Updated: Mar 6
Al Mercato | Milan.
Chefs Beniamino Nespoor and Eugenio Roncoroni are the owners of Al Mercato Ristorante, Burger Bar and Noodle Bar and the kings of street food in Milan.
They revel in the fact that street food is small, custom designing every element down to the cut of the lettuce, delivering complex flavors and textures in one small bite. Both chefs come from prestigious culinary backgrounds, one with tattoos and the other with a vintage car, and you can’t help but want to be a part of their crew as they joke around with each other and the staff. These chefs strike a clever balance between class and deviance, something you’ll notice especially in the dishes at Noodle Bar. Check out their new concept, Al Mercato Taco Bar in Navigli on via Casale, it's enough to make any "mamacita" proud.
CGC: How did you become a chef?
EUGENIO: When I finished high school I didn’t want to be in an office but my family was strict and I didn’t want to tell them I wanted to be a chef so I started working for free for a friend at night but told my parents I was going to the gym.
BENIAMINO: I guess following my passion, I always cooked with my mom and my aunt. I started in a restaurant in Milan, then I did internships in some restaurants, and later opened my own. What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
EUGENIO: My tongs.
BENIAMINO: My knife, I really like to sharpen my knives.
CGC: Why did you get your first tattoo? Why did you get your last tattoo?
EUGENIO: You can’t see it anymore because it’s covered, but when I was twelve, I wanted to emulate my brother who was a writer and a graffiti artist, so my first tattoo was the name of my crew and was homemade with just a needle and ink. The two letters were “D.S” but only the “D” came out.
BENIAMINO: No tattoos, no piercings.
CGC: What is your guilty food pleasure?
EUGENIO: Fried bone marrow.
BENIAMINO: The expensive ones that make me feel guilty because I spend a lot, caviar, foie gras…
CGC: Where do you guys get your meat for your burgers?
EUGENIO: We get it from this farm near Parma called Azienda Gricola San Paolo. They’re actually really famous for these black pigs that were almost extinct in Italy. They’re all black and taste like a Spanish pig but we don’t use it in the restaurant because it’s very, very fatty and actually hard to eat.
BENIAMINO: Azienda Agricola in Emilia Romagna, Eugenio found the place through his family
CGC: I feel like Italy is going through a type of modern renaissance and people are starting to more openly embrace diversity, is this affecting the way people eat here?
EUGENIO: People are getting more open but we still suffer from the 80’s and 90’s. People say they are more open but they just like the Italian version of foreign foods, more simple and easy flavors, not too strong. But we’re getting there…
BENIAMINO: I think they are opening their minds to cuisine, the concept of eating out was basically only to have Italian food and now they are traveling out of the country more. For that reason I think they are more open to new flavors and cultures.
CGC: That said, What artist/designer/musician inspires you?
EUGENIO: My brother. He started as a graffiti artist then went to Katmandu on a Fullbright scholarship and now he’s a painter and sculptor who has stuff at the Guggenheim. You can see the sensitivity in his work.
BENIAMINO: Rick Ross. Because he's the first one that comes to mind with a successful story.
CGC: What is a good hamburger bun supposed to be like?
EUGENIO: Actually there should be three important things: a lot of butter, inside and outside, a little crispy on the outside and in the dough and should be a little bit sweet, like a brioche bread.
BENIAMINO: Fluffy and crunchy at the same time, buttery; with seeds on the top to make it even crunchier. What is always in your kitchen at home (what ingredients can you not live without)?
EUGENIO: Every type of hot sauce but Sriachia is my favorite.
BENIAMINO: always cheese and salame, just to snack on, not to cook.
CGC: When you want to make something simple, quick, and good, what do you make?
EUGENIO: Probably pasta with oil and pepperoncino. Actually you know what, I always eat anchovies and bread, the ones we make here in the restaurant under oil, I always have a bag of them.
BENIAMINO: Scrambled eggs.
CGC: What is something people should know about you?
EUGENIO: Don’t take my niceness as stupidity. I’m a nice guy but don’t piss me off.
BENIAMINO: I'm deaf in one year and an asshole in the other one.
CGC: Any upcoming projects/collaborations?
EUGENIO: Yes. We have a taco bar coming out and we are arranging a guest chef dinner with Mauricio at Rebelot.
BENIAMINO: We are opening a third restaurant in Milan, before the summer and a burger bar in Shanghai before the end of the year.
CGC: Where in the world is the best place to eat, why?
EUGENIO: The United States.
BENIAMINO: New York, because of the mix of haute cuisine in an American way with street food, everywhere all night long.
CGC: If you could have anyone design chef whites, who would it be?
BENIAMINO: Maison Margiela.
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