THE ROOTS IN PIEDMONT, BUT THE LOOK FACES FAR AWAY: THE RESTAURANT CONSORTIUM TOLD BY STONEWORK VERGE.
To imagine a place where tradition and innovation can be combined with lightness and simplicity, one does not have to go far: the Consorzio Restaurant in Turin is an excellent example of this. The substrate is traditional Piedmontese cuisine, enriched by the variable y defined by a few touches of reinterpretation and change, but with full knowledge of the facts! The care, the search for quality and the “naturality” of the products are the philosophy fundaments and essence of Pietro Vergano and Andrea Gherra, partners and friends, who have decided to embark on this adventure together.
Pietro has no hotel training; he works for ten years in the world of music: the world of food attends him thanks to family traditions and passion. So he decided to start approaching the sector with some tasting courses, becoming a somellier in 2003. Finally, in 2008, comes the turn of Consorzio, now composed of a team of nine people.
By Lodovica Bo
How did Ristorante Consorzio born?
It was born out of desire and passion. Andrea and I come from different realities: me from a wine shop and him from a restaurant/pizzeria. I had never done a service in my life, I didn’t even know what it was. But I knew I had my ideas and my taste. Andrea helped me to integrate myself with the table service, unknown to me, and I put my passion into it. Then, in my way, I slowly learned. My engine, however, has always been passion.
What is the philosophy and soul of Consorzio?
We start with taste: we try to serve dishes that I would love to eat. I try to convey to the public what excites me. We try to maintain a philosophy whereby if I have to slap my face, I take it on what I believe. We make a kitchen of matter, where we try to give our all. Over time we’ve had a few geniuses, but otherwise, we do normal things, always with excellent raw materials: I’ve never skimped on that. This is our foundation on both wine and food: quality. I have no other philosophies. For me, it’s very trivial, but apparently, it isn’t – he says laughing. I would be surprised to buy something that costs little to feed customers: the more you invest in it, the more people come back. Then it’s also true that many people don’t understand anything about it. But we play on the 20% that they tow.
What do you want to convey to your customers when they sit down?
Feeling at home, but also research, passion, the desire to do something good. In short, doing the best we can because every day we work with different raw materials, it’s difficult for every day to be the same: so it’s in the long run that you see how you work, there can be the fantastic day and the worst day.
The choice of products? You work a lot with forgotten products, offal.
I may live in a bubble, but for me, they aren’t forgotten. It’s a question of taste because I like those things. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables. We have a vegetable garden. I live mainly in the countryside, and I love picking vegetables, putting a hand in the kitchen, also because, otherwise, I can not explain the dishes to the customer and I do not like to be unprepared even in the most trivial questions.
How would you define in a word the soul of your cuisine?
Impressive, intriguing – or at least I would like it to be – not trivial. We always try to maintain a traditional, but not boring, base, while remaining faithful to the canonical taste. You can become something again, but it must have the same feeling as what you thought you wanted to reinvent. If the traditional version is better, then you have to stick to it. We made a dish – by chance – with brains, and then we thought that it could be the reinterpretation of the finanziera: today it is a founding dish of our menu, because in my opinion, it is a proper reinterpretation of tradition. It is a dish that can please the man of Costigliole who has eaten it for a lifetime and the one of New York who tries it for the first time. The important thing for me is that the man from Costigliole, who is therefore used to the dish, does not tell me that it sucks, because those are people who have the gastronomic history of knowledge.
Is it a traditional Piedmontese cuisine?
Yes, absolutely. We do not disdain, however, what comes from outside: we have, for example, a Basque pepper, the Espelette, that we love. We like to travel and experiment with new things. Then we have a close relationship with Neil’s Yard, an English cheese retailer, who provides us the King Ceddar because it has a vegetal note that is good with eggs. The substance is, therefore, that we must not be with blinkers: we do not work only with Piedmontese products. For example, on wine, we have a rigorous line that must respect certain natural agriculture, and if Piedmont does not respect that parameter, I sell wines from other places.
In the wake of this: the discourse of the local and small producers is quite essential and inflated nowadays. Which are some of the producers you work with directly? And from these producers an example of what you take and how you transform it?
We start from working with a wine producer who maybe also owns some cows, and we end up buying the half-carcass from him: the matter is therefore intersected. Then we also work with bigger supplies, such as La Granda. A small producer we work with is, for example, Francesco Brezza from Tenuta Migliavacca: he produces wine, has a few cows, and was the first biodynamic company, which became such in 1964. Over time we began to take from him different products such as hay, dried grass, to flavor the milk with which we make the mashed celeriac and hay. For two years, we have put him in touch with our butcher in Cavour, Silvio Branda, and now we all work together.
Your wine list is very impressive. Is there a common thread between the choice of wines and food?
Yes, absolutely: for me, it is quite identical, as far as possible. I find strange the places where there is a discrepancy between the two worlds. We try to give the same value and the same ethics both in the kitchen and in the wine: then there are various facets of the natural. We have a rather strict line on wine, but I have not yet had a moment when I thought: “You were wrong.” The only difference is that we have to spend more time telling what these products are and where they come from. Maybe people don’t understand immediately, but you can’t go back behind it. I believe that my paper speaks for itself.
Over the years, you have opened another place called Banco Vini Alimenti. When was it born, and why?
In 2015, from the idea of having a place dedicated to wine. In the beginning, it was supposed to be a food counter, but then we realized that we weren’t cut for that.
The most representative dish of Consorzio?
There are many of them. The fifth quarter is a dish that we could never remove, and it represents me because there is a bit ‘all the fun, tradition, completeness. The world of the fifth quarter is what will always remain in this restaurant, in all its facets.
Food and climate change: in your opinion, is there a correlation, and if so, why? How can it be related to the world of food?
The question is quite significant: for example, we have abolished plastic. We try to approach the subject through small gestures.
Concerning the discourse of food, however, we try to channel our resources towards realities that follow some ethics, producing well and trying to do good to others. I, therefore, delude myself that it can be an expandable discourse. Today, in the world, access to junk food is more straightforward, while quality raw materials cost a lot of money; This indeed leads to easier but more damaging choices on a large scale. It is undoubtedly true that quality pays, but it also has a cost.
Consorzio is often cited for its natural passion for wine, its research into products, the valorization of offal, wild herbs, and forgotten vegetables. Its cuisine is enveloping like an embrace, also because it tightens the links of a community of enthusiasts made up of patrons, cooks, producers, and vignerons. The dining room is no longer only the place where you eat, but also the site where you weave the plot of this Holy Alliance between producers, processors, and consumers warned.
For further informations, please contact us at email@example.com or visit http://ristoranteconsorzio.it