Enrico Cerea + The Cerea Family

Da Vittorio

Clothing by Luisa Beccaria
Clothing by Bijoux de Paris
Styling by Melissa Lupo
Photography by Francesco Brancato
Photography by Zachary Cavanaugh
Production by Camila Salles

 

A Graceful Gown by Luisa Beccaria for a Day at Da Vittorio with the Inspiring Cerea Family.

 

 

by Melissa Lupo

 (original interview October 2016)

 

Chef Enrico and his brother Roberto “Bobo” Cerea have been on almost every major Italian food show from

Top Chef to Master Chef to Prova del Cuoco just to name a few. I run into Enrico at fashion parties in Milan and when he’s not impeccably dressed, hosting and schmoozing, he’s in his chef whites. One of only seven chefs in the country to hold three-michelin stars, the restaurant Da Vittorio is an internationally known spot for jet-setting italo-file gourmets looking for a 5-star dining experience which also happens to feed all the creative minds at Gucci, literally.

When my friend Gary Rulli was in town last he couldn’t believe I hadn’t met chef Cerea yet. An incredibly successful entrepreneur himself, chef Rulli is a legend in San Francisco, California as the owner of many restaurants, even at the airport, in the uber-competitive Bay Area. He had high praise for his friend Enrico and the family that has built an international empire while staying true to their roots. As I would soon discover, an interview with chef Enrico Cerea is an interview with the entire family, since it is their strength together that makes Da Vittorio famous.

Pictured from left to right Rosella Cerea (sister), Enrico Cerea (brother), Francesco Cerea (brother)

 

The restaurant is actually part of gorgeous villa with a pool that satisfies every fantasy you’ve ever had about a romantic Italian get-away. It’s up on a hill in the careening northern countryside, dotted with flowers, with a chic stone terrace overlooking the grounds and super-luxe suites. It isn’t in Milan but it isn’t that far. A 40 minute train to Brescia then 10 minutes driving, you’re already there.

The air was chilly and the sky was grey but as we winded up the hill to arrive at our luxurious location, we were transported to another world.  A warm greeting by the entire family was followed by a white glove service morning feast with all handmade, fresh-cut, fresh-squeezed everything. Brunch will never be the same.

 

 

My look of the day was inspired by Chef Cerea’s contemporary personal style and the radiant romantic fantasy of Da Vittorio itself. Luisa Beccaria is a famous Milanese designer that makes exquisite gowns that every Italian girl dreams of wearing on her wedding day or any special occasion.  It turned out to be a spot-on choice as I discovered later that she is a close family friend who also designed the wedding gowns of all the Cerea women.

A day in the kitchen dodging chefs and making pasta in a delicious velvet dress, City Girl Cooks learned more than a recipe for sauce. An Italian family with 50 years experience building a successful international brand and business, the Cerea’s had some important advice for overcoming adversity, on being a good leader, and on what to do when you make mistakes along the way.
THE INTERVIEW

CITY GIRL: You were a host on the first Top Chef Italia and also MasterChef. What changes do you see happening in Italian cuisine?

 

ENRICO: Well it is definitely changing. A lot of chefs are in the spotlight now, they’re stars. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s bringing attention to the profession but the negative side is that a lot of young chefs disappointed that being an actual chef is not like what you see on TV. While everyone else is enjoying the holidays or watching sports during the day, you’re working. It affects your friendships — all of your relationships — you’ve really got to love this type of work.

 

FRANCESCO: I would also add, that this type of work does offers great opportunities. You can go abroad and find Italian cuisine almost anywhere, not every type of work offers this kind of freedom. So I would consider not only what you’re doing now but what you’d like to do in the future with this.

CITY GIRL: What is the role of a host on a cooking show?

 

ENRICO: I’ve participated in quite a few tv shows like MasterChef, MasterChef Junior, Top Chef and others and I’m always happy to get the call because it is gratifying to be recognized for what you do. You’re able to offer something truly of yourself and help them understand the nature of the job (for those who really want to do this) in just the tiny amount of time you have.

 

CITY GIRL: What special experience does Da Vittorio bring to the contestants?

 

ENRICO: We’re about to approach 50 years. There has been a continuation, a family, a group that is a tradition and a revolution that in 50 years has been transformed into what it is today.

