Elena Lanza

manager of the dining room and of the pastry and tea service

When and where did you meet Matteo?

In a bar, in the shadow of the fourteenth-century walls of the magnificent Soave. I think it was Easter Monday. He explained that he had just returned from India, then went on to discuss Alain Ducasse: I was all ears, the conversations interested me and – as often happens by reflex – I was also interested in the person. So I snuck in. So, at aperitif time, without any warning, life changed. I found an ally, a companion in adventures. My husband. My best friend.

What were the key points of your training?

I studied at a linguistic high school and later graduated in Law. A linear path that gave satisfaction to me and also to my parents. And yet… sometimes it’s the clandestine things that fascinate us: I liked working in the restaurant, and even more so, doing it without my parents knowing. In a completely harmless atmosphere of conspiracy. It was a game, and at the same time a passion. And when these two elements intertwine, they give rise to a fatal outcome (laughs)! In short, my training took place in parallel, on a double track: on one side the university classrooms, on the other the room full of tables. As well as, obviously, the pastry shop.

And the turning points in your professional life?

I remember single episodes, emotions linked to the initial moments of a new experience. The emotion of the first dinner at Alain Ducasse’s Plaza Athénée, in London. There I really understood what it means to manage a room in the name of excellence: the waiters didn’t even seem real, as ethereal as they were… they hovered, or rather they flew! For the art of pastry making, however, the turning point coincides with the courses at the École Ducasse. Here too I remember a precise emotion in seeing the pastry chef as if suspended on a cloud (incidentally, I continue to attend the Parisian courses even now, without my head in the clouds anymore…). The third turning point concerns Paris again: in fact, I am honored to frequent the maison of Madame Yu Hui Tseng, the only woman among the ten masters of the tea ceremony present in the world today. Tea is an authentic initiatory journey.

And then there is the other people’s table.

For me it’s about the table and the room, since wherever I go I would like to learn something related to what concerns me. Focusing my attention on the table I would start with Anne-Sophie Pic, visited many times, always leaving me amazed how I knew nothing. The experience at Victor Arguinzoniz’s Asador Extebarri is incredible: you go there for the fish, the meats – naturally, sublime -, and you come across a plate of simple peas, without any combination or seasoning, cooked on the grill and smoked like only him he knows how to do it. The table of others does not necessarily presuppose a public place. It reminds me of when we went to Jean-Claude Fugier, in Lyon. He prepared his crêpes suzette for us in the intimate atmosphere of his home. Him, celebrated master, performing those impeccable gestures just for the two of us, in a tracksuit…

What does your typical day at work look like?

In the morning I dedicate myself completely to Garibaldi, from breakfast to lunch. The afternoon is dedicated to pastry making, with the study and creation of the dessert line, which always varies depending on the time of year. In the evening, dinner service at the restaurant on the first floor. Much of what I deal with concerns form: studying and managing the room, activating the best service. In this search for form, I am helped by having studied – and thoroughly understood – the meaning and purpose of oriental rituals relating to tea. Matteo and I really fell in love with the latter, so much so that we created an almost esoteric tea offering – if you can excuse the term -, truly for enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

How would you define your pastry shop?

My desserts are light, seasonal, focused on a protagonist ingredient that I try to enhance, with little or no sugar. I am inspired by the various nuances of the word itself: ‘sweet’ is something that has to do with kindness. So I would like it to be what I create. I, we, are above all interested in offering the best possible quality. I can make a very simple chocolate and caramel recipe – without anything else – but with the best possible chocolate and caramel it will still be a delight. Returning to the desserts, I want to underline that for me it is important to let the guest conclude the tasting experience in harmony with what was previously proposed, therefore reconfirming the typical lightness of Matteo’s dishes.

What are your favorite ingredients? The dishes? The wines?

My preferences change based on the seasons, the climate, even my mood at the moment. There are dishes, wines that are more wintery or more summery – I certainly don’t discover this – but also more optimistic or tinged with melancholy. One thing I can say: for me the sense of smell is crucial, it may seem strange but if I were forced to choose between tasting a dish, a wine, or just smelling it, I would feel satisfied simply grasping its scent – which I believe to be its true essence.

How would you define your restaurant today? And how would you like it to be?

Today I find it chic, but welcoming. Elegance and style are fundamental, of course. However, they must be combined with a sense of hospitality, with a genuine desire to meet guests and make them feel at ease. Furthermore, I would define it as a green place, given that the naturalness of the foods and wines is complemented by the choice to use biodegradable materials where possible. How would I like it to be? I would be happy for it to change with us, as we progress on our journey. Today we are more mature, more confident in what we do, and the venue in turn reflects this new dimension of ours.

Every now and then, you will rest…

For me, rest means eating in other ways, in other worlds. With Matteo we choose holiday locations based on the dishes and cuisines we want to know. The numerous trips to France are another opportunity to relax, with the exception of the rather uncomfortable return (laughs), given that we fill the van beyond belief with all the specialities, the delights, the rarities that we have managed to find and want to let people discover. to our customers. Abroad we also purchase a large number of cookbooks, on pastries, bread and wine. Traveling gives us the opportunity to expand our knowledge and our library.