are very happy to welcome you in our restaurant. For any information on job opportunities, please contact the number 0118600242 or pass by the restaurant. Instagram @gaudenziovinoecucina