If there is one man who knows Italy’s countless restaurants, it’s Marco Bolasco, the 34-year-old wunderkind editor of the Gambero Rosso guides. Gambero Rosso started life some 20 years ago as a newspaper supplement; today it’s Italy’s most powerful gastronomic empire and includes cookbooks, a magazine and a professional cooking school. Besides appearing on Gambero’s TV channel, scouring the country for promising young chefs and overseeing the authoritative Guida dei Ristoranti d’ Italia, which awards Tre Forchette (three forks) to Italy’s top places, Bolasco is expanding the guides themselves. The most recent title, Low Cost, proves that one can eat well for just a few euros. Recently, I caught up with Bolasco at Città del Gusto, Gambero’s futuristic Rome headquarters, where the country’s leading tastemaker revealed his favorite restaurants and shared his thoughts on the state of Italian dining.
How has Italy’s dining scene evolved from the “one big trattoria” cliché?
The trattoria image pretty much held true until the ‘70s. Then Gualtiero Marchesi from Lombardy changed the game. He imported French nouvelle cuisine principles into Italy in the early ‘80s, and he’s still going strong today at his eponymous place in Lombardy. Not only did he make traditional flavors lighter, fresher and more elegant, but he influenced some of today’s most creative young chefs: Carlo Cracco from Milan’s Cracco, Enrico Crippa from Piazza Duomo in Alba, Paolo Lopriore from Il Canto in Siena. They all have that superstylish Marchesi touch.