The legend of Enoteca Pinchiorri
Giorgio Pinchiorri and Annie Féolde of Enoteca Pinchiorri. 40 years of the most gourmet couple in the world
He calls her Anna, she calls him Il Pinc. They seem to be, or maybe they really are, the characters of a fairy tale. The forty years of life and work spent together seem to fly in their enchanted palace at N° 87 of Via Ghibellina, bought one piece at a time.
They come and go, they alternate, they trade places like the yin and yang of a magical whole.
Giorgio Pinchiorri, from the Emilia region of Italy, and Annie Féolde, from Nice, France, are the explosive mixture of the Enoteca Pinchiorri, three Michelin stars, the first in Europe to have held the Wine Spectator Grand Award since 1984. Luigi Veronelli, who has the merit of having discovered it, wrote of the Enoteca Pinchiorri in his last guide: Immense, legendary, inimitable wine cellar.
Who was Annie Féolde before becoming the great chef that we all know?
As a little girl I was a little wild, always in search of the freedom I had known in the countryside where my grandmother lived, so much so that when I turned 13, my mother (receptionist at the Negresco) decided to send me to boarding school.
And Giorgio, as a boy in Monzone di Pavullo?
I remember that the most exciting thing was to compete with the other boys from the village, trying to intercept the Ferraris as they speeded over the hill towards Modena, what great thrills and what great races!
Tastes of your childhood?
A. The dishes prepared by my maternal grandmother, she was able to make extraordinary things out of nothing.
G. Tosca grapes, those with a thick skin.
What brought you to Florence?
A. The desire to improve my Italian. I had studied in college, it was my third language. At first I wasn’t too enthusiastic, but when I began to study Italian literature, the fatal attraction took place.
G. My mom was the cook of a Florentine family, the Martelli, six brothers who, however, lived in Palermo. One of them moved to Florence and wanted my mother to come with him.
Giorgio, when were you struck by the idea of wine?
I was working in Buca Lapi. One evening, Burt Lancaster and Anthony Perkins came to dinner. They were served a Chateau Mouton, a Lafite and a Brunello Biondi Santi. And all they did was to talk about the Brunello!
And the Enoteca?
In Florence there were already important wine cellars. One of these was run by two brothers who, however, wanted to start something new. They found this place in Via Ghibellina. It was the ‘70s. They named it Enoteca Nazionale. They hired me as a sommelier, charged to search out and choose wines and to offer tastings to customers before they decided to make a purchase. There was a rather commercial focus. Then I gradually started to raise the level of the selections, concentrating on great wines and great novelties and serving them by the glass. It was the right idea.
And how did what is now considered one of the ten best restaurants in the world come about?
There was still nothing related to the idea of sample tastings to accompany the wines. Then, some customers began to say, “sure, if there were something to eat, it wouldn’t hurt ..”. In a month’s time, I got organized with bread, cheese and salami. The rule was: just a little, but only the best.
Who were the first customers?
Count Riccardi, Guttuso with his Florentine friends, Carla Fracci, who at the time was the fiancée of a water polo champion belonging to the Bardi family. And then Luigi Veronelli came often ..
And then what?
Anna arrived in ‘72, and we decided to expand a little. She improved the cooking, because that was her job. And our success grew, thanks to her, so much so that the cuisine became more famous than the wine cellar ...
Annie, when did you begin to receive the first signs of recognition?
Gino Veronelli was the first to reward us for our efforts with his coveted Sole. Then, in 1981 there was the special mention in the Michelin Guide and, the year after, the first star, and in 1983 the second. And then the much-desired third star in 1993.
What are Annie’s fondest memories?
At the end of a dinner that we had prepared for many guests, we found ourselves all together around the great Paul Bocuse [the inventor of the Nouvelle Cuisine] who was talking, and talking, and at the end he concluded with: “The Nouvelle Cuisine is now over, from now on we will have to think about local cuisine.” It was 1982! That is, we were just at the beginning of this new way of thinking about food! I was both shocked and happy at the same time, because from when I had started to construct my dishes around the wines chosen by Giorgio, I had always taken interest in the traditions of Tuscan cuisine and in the knowledge and selection of local raw materials. I continue to do so even today.