10 QUESTIONS TO DIEGO ROSSI: THE CHEF WHO BROUGHT THE QUALITY “TRATTORIA” BACK INTO VOGUE.
Diego Rossi, born in 1985, is the beating soul of Trippa together with Pietro Caroli. Respectively in the kitchen and in the dining room they run a typical Italian “trattoria” in the heart of Milan, which is now considered one of the best in Italy.
Our meeting is already peculiar in itself: it is 11.30 pm, after the restaurant service. I go inside, and the restaurant is full as if it were 9 pm. I meet Diego, and it seems fresh as if he had just started the service. His energy, vitality, and sympathy immediately overwhelmed me, making me feel part of that moment, of that atmosphere. Diego Rossi is very approachable, as a good Veronese breaks his sentences with interlayers in his dialect and immediately stands out for his strong communication skills. Together with him and Pietro, 11 employees are working at Trippa.
By Lodovica Bo
Can you briefly tell us your story, and how do you define yourself as a cook?
My story begins with coffee at home and pasta when my mother was at work. The highlights of my professional background are: “L’Oste Scuro” in Verona, a fish restaurant; the “Bower” in Venice, an experience of the real, enormous brigade; the”Hubertus” by Norbert Niederkofler, where I lived the experience of a starred restaurant; the “Locanda Margon” by Alfio Ghezzi, two Michelin stars and finally the “Ristorante delle Antiche Contrade” in Cuneo together with my friend Juri Chiotti, where we reconfirmed the star for two years – we were the youngest starred chefs – but the restaurant no longer exists. Where I pass by, I no longer grow grass – he says laughing- like Attila. Later I came to Milan and here, after realizing that I no longer wanted to work for anyone, I opened Trippa with Pietro. I wanted to open a “Trattoria” because I wasn’t moved by the Michelin starred restaurants anymore. I wanted to be free and have no constraints of any kind.
What do I call myself? I’m a wolverine, a gourmand – as they used to say – and then I’m a cook.
How would you define Trippa’s soul, what is its philosophy?
Trippa is a people’s “trattoria”; It has a community, an authentic, sincere, product soul. The philosophy of Trippa is to make a seasonal cuisine, to make people feel good because it is not just cooking, the basic concept is to have an experience, feel at home and make people feel good. Many chefs focus too much on cooking, while for me sometimes you can go to a restaurant and eat discreetly maybe not in a sublime way, but spend an incredible time for the experience in its entirety. Trippa was born this way; it was studied as an Italian “Trattoria” of the past, because we wanted to give the emotion of a comfortable place, not demanding, but that reminded you of something.
What was your “journey” to get to Trippa? What drove you to open it?
I was fed up with the places where you have to control your behavior, and you can’t slouch or can’t raise your voice, where the dishes are very constructed and sophisticated, where you lose your gluttony. If you want to work for someone, you can’t work for an elite; your message must be for the people. I chose a place where everyone could come and where haute cuisine is not fine dining. For me, haute cuisine means working with a product intelligently. So mine is a way to make people eat unique things at reasonable prices, for those who can’t or want to afford a starred restaurant.
What inspires you every day to change, and what drives you to continue?
I change every day because I don’t want the limits of a pre-set menu. I decide what to do, how and when I want it: I am free, born free, and I am going to die free. I want to have fun because I want to work every day different things; otherwise, I’d be bored. However, people know us throughout the world because we have won any prize a “Trattoria” could win. So it’s obvious to want to move forward when you see that the world acclaims you. When you see that your dream is coming above true expectations, you’re always enthusiastic.
Why the name Trippa? Even though the name of your restaurant brings you back to the use of offal, I know that you are a great lover of vegetables. Can you tell us about your relationship with the different products?
