Valentina Grilli by shane eaton

“Non avrei mai potuto fare nient’altro”

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Valentina Grilli, barlady at MAG and Backdoor43 cocktail bars. Other than making consistently great cocktails, Vale has another redeeming quality that makes her an ideal bartender. She never forgets to greet you with a smile as you enter or leave the bar. I was curious to find out where Vale developed her great mixing and people skills.

As it turns out, she’s been in the bar industry for 10 years. She started her career in Ferrara (Emilia Romagna) working in a multi-purpose restaurant that also had a pastry shop and bar.  She spent time as a coffee barista and server before finally getting her shot at mixing drinks. Although she only made touristy commercial drinks like spritz, americano, and mojito, she loved her job and decided that bartending could be her future career. Two years into the experience, she met a family who planned to open the first American cocktail bar in the city. It was there that she met Andrea Fidora, her first mentor in the cocktail industry. She perfected her techniques over 2 years under Andrea’s skillful guidance, mastering all the classic cocktails.

From there, she had several seasonal bartending jobs, including a hotel in Bolzano and a high volume bar in Tuscany, where the clientele were mostly rich women. Needless to say, she made (and drank) lots of champagne and Bloody Marys. From Tuscany, she tried her luck at a ski resort hotel, where she managed to greatly improve her English skills. Then, she worked at a cocktail bar in Olbia, before trying to settle down a bit in Bologna, with aspirations of becoming a sommelier.

Then by chance in January 2015, a colleague gave her name to the Campari champion Andrea Dracos, who had a position he urgently needed to fill at MAG café. Although Vale was in town for a sommelier job interview at Expo 2015, she decided to meet with up with Andrea. Apparently things went well because on the second round interview, the boss Flavio hired her without asking her a single question – except of course, when can you start? The day after, Vale started working at MAG where she has been a principal bartender for nearly two years.

When I asked her why there aren’t more female bartenders in Italy, the reason for Vale’s career choice became immediately clear to me. She explained to me that bartending is a very hectic job. As part of the dynamic and fast-pace life, bartenders change jobs often, usually staying at a bar for only 6 months to a year. When she had aspirations of becoming a sommelier, it was because she wanted to slow things down. She had a serious boyfriend at the time and thought that a sommelier job was more ideally suited to long term stability. But the slower pace sommelier life wasn’t for Vale.

Actually, most people can’t handle the stress of working at the high-volume MAG. I’ve seen many wait staff and bartenders quit right away. But Vale thrives on the adrenalin. Mixing rapid fire but high quality cocktails with a smile on her face. Vale is a natural for this game. 

When you stop by MaG, ask Vale to make you a delicious Farmily Daiquiri 2

30 mL lime

10 mL sugar

5 mL Clairin Casimir

50 mL Farmily Botanical Spirit 2016

 

Photography by Toney Teddy Fernandez

Farmily Daiquiri

Farmily Daiquiri

 

Photography by Alessandro Cargnoni

Andrea Bondioli e Giulia Rago by shane eaton

Vi presento Andrea Bondioli, 22enne barista solare e vivace dell'Harp Pub Guinness. Ha un iniziato a lavorare al Pub grazie a un annuncio che ha visto nel suo palazzo, lo stesso della famiglia Corbetta. Prima di diventare una barista, era una cliente e veniva spesso per l’aperitivo con suo papà. Andrea studiava lettere alla Statale insieme a Giulia, di cui vi racconterò dopo. Ma la vita da studentessa non le piaceva e ha deciso di cambiare percorso. Andrea è una persona estroversa e preferisce stare in mezzo al casino – come l’atmosfera del pub. Di recente ha iniziato a preparare anche dei cocktail e vuole seguire qualche corso da barman a Milano. Nelle foto vedrete un ottimo Old Fashioned che mi ha preparato. Fuori dal Pub, le piace fare attivitè tipiche di una giovane single: uscire a ballare, chiacchierare e bere con amici. Il suo locale preferito per un cocktail? Il MaG. Invece solo per il divertimento (cioè sbronzarsi), il Moscow Mule in zona città studi. 

 

Giulia Rago, nata a Milano nel 1993, è una barista adorabile al Pub. La sua passione è la letteratura in cui si sta laureando alla statale. Dopo la laurea triennale farà una magistrale di comunicazione in cattolica. Ascolta la musica rap italiana, esce spesso a ballare e si veste sempre da pinup, almeno al Pub. Una donna alternativa ma anche romantica. A Giulia piace fare la barista perché si sente a suo agio dietro al banco a preparare drink mentre chiacchiera con i clienti. Questo weekend dovrà affrontare la sfida di fare la barlady per un evento privato con 200 persone. Se fate un salto al Pub, chiedete alla Rago di farvi un Boulevardier - è buonissimo.

Gennaro Rapido by shane eaton

Gennaro Rapido è il simpatico capo pizzaiolo al Lievito Madre Sorbillo, in Duomo. Come Matteo MevioLuigi Capuano, Vincenzo Capuano e Raffaele Fortunato / Frattasio Vincenzo è fra i migliori pizzaioli di Milano, e al mondo. Prima di un altro pranzo frenetico alla pizzeria più popolare di Milano, mi ha raccontato un po’ la sua storia.

