An Italian woman, Nadia Santini, has been named the world’s best female chef by the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants listing published by the foodies bible, Restaurant magazine last April. Santini, and her gourmand’s retreat Dal Pescatore however, are no newcomers to recognition. Already in 2008, Nadia Santini placed 23 on Restaurant’s listing. She entered the annals of the country’s culinary history in 1996 when she became the first Italian woman to receive three Michelin stars for her restaurant in Runate, northern Italy – the family-owned eatery known for a mix of traditional Italian cooking and modern influences.
It was there tucked in a picturesque corner of the Oglio Sud nature reserve on a country road in a village of approximately 38 souls that she learned her craft from her husband’s grandmother Teresa and his mother Bruna.
Broad-smiled mother-in-law Bruna, said Nadia speaking to a group of journalists in 2011, is unstoppable and moves with such rapidity that one has to watch her to understand her magic. “There’s just no explaining some of the techniques she uses,” said her daughter-in-law Nadia. “She cooks with her hands, eyes and instinct – something that she passed on to us”.
That instinct, and an ever-growing fan base fed by it, have continued to propel the legendary restaurant into ‘must-go’ lists, reviews and guides.
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the northern Italian hinterland between Cremona and Mantua, Dal Pescatore feels more like a visit somebody’s elegant country home, with table spacing and lighting creating a perfect harmony of intimacy without isolation. It has an almost 100-year history and continues to be operated by the third and fourth generation of the Santini family near the village of Canneto.
In a 2012 interview, Gordon Ramsay told ANSA about his experience working with Bruna at Dal Pescatore. “I think I learned my real appreciation for Italian cuisine watching the Santini family and how meticulous they were in choosing produce, balancing flavors and the flair with which they presented dishes. My learning curve as a chef took a huge upturn when I apprenticed at Dal Pescatore,’ he says.
Every dish at Dal Pescatore is prepared with the finest and freshest ingredients of the day, and hence the menu changes with the seasons as well as with the availability of the freshest produce of that moment.