We met Carlo Cracco, about to open his new Milanese 5 floors restaurant in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
By Marco Lombardo
The date is in Via Victor Hugo, where the overturned chairs on the tables look down one of the myths of Italian cuisine. There is a silence that speaks, seventeen years are not few, interrupted only by the typical noises of a moving: soon there will be nothing left of what has been and Carlo Cracco will begin his new adventure in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele: Here we started in November 2000 with the first dinner. Leaving a restaurant is leaving a part of your life, leaving this restaurant you can imagine what it is. If I close my eyes I can see who ate at which table and what: presidents, musicians, artists, characters of all kinds have passed. Seventeen years, the most important part of my life. But I’m not sad: this place does not close, there will be something else. And Cracco goes on. We go forward. We are seated at a small table in one of the underground floors: the real success has been to make an icon a restaurant that stretches only downwards, without windows. Almost a bunker, where the secrets of one of the most famous chefs in Italy were born. And it’s certainly not a Michelin star unless it makes it less glamorous. The voices echo a little, but a little emotion is felt. And if one were to think of being in front of the TV chef, he was wrong. Carlo Cracco, in fact, does not scream. Nothing “yes, chef!”, It is natural to give of yourself, in the end – as he says in advertising – it is only Carlo. And Carlo begins to tell, almost in a whisper: In the Gallery we’ll open in February, my wish is that. However we are there: as soon as we take possession of the kitchens we leave. Then it will take a month to go to full capacity
There is great expectation …
Five floors, one completely ours for the production of pastry and chocolate. Under a crazy cellar, to visit and where to buy. And for the audience two bars, the hall and even a small event space: I think we will call it Salone Particolare. With an incredible view of the Gallery
Cracco in the Gallery: there is more pride, satisfaction, what else?
Perhaps pride, but not for me. I’ve been in the kitchen for 37 years, it’s my job, my life. It is the destination of a journey. That I did not do alone
How was the first day in the kitchen? You were 15 years old
Yes, I was from Remo in Vicenza. And it was tragic. On the contrary: tragicomic. I burned my fingers. The fingertips. Then we used the oil can to put the ashes of the fireplace and the first job was that: I take the bin, it was still hot, I remain attached hands. All ten fingers … They all laughed. They told me: As a first day it’s not bad, maybe you’d better go home. Maybe change jobs
Fortunately, you resisted
I’d never been to the restaurant before then: I’m once in a restaurant with my cousin when we had communion. And I did not even know the difference between a restaurant and a restaurant. Then nothing. Today everything is different. Of course, the chef who screams has always existed and still exists today, only that these days you need to be more moderate because you can not insult. Trouble. But once it was normal: if you had to wake someone up, you would wake him up like that. When it takes discipline and severity, some dirty word makes it clear if one is suitable for this work. And it usually works
How are aspiring chefs of today?
It is more difficult to find those who believe in this job: the perception is that it is easy for everyone, but it is much more difficult. Today, those who choose to be a cook have ten roads. Once you had two: the hotel or restaurant. If you cannavi those, you remained hospitals and canteens. Now if a boy does not want to come to work with Cracco, he can do it at home too. But the competition is high, for the sake of perspiration
They say it’s a job that takes a lot from life
It is not true: all the work done well takes away something, even if you are an engineer or a skilled worker. And once it was much heavier to be busy the weekend. You were only for you on Monday, which was a loser day. It’s not like that anymore: today it’s like the others. The truth is that this is a job that gives you so much
Do you cook for yourself?
Never. If I’m alone at home, I’m going to eat outside. I cook only for the others
And where does one go out to eat like Cracco?
In the restaurants of colleagues: it is right to try them out, to recognize their work. Out of respect and inspiration. And then there is always something to learn
Let’s talk about the lost star? Let’s face it: there are those around who took it with a smile. Why so much endive?
Look: the paradox is that we have received much more solidarity from all those who do not do this job, and it makes you think. Customers and friends have come to tell me: Carlo, but why? But it is not possible. And I tell them: What I have to tell you, I know it’s not possible
And how was it possible?
Let’s start from one point: this is not a local that is closing but that is moving. It is turning into a project that started a year and a half ago. So: boh …
Yes, for heaven’s sake, someone called to ask why. But … Let’s say that I discovered a world that escapes me and that thinks it differently from me
One of your colleagues said: «Cracco must return to the kitchen»
In my opinion, he is one who has never come to eat at me: even when I finished recording Masterchef or Hell’s Kitchen at 8 pm, I would take the bike or the car and would come here without going home. Even though I was cooked. I. And here too the dishes fly, but only if it happens that the idiot is me, if I realize I do not have everything under control. I have 16 chefs and 34 employees, I will have a double in the gallery: how can I not come? On the sign is my name, not that of another
What is the Michelin Guide for a chef?
Definitely an incentive. But I’ll ask you a question: can you judge a restaurant only by the stars it has?