La sua passione per la pizza è nata già quando aveva 4 anni. Quasi per gioco, ha iniziato a lavorare in una pizzeria a 7 anni. Consegnava le pizze a casa, lavava i piatti, faceva delle preparazioni – solo per stare in mezzo a una pizzeria. Piano piano è cresciuto e ha avuto la sua prima esperienza davanti al forno a 13 anni. Prima di essere un pizzaiolo dice, devi essere un ottimo fornaio. Non si può lavorare al banco senza capire come leggere l’impasto.

Già a 17 anni ha fatto la sua prima esperienza al banco, alla storica sede di Sorbillo in Via dei Tribunali, la strada più importante al mondo per la pizza – un paradiso per la pizza napoletana. Ci sono tante pizzerie in Via dei Tribunali ma ci sono soli 3 numeri civici importanti: al 32 c’è Sorbillo, poi c’è Di Matteo al 94 e Dal Presidente al 120. Gennaro ha avuto la fortuna di avere Gino Sorbillo come maestro. Ha imparato tante cose in Via Dei Tribunali che oggi mette in pratica a Milano. Ha portato qui anche la pizza a rot' 'e carro (ruota di carro), con una pizza XXL che non sta nel piatto! 

Gli ho chiesto come si realizza una pizza ideale. Prima si inizia con l’acqua e la farina. Lui preferisce la farina 0, che è più leggera della farina 00. Poi c’è il lievito madre e per ogni litro d’acqua 30-50 grammi di sale, a seconda clima. Una volta impastato, lascia riposare l’impasto per 24 ore per ottenere una pizza soffice. Nel famoso Report della RAI, abbiamo scoperto che alcuni pizzaioli napoletani usano l’olio di soia o girasole per rendere la pizza meno grassa (e più economica). Gennaro è assolutamente contrario e dice che non si può sacrificare il gusto che offre solo l’olio di oliva extra vergine.

Un anno fa ha deciso di iniziare l’avventura insieme a Sorbillo a Milano. E’ cresciuto insieme a loro e quando gli hanno proposto il nuovo progetto, non poteva dire di no. A Gennaro piace molto Milano anche se gli manca il sole di Napoli.

Alcuni dicono che solo a Napoli si possa mangiare la pizza vera. Sarà l’acqua? La vicinanza ai prodotti freschi? Sarà la volontà di Dio? Gennaro dice che non è vero. Se uno ha il manico buono, usa gli ingredienti giusti e ha la giusta passione e creatività, può fare una pizza perfetta anche a Milano

Fotografo Toney Teddy Fernandez.

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La S di Sorbillo

La S di Sorbillo

Vale e Gennaro

Vale e Gennaro

Io e Gennaro

Io e Gennaro

Margherita Gialla

Margherita Gialla

Gennaro Rapido is the friendly and talented head pizza chef at Lievito Madre Sorbillo Duomo. Along with Matteo Mevio of Marghe, Luigi Capuano of Anema e Cozze Orseolo, Vincenzo Capuano and Raffaele Fortunato / Frattasio Vincenzo of Frijenno Magnanno, he is one of the best pizza chefs in Milano and the world.

Before the hectic lunch period at the most popular pizzeria in Milano, I had the chance to sit down with Gennaro to discuss his life as a pizzaiolo.

For fun, he started working in a pizzeria at 7 years old. He delivered pizzas, washed dishes, and took care of all the preparations. After a while, his patience was rewarded with his first experience in front of the pizza oven at 13 years old.  He was responsible for studying the pizza as it cooked in the hot wood-fired oven, carefully rotating the pizza and learning when was the perfect moment to remove it from the oven. Gennaro explained that before you can become a pizza chef, you must understand every aspect of pizza dough, from the leavening to the cooking. 

As a teenager, he was given his first job as pizza chef at the famous Sorbillo in Via dei Tribunali, the most important street in the world for pizza.  Of the many important pizzerie in Via dei Tribunali, Gennaro says there are only three important street numbers: at 32 there is Sorbillo, at 94 there is Di Matteo and at 120, Dal Presidente, the pizza of choice of Bill Clinton. Gennaro bow applies the knowledge he gained from Gino Sorbillo and his other mentors at Via Dei Tribunali at Lievito Madre al Duomo. He has even brought the idea of pizza a rot' 'e carro to Milano, the idea of making a pizza that is so large that it doesn't fit on the plate! 

I asked Gennaro how to make the perfect pizza. His preference is type 0 flour, which is is lighter than 00. The dough is leavened using Lievito madre (mother yeast), and for every liter of water, 30-50 grams of salt, depending on the climate. Once the dough is well kneaded, it's allowed to rest for 24 hours, to help realize a soft and delicious pizza crust.  

