As part our Grazie series we’re taking a closer look at the most exciting artists, designers, chefs and creatives inspired by Italian style. A highly skilled ‘sfoglina’ (an expert trained in the art of making pasta by hand), Gaia Enria is responsible for bringing an authentic taste of the Italian dining experience to London with her two Burro e Salvia restaurants – the city’s first artisan Pastifici. We caught up with Gaia to talk about the joy of creating, the importance of quality ingredients and the passion and warmth that makes Italian dining so special.
Hi Gaia. Can you tell us about yourself and what you do?
I grew up in Turin, Italy, a city so rich in culture and style, where I studied communications and over the years worked across different businesses before ending up in the food & drinks world. I decided to launch Burro e Salvia only 5 years ago.
When did you first get into cooking and what inspired you to start Burro e Salvia? What do you enjoy about it and what inspires your recipes?
I grew up in a family full of passions and often united by food. Launching Burro e Salvia was a great opportunity to bring to life what I have always considered a lifestyle and not only a business.
I take inspiration for our recipes daily from the places I love the most and the producers I have the chance of meeting.
You make fresh pasta each day – how important do you think it is to serve freshly made food and use fresh ingredients?
High quality of ingredients and seasonality are at the base of our concept. We prefer to make only the varieties of pasta that can really express what is best at a specific time of the year.
You also run pasta-making workshops. Why do you think more people are becoming interested in discovering the artistry involved in making their own pasta?
People are realizing that the “making” is a fundamental aspect in understanding what is behind a product. With pasta there is also the element of conviviality: it starts with making it and ends when enjoying it at the table!
The Italian food culture is loved around the world. What do you think makes Italian food and the Italian dining experience so special?
Like I was saying, conviviality is key to make Italian food different. We are probably one of the countries that talk the most about the food we make and eat!
But let’s not forget that in Italy some of the best produce has been made the same way for years, so I believe there is a pride that is transmitted from the producer to the consumer.
What are some of your favourite Italian recipes?
Starting with pasta, I love Agnolotti del Plin, the traditional meat mini ravioli we make in Piemonte.
But I’m always in for a great Veal Milanese as well!
I don’t eat lots of desserts but when back in Italy I am always looking for the best ice cream around.
Tell us about some of your favourite places in Italy.
My favourite locations always combine great scenery with great food. I find I plan travels around my taste buds much of the time. Like my trip to the Laghe area in Piemonte. A stunning place with hills and villages perched over vineyards that give life to some renowned wines, such as Barolo and Barbaresco. I love driving up and down the hills, stopping to nibble in some simple authentic trattorias, wander around a little market and buy some fresh produce or some vintage furniture. Its magnificent scenery has now become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s easy to see why.
Going south, definitely Sicily. Here I find everything I enjoy about travelling: the light, the warmth, the architecture, the food and the sea. Besides, although it is one region it comes with so many variations. The eastern and western coast are so different, my favourite thing is to travel all the way from Taormina down to Modica, passing through Catania, Siracusa, and Ragusa Ibla.
Who are your favourite chefs, artists and photographers?
Italian excellence for me today is best represented by Massimo Bottura, the Michelin star chef of Osteria Francescana and number 1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. He has a great combination of charm, style, humour and, well, his dishes are the perfect match of tradition and creativity.
An artist from I have always loved is Michelangelo Pistoletto for his works where photography is integrated on mirror surfaces. A few years ago I managed to get my hands on a small one, it was a very good investment as his works are celebrated worldwide!
What do you think sets the Italian approach to life apart from the rest of the world?
There are many factors but the one I appreciate the most is our ability to return to our roots, to our heritage, then refresh it with creativity and passion. And often a good dose of irony!