 

CITY GIRL: How do you guys stay current in terms of the menu and the plating and still hold on to tradition?

 

ENRICO: We continue the evolution. The intelligence of a chef is to not be left behind by time but find a way to apply those same traditions in a modern way in the right measurements.

CITY GIRL: I want to talk about how you started. It was in 1966 right? And you guys were right in the center. But that’s not why you become famous is it? It’s because you took a risk. You started serving fish in Bergamo when everyone else was serving meat.

 

ENRICO: yes, yes that’s true! Especially birds with polenta, even pigeons and quail! Bird polenta!

CITY GIRL: So in your opinion, how important is it to take risks, especially if you want to build something that lasts? How can you tell if you’re taking the right risks?

ENRICO: It’s something you know inside. Something you feel in your skin. The desire to give as much as you’re ready to receive. There are a lot of things to weigh. But this makes you grow. You make mistakes in the process but when you do, you go back again and do it over. It happens at work, it happens with people, it happens in places.

Melissa Lupo necklace and bracelet by: Bijoux de Paris

  

CITY GIRL: So many people are afraid of making mistakes, what kind of advice would you give to them?

 

ROSSELLA: You’ve got to set it straight right away. Whether it’s with co-workers or clients.

 

ENRICO: You can either run away or make it right. You have to make recoup, to face it right away. Mistakes happen at work often. New beginnings can start with mistakes.

 

CITY GIRL: In restaurant work you can just get tired of it all. What do you do when this tiredness sets in?

 

FRANCESCO: When you’re tired you’ve got to pull yourself away and regroup. But this kind of work is in your DNA. Everything you do with the contractors, kitchen staff, clients…you don’t want to stop. It’s your lifestyle. It’s like a drug.

 

CITY GIRL: So I have to ask…what is the best and worst thing about working with your family?

 

[EVERYONE LAUGHING AND COUGHING]

 

CITY GIRL: ok ok let’s start with the worst!

Melissa Lupo in Luisa Beccaria and Bijoux de Paris with chef Robert “Bobo” Cerea

FRANCESCO: She can go first (pointing to sister Rosella)

 

ROSELLA: Bad tempers. It’s better to stay upbeat.

 

ENRICO: Let me explain — there are already contrasts when working with your family. Everyone has something to say, maybe something to take care of, or something new to share, and you need to sit down and discuss it and figure out what to do. This doesn’t come easy. But you see we’re all still here together after 50 years, that means something.

 

FRANCESCO: And never ends.

 

CITY GIRL: And what is the best thing about working with your family?

 

FRANCESCO: Definitely the power of a group. When you’re going through a crisis you can depend on each other. Only the best things can happen working with your family

 

CITY GIRL: How do you get from a dream to a reality? How do you make all the small pieces come together to arrive at your goal?

Melissa Lupo bracelet by: Bijoux de Paris

ENRICO: Look, my dad started with a tiny trattoria and then a restaurant, the schools, then there was a hotel and little by little it became the villa and now there are books and we do consulting and so on. But really you follow your passion in the moment. Like we’ve just put out our 50th anniversary book but you follow your joy.

 

ROSELLA: If it’s something you want to do you do it.

 

ENRICO: You make a plan, you decide you want to do something and you do it.

 

 

CITY GIRL: What makes a good leader?

 

 

FRANCESCO: like a good boss?

 

ENRICO: a good leader, it’s different

 

CITY GIRL: Exactly my point

 

ROSELLA: To make people around you understand their importance. If you think you’re better than anyone, that’s not a leader. They’ve got know that you’re there for them and the importance they have. And you have to do twice the work as everybody else…kind of lame but that’s the truth.

CITY GIRL: Do you follow fashion, design or music? any favorite artists or designers?

 

ENRICO: Oh yeah, I mean we’re so close to Milan I’m often in the city with all different designers, we’ve worked with Gucci, Prada, Zegna but we get clients across sectors. Like cars, jewelry…luxury basically. And actually we also do lunch for over 350 people at Gucci.

Melissa Lupo bracelet by: Bijoux de Paris

CITY GIRL: What do you guys serve?

 

ENRICO: we have a grill station, a pizza station, a vegetarian station, stations for rice, and sweets and coffee.

 

CITY GIRL: Wait — are you telling me Gucci crew eats pizza?

 

ENRICO: well if it’s gourmet they do.