The Ligurian Luigi Taglienti had already brought his distinct style to the Milanese kitchens of Trussardi alla Scala and, for some time, of Palazzo Parigi. After that he finally opened his own restaurant, the now famous (and starred) Lume, bringing to light a neglected area of Milan, that of San Cristoforo sul Naviglio, an interesting example of urban archeology – a former industrial space now recovered.
And talking about “urban archeology” here is no coincidence, the chef’s cutting edge cuisine lives in between the same opposite poles: memories of the past and striving for the future. The ancient gastronomic tradition of the Maritime Alps, representing both the sea and the mountains, modern reinterpretations of the timeless classics of his native land are some of the main pillars of Taglienti’s style.
His cuisine and his restaurant were the exact reason why we at Flawless Milano met with him at the event “Atelier of Taste” organized by Grey Goose at Sheraton Diana Majestic Hotel. In the mix of smells and flavors, the starred chef Luigi Taglienti, along with the bartender Luca Angeli, presented a tasting menu of unusual and surprising pairings. Francois Thibault, the creator of the world’s most famous vodka, Maître de Chai, who after making an introduction to the extraordinary Grey Goose world joined the guests in the tasting.
How do you express your thoughts through your dishes? What do you want the customer to think of Luigi Taglienti?
I express myself through my cuisine first and foremost, so it is not the technique that drives my thinking but on the contrary, it is my thinking that leads me to study and develop new techniques of cooking. I translate my thought into culinary technique. My style is the right twist on heritage and evolution, that is, the knowledge of the classic and the awareness of being in a country deeply rooted in tradition, although for me the true tradition is memory. Each of us has flavors imprinted in mind, in memory. This is the true concept of tradition, not the recipe itself but the flavors. Exactly what we wanted to do today by interpreting the sour taste, the bitter taste, with an idea that then got realized through technique. I am not aware what people think of me while seated at my table, also because we have a 360° proposal, offering a very creative selection to the public, which reflects the flavors of Milan in a new way and carries an Italian spirit through the products, all those micro products that have made the concept of Made in Italy recognized globally.
In the course of your career, you’ve been known for creative flavor combinations. What is the most unusual combination you are most proud of?
Frankly, I’m used to not dwelling on what has already been done but always looking ahead to not put limits on myself. With a lot of humility and hard work, we try to continuously come up with new concepts to stimulate ourselves and those sitting at our tables. I couldn’t pick the most unusual match, we’ve done a lot of strange ones. I could name a concept to amplify our talk: acidity. The constant work on everything that is sour, from citrus, wines, vinegars, alcohol… acidity is a fundamental aspect of my cuisine.
How do you reinterpret an ancient tradition in a modern style? What do you pay attention to when reinventing a recipe?
I try to bring attention back, that is not reinventing or even revisiting. As I’ve mentioned, I reinterpret what is a flavor, a taste of a memory that recalls something we have already experienced, and that is, in my mind, the true concept of Made in Italy. When this gets done, it means that we are at a good point with respect to the new idea of “Italianity”, both in Italy and the world.
What other traditions, other than the Ligurian, have expanded or could expand your kitchen in the future?
I’m open to all the ingredients, the important thing is that they don’t affect my cuisine too much, it is very personal. I believe that in recent years Italian cuisine has been influenced by other nations in a positive way but I also believe that today we must be able to influence other countries with a new idea of Made in Italy, Italian cuisine.
What is your favorite restaurant in Milan, besides Lume of course?
(Laughs) My idea of a restaurant is that of home, a place where I feel comfortable, in tune with the environment, and where I can find a proposal that suits me without going too far away from the canons of Italy. If I had to name one, it would be the restaurant of a friend, “La Cantina di Manuela”, very simple, but with a welcome that makes you feel at home. I go every Monday, so see you there.
What do you cook at home every day?
I don’t cook at home. Because I’m never home, unfortunately. If I have to, my home never runs out of good pasta and oil made by my uncle in the garden. My uncle has a piece of land by the sea in Liguria, with olive trees, the ground was unused for thirty years and thus very fertile, the result is great. If I have to cook I choose a short kind of pasta, fusilli or spaghetti of the highest quality, a bit of oil, a good bottle of simple wine (could be a Lumassina Ligure) and then if I want something else, I add artichokes pickled in oil by my mom.
What’s the worst dish you’ve ever made? Why was it the worst?
It’s not a dish but an ingredient. When I was working in Cuneo (I earned my first star in Cuneo at the “Antiche Contrade” restaurant) I had a supplier of crawfish. One day he calls me and says, “Look, I caught a sturgeon, do you want it?” So I told him to take it. I like caviar, it’s an ingredient I use to enrich some plates, what’s more, I was a poissonnier in Cannes, so I had seen fish of all shapes and kinds. But when I looked at it on the chopping board I knew at once that it’s a fish I would never cook, I could not put the knife on it. He won, it was bad, tremendously (laughs).
Your favorite places in Milan for the following occasions:
Breakfast: I never have breakfast, I wouldn’t lie to you.
Brunch: Il Principe di Savoia.
Lunch: La Cantina di Manuela.
Aperitif: La Bottega di Vino.
Dinner: L’Antica Trattoria del Gallo a Gaggiano
Drink: At my friend Luca’s at the Four Seasons.
Nightout: The evening I never did but I was promised to do because the owner is my client is Just Cavalli, invites me every night, last Saturday but with regret I had to refuse. I live a very simple and private life, a risk of being boring (laughs).
A treat for our readers: your favorite “hidden corner” in Milan.
I like to long walks on the Naviglio that leads to Abbiate Grasso. From Via Watt to Abbiate Grasso. I’d take a friend there.
Thanks again for your time and compliments from the editorial staff of Flawless Milano!