La Preséf seems like a little piece of Valtellina paradise, as feature in so many documentaries and Instagram feeds: typically a restaurant created out of stone and wood, with a farm behind, stable and dairy, goats and children running round the fields and learning the secrets of a millenium or so of rural culture. And yet this restaurant, at the foot of the Rhaetian slopes, in the Mantello plain, is the very first of its kind to be awarded a Michelin star.
The restaurant is located within the La Fiorida farm complex, a holiday farm established in the early 2000’s by the Vanini family. An authentic farm indeed, with a rustic rhythm, jealously identified as a national heritage and hosting a cuisine somewhere between barns, vegetable plots and state of the art techniques: after having exported pizzoccheri from Beijing to Georgia, Gianni Tarabini, chef of La Preséf, has found his equilibrium here with massive respect for the most authentic, and a genuine “km zero”.
“I’ve always thought of myself as an artisan of food,” Tarabini opens up “And here I have the opportunity to demonstrate manual dexterity, the very breath of the territory and the real spirit of it history. I can do it through materials with a very short supply chain, the result of local farmers, yet at the same time the product of memories over the generations. In the kitchen a common thread is created with very solid roots yet looking to the future: without doubt Alpine cuisine can and must have an important and evolving role in the scenario of contemporary gastronomy. This is the appeal of a journey in progress.”
Within his Preséf, a word with the same etymological base as “crib” and means “manger”, his dishes speak of both peasant and avant-garde culture: the enormous “pantry” he talks about, courtesy of local biodiversity throws up unique ingredients, like truffles from the nearby costiera dei cech or bonbon of deer patè. Hence Tarabini can serve up his rustic flavours, the eco-friendly di Selva egg with Sacco potatoes, fondue and truffles, or create a new dish of gnocco stuffed with Bitto and misultin from the lake, with lemon zest to accompany.
“Alongside our typical and safeguarded products, like Casera Dop, we have more innovative products such as a pure milk mozzarella from our bruna breed and burrata” Tarabini enthuses. “Even the meats are processed and transformed internally: the vegetable plot, slaughterhouse and dairy are formidable storehouses of wholesomeness from which the kitchen can draw liberally.”