Tripe has a double meaning. We were looking for a word with a double meaning. In Italian, it means “there is substance.” In this case, the meaning is a detachment from what I did before: I worked with a more evanescent cusine, if you can say so. Tripe instead represents the substance. Then because Tripe is the queen of the “fifth quarter” and I am a lover of the so-called fifth quarter because it is waste material, because of the use of poor material and because I enjoy working it more than meat. In reality, I eat very little meat and when I do, I eat only the quality one: because meat is unhealthy and we should stop eating it. Then, because I like vegetables so much, we cook many. The fifth quarter I mean is not only the one of meat but a fifth quarter enlarged, where we use all those forgotten vegetables, unusual- of a niche – of a territory perhaps still to be discovered. That is the fifth quarter in a broad sense.
Why do you think Trippa has become famous both on an Italian and international scale?
For various reasons: Certainly, because we cook well and have a great experience, but especially for sincerity and truth: my word is the truth, I’m looking for that. Then because we probably found a topic, before the others. It wasn’t a search. I didn’t choose it. For me this is normal, for years I’ve been told I’m a genius, but in the end it’s just a “trattoria”. You eat well, with excellent products and that’s enough.
Yes, but it became one of the most famous one..
You know why? Because I can communicate – cursing – I may not be good at making food, but I’m good at selling it. If you do something and you don’t communicate it, nowadays you don’t exist. So it is useless to do something well and not know how to communicate it. Some communicate it better or worse, and my luck is that I probably communicate well. “Am I convincing?” He asks me. I nod, laughing. And he replied: “Do you see why? If I say one thing, I know what I’m saying. If you ask me anything I do here, I can give you an answer. If I don’t know, I don’t invent it.”
One of the most memorable – positive and negative- moments in the history of Trippa?
There are more than one. One of the best moments is when I was invited at Omnivore. I found myself speaking in front of 1200 people, and it was the first big congress I did. I was the only Italian between Alain Ducasse and Nuno Mendes: Diego Rossi was among them with Trippa, not with a starred restaurant.
Negative moments: all the first period of Trippa and we didn’t have air conditioning. We struggled at first. Not because we didn’t work, we worked a lot. When people arrived there was a place with a fantastic kitchen, but without air conditioning, the power blew, the place was turned off, people suffered to eat at “Trippa”
What do you think is and should be the role of the cook today?
Today the cook is a star. He has taken on the role of a football player. People see chefs as mentors, who advises in various areas, not only on the kitchen but on everything. At this moment, the cook should take on a significant role. Because the world is falling apart and one of the starting points through which we can save the world is nutrition. The cook, through his knowledge, could teach or indicate a way to pursue to improve our nutrition. Nutrition is the main problem for man, especially in these years. I am not only talking about the food-related diseases with which we poison ourselves day by day but also about livestock farming through intensive agriculture that is polluting and destroying the world, first and foremost.
What do you think about the world of gastronomy/cusine today?
I think we still haven’t understood a thing, including me. I want to change, do something else, but still, the public is not ready. Not because I don’t want to. People have to eat less meat; they have to eat better, with more vegetables, with more cereals. Our main problem is that people at the cost of eating meat buy it at the supermarket at 2 euros per kg, without realizing that they are poisoning themselves. People should eat much less but better quality. Meat is one of the aspects: the same happens to flours, dairy products, processed foods. We all have a messed-up diet. So we should move more towards a vegetable cuisine and respecting the environment. Sustainability should be one of our primary concern when we ask for a product.
Your relationship with waste?
We try to do as little as possible. First, for an economic issue: I can’t deny it. For a company, the economic reason should be the main factor that encourages not to waste, and then for an ethical issue. Ethics and management go together. With fish, for example, there is nothing left: we use everything except the bones, the heads, the eggs, the tripe, the heart, and the liver, all these parts we sell them. We take away the skin that we don’t use even though we could. In vegetables, we discard as little as possible, of course. All in a reasonable way.
Besides, no one asks me, but at Trippa we have 8 hours working days, and perhaps I think we are one of the only realities in Italy, at least at these levels.
Thank you Diego!