Food and wine excursion from Torchio Moderna Osteria where Chiara, Roberto, Marzia and Luca carry out a kitchen project that enhances local products with contemporary interpretations and international influences
It is the first time that I meet Chiara Valsecchi , Chef of Torchio Moderna Osteria , the restaurant opened in 2020 by four friends - in addition to her, Roberto, Marzia and Luca - in one of the oldest corners of Lecco. Vicolo Granai is narrow and hidden, it's after two o'clock, but the flow of tourists does not stop. The waiting list is still long, Marzia tells me. “Twenty years ago Lecco was snubbed. In recent years, things have changed ”. And you see, now there is no time to talk.
I order "The basket of our bread", a selection of fresh baked products accompanied by lightly smoked Malga butter. Wrapped in the scent of warm bread, I think of the adventure of Chiara and her three partners. Chiara moves with Marzia to Venice to study art history, but understands that her true art is that of cooking. Thus began her career in catering, which led her to San Vincenzo, in Tuscany, where she met Roberto, a very skilled mixologist and a lover of the art of winemaking. Meanwhile, in Venice, Marzia meets Luca, who is also a chef. Chiara, Roberto, Marzia and Luca. The passion of art, the vocation of catering, on the one hand Lecco, on the other Venice. How will this story end?
Here comes the “Vitellozzo tonnato”: veal carpaccio, tuna sauce, Giardiniera del Torchio, mustard seeds, valerian. Brushstrokes of flavors, aromas and colors so familiar yet so unknown. “These dishes are children of our history and express our cooking project: to enhance the Lombard products and producers who have bet on the territory with a contemporary interpretation and contaminations resulting from our experiences around the world. One summer Roberto and I went on vacation to the virgin islands. We have never returned. We dreamed of opening our own place, we opened it there. After a few years abroad we returned to Italy. It was supposed to be a break, Covid has arrived and we have never left. One day Marzia called me: “I'm tired of Venice, I want to go back to Lecco. I saw a vacant fund in the center: do we take it and do something with it? We said 'why not?' and we left ”.
The time has come for the "Cremolio" , the highest peak of my excursion. I need it Roberto, a great enthusiast and fine connoisseur of green gold. A creamy Saothome chocolate and Garda olive oil, Taggiasca olives in syrup with muscovado sugar and vanilla. From up here the view is priceless, the emotions full.
Chiara joins us accompanied by the trio medusa, as she affectionately calls it. “Francesco is my Sous Chef, after years spent in a starred kitchen, as soon as he learned about the project through social media, even before the place opened, he brought us his CV. Then there are Michele and Silvia, who today dances in Viareggio at the Jova Beach Party ”. They danced too, Francesco and Michele. They are tired, but happy. And in these times of Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting , that's not cheap at all. “The boys chose us for the values underlying the project. They are very aware and happy to be part of a team that, in addition to doing beautiful and good things, believes in the same values. We try to create a positive climate and give them the best possible quality of life. They are very good and very close-knit and this allows me to focus on the selection of producers to whom we have also dedicated a storytelling project, Gustorie . It is a job that takes time and patience, but it gives great satisfaction. For example, we discovered a very small producer of Verdese in purity, a native grape of the upper Lake Como. An engineer who left everything to pursue his passion for wine, works a difficult vine in extreme conditions. If this is not heroic viticulture ... Or a small fisherman on the upper lake fishing while respecting the ecosystem. We care a lot about the lake, we joined the People of the lake and river association born from the idea of the starred chef Marco Sacco to build something to preserve the lake and river ecosystem, and enhance its products.
“Have you ever eaten a lake caciucco, have you?” Asks Roberto, who is originally from Livorno and knows caciucco. No. “Bad, because it's a blast, I would never have said that myself. Chiara prepares it with fish from the lake. We also try to enhance the less known and more snubbed species such as catfish and carp. We also tried to work killer prawns: they are tasty and catching them means helping to solve a problem because they risk altering the ecosystem ".
“We left Lecco and returned here after a long journey, which is not over. We would like to go back abroad - Chiara tells me greeting me. Perhaps this is the secret of our project: the heart in the lake and the gaze fixed on the world ". Knowing how to navigate distant and rough waters is not enough to achieve something great, I think as I return to the city through the gentle hills of Brianza. Yes, the real secret is having the courage to suspend your journey for a moment to re-find and re-discover yourself inside. Re-find your lake and re-discover your center. Before freeing the anchor and resuming the journey.