A little over a month ago, a new bartender entered the Fourghetti in Bologna behind the counter. It is Paolo Cesino, born in 1984 and originally from Castellamare di Stabia (NA), who we decided to interview, to delve deeper into the path he is pursuing in his new restaurant.
Hi Paolo, how did you start your career and what was your first step towards the world of cocktails?
I started working in this sector at the age of 14-15, because I was fascinated by the fame of the neighborhood barman. Initially I worked in a bar before and after school. Then, it was the turn of the discos, and then of the experiences in cocktail bars, between Castellamare and the Sorrento Peninsula. After graduating I felt the need to make a leap in quality, which is why I enrolled in a one-year bartending school, the Working Flair Bartending School (WFBS), which gave me the opportunity to really train on the field. Here I refined the mixing techniques and learned the flair, together with the conception of this work in all aspects. After that I followed other training courses, at the end of which I began to find my concept of mixing. I combined the techniques I had learned during the courses with my previous knowledge, in particular the choice to use everything of a product, without producing waste.
Which experiences have marked you most along your career path and what type of path are you following at Fourghetti?
The most significant experience so far was that of the first place where I managed the bar, in Bologna, the Wood Gastrobar. Here I learned the existence of all the economic aspects of management and I had the opportunity to improve my welcome towards the customer. It was the first place where I fully expressed my concept of mixing which involves the use of cooking, non-waste and self-production techniques. I arrived at Fourghetti on 8 September this year. I immediately wanted to work closely with chef Erik Lavacchielli, with whom there is an excellent relationship of sharing thoughts in the tasting menus, in which some cocktails I created were paired with his dishes.
Can you give us some examples of the cocktails you have on the menu and which you offer in combination with the dishes?
We have a total of fifteen cocktails on the menu, which are divided into three sections. One of these, Signature, represents my idea of cocktails, which is well expressed in the Mediterranean Garden. Here I have given the acidic part with a notoriously sweet ingredient, the carrot, and the sweet one with a notoriously acidic element, the citrus sorbet. Another section with which I identify a lot is Dalla Cucina, a selection of recipes in which some cooking elements become part. For tasting, paired with a meat dish, we proposed a Negroni in which I did not change the alcoholic part but the bitter part of the bitter. It's called From the pan to the glass and I prepared it with the classic ingredients that we find in oil and vinegar in almost all pantries. The bitter part is composed of rhubarb softened by the aroma of the artichoke; I replaced the sweet vermouth with dry and infused it with green Cerignola olives to give it flavor. I worked all these vacuum-packed ingredients together with sautéed porcini mushrooms.
When did you start working on liquid cuisine? Is this a topic you want to explore even more now that you are at Fourghetti?
Since I opened the Wood Gastrobar in 2016. There I started introducing new mixing techniques, inspired by two Italian bartenders, Luca Cinalli and Filippo Sisti, who introduced me, through courses, to a world I didn't know before. Now I can look at things in a different way and it's easy for me to conceive a cocktail in this way. While at the beginning I tried not to produce any waste from the ingredients I used, now the problem has become the opposite: trying to use the most noble parts.
A section of the menu is dedicated to Fourghetti Vermouth, produced with Sangiovese Leggiolo, spices, exclusively natural aromas and of unique quality, calibrated by perfumer Baldo Baldinini. Can the same vermouth also be found in one of your cocktails? Which?
I use Fourghetti vermouth, softer than the most commonly used ones, in two cocktails from the Twist on Classic section: unFOURGHETTIble and Tu vò fà l'americano. The first is a Negroni with vermouth, London Dry gin, bitters and pomegranate vinegar; the second is a reinterpretation of the popular cocktail using vermouth, bitters, bourbon whiskey and grated tonka bean.
In the restaurant there is a restaurant space and a cocktail bar. Is there the possibility of tasting your creations both at the counter and sitting at the table? Is there also the possibility of ordering personalized cocktails, upon request, in combination with specific dishes?
Yes, experiences are interchangeable. You can drink a cocktail at the table and then decide to stop for dinner at the counter or vice versa. The unique advantage of dining at the bar is that you can see behind the scenes of your cocktail or dish. From us it is possible to order personalized cocktails and our ambition is precisely to offer a tailored tasting. It's not easy because we change cocktails and dishes seasonally; the chef is very creative and we move accordingly.
What is the most requested cocktail on the menu?
The Mediterranean Garden, which is my representation of Italy and is a cocktail with which I identify a lot. The ingredients are London dry gin, fennel and celery verjuice, purple carrot pickle, citrus sorbet and wild fennel soda.