I asked Gennaro his opinion of the controversial TV program Report done by RAI. The program revealed that certain pizza chefs use soy bean or sunflower oil to produce pizzas that seem lighter but are also much cheaper. Gennaro is 100% against this practice. He says one cannot sacrifice both the taste and healthful qualities that only extra virgin olive oil provides.

Gennaro was raised by the Sorbillo family and when he was given the chance to be head pizza chef at  Sorbillo Milano, he couldn't turn them down. Although he misses the sun of Naples, he really enjoys living in Milano.

Finally, I asked Gennaro about the myth that one can only find true pizza in the city of Naples. Perhaps it's the water, the freshness of the ingredients, or maybe it's simply divine invention? Gennaro says that if you have the skills and the passion and can source top quality ingredients, you can make the perfect pizza even in Milano. 

L'audio dell'intervista

Marco Russo by shane eaton

Marco Russo, class of 1985, began his bartending career as a barback in Trezzo sull’Adda. After stints at several bars, he ended up at Fashion Cafè in Brera, where he made one of the most important friendships of his career with Flavio Angiolillo. The two decided to become partners and open MaG cafè, a cocktail bar on Naviglio Grande. MaG is one of the most special places in Milano. It's enough to make you fall in love with this city, or in my case, start a blog about cocktails and food.

With MaG becoming more and more popular, the bartenders found they were no longer able to make elaborate and time-consuming drinks or chat with their customers. And that’s when the idea of 1930 secret cocktail bar was born – as a way of recapturing that initial charm of MaG in a more private and elegant environment.

Shortly after 1930 opened, Marco decided that he would spend all of his time there, getting to better know his clients and also ensure the success of the bar. In the 3-year history of 1930, he has come up with an impressive number of drink recipes spanning 7 cocktail books. He is also responsible for many of the whisky-based cocktails at the enchanting BackDoor43.  

If you have the good fortune of being able to enter 1930, I encourage you to sit up at the bar and watch Marco as he beautifully prepares your cocktail. His past experiences as a flair bartender have given him an amazing grace behind the bar. His training as a boxer also greatly benefits him during his long shifts at 1930. Despite being a bit guido (tamarro), he's got a great heart and is one of my favorite people in the food and beverage industry. For the Faro di Scozia alone, Marco is my hero.

Below are some of Marco’s drink making highlights over the years:

Faro di Scozia (Lighthouse of Scotland) tells the story of a captain trying to steer his ship towards Scotland in the midst of a violent storm. The first ingredient is sea water because of the strong waves crashing against the boat, constantly spraying water in his face. Next is Belhaven stout since it’s the beer of choice for him and his crew. When he finally reaches land, the first thing he does is kisses the ground beneath him and so distilled earth in also included. At the first pub he comes across, he celebrates with a peaty scotch, Laphroaig quarter cask.

This is my favorite drink of all time. It’s the perfect balance of smoky, creamy, bitter and sweet. This drink is liquid gold.  

Recipe: 45 mL of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, 7,5 mL of sea water, 8,75 mL of distilled earth, 1,25 mL of milk, 8 drops of bitter, 7,5 mL of syrup of Belhaven and vanilla.

Faro di Scozia (photo Toney Teddy Fernandez)

Faro di Scozia (photo Toney Teddy Fernandez)

 

Inferno is my favorite drink on the new menu. Served literally on fire in a beautiful fire-resistant tin cup, Inferno is the spicy equivalent of the Faro di Scozia. Amazing.

Recipe: 6 drops of grapefruit bitter, 7.5 mL of paprika syrup, 7 mL of distilled pepper, 45 mL of mescal, 2.5 mL of Ferro-china, 10 mL of Ancho Reyes

Inferno

Inferno

 

Niseko is an awesome drink if you like scotch and mushrooms (who doesn’t?!). It is dedicated to Masataka Taketsuru who travelled to Scotland in 1918 to learn the process of distilling Scotch whisky first hand. Upon returning to Japan, he started the Nikka distillery, which is responsible for some of the finest whiskies in the world.  The distillery is located near the majestic Niseko mountain. Given its unique flavour profile, the Niseko cocktail is best appreciated with a fully cleansed palate as the first drink of the night.

Recipe: 60 mL of Japanese whisky, 2.5 mL of china, 15 mL of mushroom syrup, 4 drops of orange syrup, 5 drops of orange bitter

Niseko

Niseko

 

Martesana is cocktail named after the canal (naviglio) which runs from Trezzo sull'Adda to Milano, following the same path as Marco in his life. The most important ingredient is gorgonzola the famous Lombard cheese which Marco has skilfully managed to distil at low pressure in the lab next to 1930. This drink is special for me because Gorgonzola is the reason I first fell in love with Italian food back at my uncle’s restaurant in Little Italy in Vancouver.

Recipe: 30 mL of single malt scotch whisky, 30 mL of distilled gorgonzola, 5 mL of syrup of peanuts, 5 mL of pear glucose, 1.25 mL of salt syrup, 1 drop of walnut bitters.

Stamping the ice ball

Stamping the ice ball