Someone thinks so
Surely not: a restaurant is judged by going to eat. And not one, but two or three or four times. Because the wrong day always happens to everyone, while a certain type of work you see in time and only then you can say that you know that place. And when a chef becomes reliable, he remains trustworthy. We all have drops, we are not machines: it is like a pilot, an athlete. Count the path, what you did and what you will do
That’s why it was wrong to take off a star?
If the Cracco Restaurant had really closed means that they were wrong: they gave us a star too much
How much has Milan changed?
When I arrived in 99 they gave me the idiot, with this restaurant downstairs. Where do you want to go? Now it has become the most sought-after city: habits have changed, not just the city. And Romito, Beck is coming too … It’s becoming the Paris of Italy. Maybe I saw it right
Is all this catering boom positive?
There is a market to operate, and this is positive. But also a gold rush: they are all convinced that a bistro, a pastry shop and bar is better than having a shop. There is, for now. But in the end it will remain only what is good
Someone however claims that eating at 200 and more euros …
Why: spend 500 to go to the Scala? Who understands, who has really been in these restaurants, knows why. I’ve never seen billionaire cooks, I’ve seen cooks who work like crazy to grow up. Type Vittorio, to make a name. So? Why is it only a scandal? In France, to say, spending for good food is normal, but in Italy people still think that it is throwing away the money because we are a country of local inns and trattorias, where you eat a lot to spend little. We are born provincials. Before eradicating this way of thinking will want generations. At least five
Yet something happened
Yes, Marchesi arrived in the eighties. I was there: I made them his 3 macaroni, I cooked 4 to have the substitute. You paid 180 thousand lira, even 200 thousand for one account and people complained: For 3 macaroni? … His was a provocation
What was it like working for him?
I was a boy with father railwayman and a housewife mom, I saw prices that at times I did not even know how to write. But he was interested in learning. And he was my first teacher. The teacher. He taught me that what it costs is not food: it’s the personal, it’s the training. It’s like La Scala, you pay for the ensemble: actors, dancers, orchestra. The price is needed to keep everything, not to make us rich. We’re better than once, it’s true. And we are freer: we have the freedom to do this job well. This is culture
Marchesi said that you were one of his pupils, but not a disciple. What really happened between you?
But nothing. Only I never wanted to be a Marquis. He was my first reference: but my goal was not Marquis, because there was one of Marchesi. In my small way, I managed to be Cracco. He was very strict, as we are all of us on the other hand. And in this craft you live in contact with your kids 20 hours a day, you go on vacation. Sometimes things happen without a real reason. His favorite was Paolo Lopriore, because he has the same character: he is a Marquis who still lives. Paolo is what Gualtiero wanted to be when he was young: let’s not forget that he opened his restaurant at 46. Paul is the true disciple, he is there. I’ve never seen it as a diminutio “. Gualtiero was a resource, the Italian Paul Bocuse. But in France Bocuse had the 3 stars since 1965, but in Marchesi they removed them. Then he got angry and let himself be dragged into the three-card game because that was it. I told him: Gualtiero, answer with silence. But in any case Italy has lost a reference: it had to be taken to a higher level, it was History. He made the revolution in a country where the revolution is only done in words
Let’s go back to you and talk about TV
In 2009, the TV worked. It was the right time. Somebody has bothered. Patience
Many do not forgive advertising. That of the fries, then …
Yet. Marchesi did much worse: Mc Donald’s and Surgela. So: what are we talking about? And do you think Bocuse has never advertised? But he gave … People think that I wanted to become rich, that it was for vanity. But I did it because I’m alone and I have to manage everything to grow and improve. So you do not have to bow your head in front of anyone. And I had a project: that of the Gallery. I did it for this
Why did you stop with television?
Not for quarrels with my colleagues, as it was written. On the contrary: I always hear them. And because I had other things to do. For example, preparing a wedding with Rosa: it’s a nice step, a great emotion
You have 4 children: Sveva and Irene of 15 and 11 years and Peter and Caesar of 5 and 3. Will they follow you?
The great ones for now are dedicated to sweets, but who knows. I hope someone imitates the path of that stupid father, at least one in four … But they have to decide them
Oh well, I ask you: what does Carlo Cracco do in his living room?
He laughs: Ah, now I exploit it, since the restaurant is still, while I usually arrive at home not before one and a half. Then in the meantime I also have to follow Garage Italia, and it’s a bit like in ’99: they said I did not have to do it because the area is bad. Who cares: make it become beautiful
And what will Carlo Cracco do in the future?
I’m interested in the project: the Garage, the Segheria that’s great. And the Gallery: it’s not a whim, it’s a necessity. I had no more space and I did not want to send people away anymore. And you can not ask for 200 euros without giving in exchange comfort: now I’ll have coffee, pastry, a winery in Milan I do not have anyone. I will have the services, smoking for example: I do not smoke, but I am not a doctor, I must give those who pay the possibility of not having any inconvenience. Here I was from God, I could stay still: instead I bet
You will win?
I worked a lot and I hope not to die with the white jacket on. But now I can say that I did mine, which I gave. Now, finally, I enjoy it.
We met Carlo Cracco, about to open his new Milanese 5 floors restaurant in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.