The three musketeers of good food

by Enzo Coccia

Man has always traveled and tried to spend his free time to escape from the everyday space, going to more or less distant places.

Although now it may seem almost obvious that the World Tourism Organization defines the tourists as people traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for at least one night but not more than one consecutive year, for various reasons, for leisure and recreation, visiting friends and relatives, for business or study, for pilgrimages or sport, however, until the first World War, tourism was a privilege of the wealthy families, while the vast majority of the people had neither the time to devote to recreation nor the financial resources to travel.

Then the industrialization started to write a new chapter in the human history and the tourism, as an elite trait, began to acquire the modern mass phenomenon nature. And with it also trends to level the travelers’ choices and behaviors raised. From and against these pushes, though, other types of tourism gradually came out, central among them is the role attributed to the food and wine sector.

Enogastronomic tourism, which is a specific segment of tourism, is an integration of food, wine, territory and travel, in which the food becomes the focus of the entire system and the key reason, often the exclusive reason, of the move.

When you go around to discover some unique places you have to be very careful not to bump into the restaurants that overwork the concept of typical food products even if they don’t have any knowledge of the local culinary tradition. Typical cuisine, homemade cooking, local cuisine are some examples. On the other hand, you should prefer places which bet on a menu rich of recipes that use the local products and that can be traditional or innovative, reinvented in a modern and creative way.

To this second class belong those restaurateurs who, thanks to their cooking, can enhance and make the area where they live known all around the world.

I was thinking about the story of three people and three territories joined by the common thread to offer their guests the best of their land.

First of all Troisgros, a restaurant located in the center of Roanne, more than three hundred kilometers from Paris. The only purpose for going to this little-known provincial town seem to be the will to visit the only restaurant in the world that can boast from 1968, never losing them, three Michelin stars and enjoy the surrounding countryside. If you go to the Maison Troisgros you spend one night with breakfast, lunch and dinner included and, in the meantime, live the day in the country peace, creating some satellite activities.

Moving to the north of Spain, near San Sebastian there is Elkano. From Getaria, a small fishing village with just over 2000 inhabitants, the restaurant is known almost everywhere for grilled turbot, a special cooking technique developed by chef Pedro Arregui (or turbot caught with the full moon). The son of Pedro Arregui told me that if you are fishing with a full moon the fish acquires more flavor as it has to swim lower or higher.

Coming back to our country, in the Sorrento Peninsula Don Alfonso is another clear evidence of how a place has been made known and enriched by to the strong power of a restaurant that has been the driving force. In Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, a small suburb of Massa Lubrense (3000 inhabitants), Alfonso Iaccarino with undoubted ingenuity uses agricultural products to realize his creations. In the ʼ70s, in contrast with the trend of tagliatelle paglia e fieno, the Champagne risotto, the shrimp cocktail, chef Alfonso proposed the famous paccheri pasta from Gragnano with San Marzano tomatoes, the Neapolitan rice timbale, the eggplants, the asparagus and some other vegetables (only if in season), the fish from the sea that touches that fabulous coastline, the apricots from Vesuvius, the Sorrento cake. In short, the mother nature pearls at the table even in the most creative recipes without changing the flavors and letting, therefore, everybody know the coast.

And if small businesses act as the driving force behind a territory – and even an entire region – leading the tourists to approach not just some new tasting realities, but the historical, environmental, cultural, artistic and architectural realities that enrich the travel experience, there are the cues for thinking about our economic situation. I have no doubt that Italy can overcome its crisis if it relies on tourism and the peculiarities which, in an increasingly plain panorama, make it a great magnet that attracts the travelers’ interest.