[:en]He is a two Michelin star chef, owner of Il Piccolo Lago in Verbania. She is an award-winning barmaid, owner of the Estremadura Cafè, also in Verbania.
They are professionals, they are friends, they are visionaries. They both saw in their work the possibility of creating something new, and they embraced it without ever sparing themselves.
He frequented her club, she frequented his club, and one day, when there was the possibility of marrying a great project and doing it together, they didn't think about it for a minute: it was Plan 35, the highest restaurant – lounge bar in Italy at the Intesa San Paolo skyscraper in Turin.
What was he asked? To give it a new face, to make it a meeting place open to the city and no longer a mystery of glass and metal closed in on itself and incapable of revealing all its potential.
They thought about it, they worked on it, they studied a strategy that went beyond a simple menu or a cocktail menu and now, with clear ideas and some successes already under their belt, they are ready to put on a show.
OUR EXPERIENCE: PAIRING
Floor 35, in its lounge bar, welcomes us with the usual dim light that flows into the intense light of the bar counter. The eyes get used to it immediately, after all we are in one of the most evocative settings of the city which now, finally, has its own entrance separate from that of the offices of the Intesa San Paolo skyscraper. When we arrive, we find them already at the counter: they are talking. Marco Sacco and Cinzia Ferro, who accepted the challenge of reviving the Restaurant and Lounge on Floor 35, are certainly not short of ideas. We say goodbye to them but decide to leave them a few more minutes, because artists should not be disturbed while they create.
Luckily we don't run the risk of getting bored, because Marco and Cinzia have invented a pretty good one: a food pairing journey that combines one of his iconic dishes with two cocktails specially created by her every week. If you want to try it, and we recommend it, know that it runs from Monday to Thursday from 6.30pm to 9.30pm in the lounge on Floor 35.
The pairing of the week is “La trota Regina del Lago” by Marco Sacco meets “From the lake to sunset” by Cinzia Ferro. A trout cooked twice (one smoked with bay leaves, birch, thyme and the other cooked at low temperature), extraordinary, marries a drink which, with its notes of very delicate and veiled sweetness, prepares the taste buds for the fish.
The pairing was incredible and Cinzia and Marco are ready to talk about each other. So we ask the guys behind the counter (perfectly instructed by Cinzia) to recommend a drink and off we go.
Cinzia, Marco, first of all thanks for the invitation. But what are you doing here?
MS Cinzia and I have known each other for 18 years. At the beginning, I frequented her bar and she frequented my restaurant, there was always a lot of mutual professional respect which then, one day, became a friendship. Cinzia even "stolen" my son Simone from my kitchen (laughs ed.)
In what sense, Chef?
MS Simone started working with me in the kitchen at Piccolo Lago, but after a week he gave me his jacket back because that wasn't his world. However, he already had clear ideas, and I supported him: learning another art, that of mixology, and doing it from one of those in Piedmont who knew it better than anyone and who, fortunately, was also very close: Cinzia Extremaduran iron!
Cinzia, what do you think of this choice?
CF Marco and I have always agreed on this: you can't force young people to do something they don't want, especially when they know very well what they want instead. Simone, in this case, wanted to learn to be a mixologist and has always put his heart and soul into his path. He stayed with me in Extremadura and then left for the best cocktail bars in the world to learn. Now he is here with us on Floor 35, he is also part of the project.
Tell us about this project then.
MS Our official entry to Floor 35 dates back to September 3, 2019. We took over the management of the top three floors of the skyscraper, 35, 36 and 37, respectively restaurant, lounge and rooftop. When I came here for the first time, however, I realized one thing: if cooking has always been my profession, I don't know mixology at all, which is why I immediately thought of Cinzia, who as far as I'm concerned is among the best in Italy not only from a mixing point of view but also on an entrepreneurial level.
It's curious that a chef is so interested in mixing.
MS I believe that mixing and cooking are very similar. Simply, I use food, they use liquids, but the underlying concept is the same. It's a world that I'm becoming passionate about and in which I see many of the mechanisms of cooking and chefs again. There is a difference however: when I was young there were many chefs, young like me, who wanted to stand out and also worked hard. At the beginning the desire to create a system wasn't there, but over time it was almost automatic and today, from Bottura down, we are all part of a great movement and we talk about ourselves and Italian cuisine with credibility. I don't see the same desire to work as a system in young bartenders. I see passion, I see desire, but without a strong awareness behind them they risk getting lost in an individualism that will not be good for them or even for mixology.
So what do you propose?
MS An ambitious project: we want it to be born in here, right on Floor 35, in the coming months the new movement of Italian mixology. Every month we will bring the masters of national and international mixology to teach our kids and it will not only be a school of technique but also and above all a school of thought, because otherwise they will never go anywhere.
The project is indeed very ambitious. Cynthia, what do you think?
CF I think we need projects of this kind and I think it is more than natural that they arise in Turin. A large portion of the international cocktails that we all know were invented here, and today we are lucky enough to be inside a futuristic building whose leaders are investing heavily in young people. We have a chance to make them really big and we don't want to waste it.
We will tackle this project step by step, and we will do it by truly believing in it, because our future is young people. Marco first talked about working as a system and said that he doesn't see this trend among mixologists. Unfortunately, I have to agree with him. It seems that all bartenders today are jealous of their knowledge and do everything they can to never reveal it, as if it were something to be protected from who knows what threats. But what's the point of having a wealth of knowledge if you don't want to pass it on? Knowledge, when not shared, remains an end in itself, it dies together with you. It's sad and above all silly. This is why we want to reverse the trend.
How do you intend to proceed?
CF Talking to the "grown-ups" is fundamental: the kids must listen, learn, adopt the teachings of those who have more experience but then create with their own minds. A painting must be perfectly traceable to its creator, his identity must be within it, and the same must be true for a drink. It doesn't matter if everyone likes it, but the mixologist must still be recognizable in his cocktail. To achieve this you need to have a method, to know all the techniques and ingredients perfectly and then create something truly yours and take it around with you wherever you go. The next step is to pass on this knowledge, because in my opinion teaching is the most beautiful thing in the world.
MS The fundamental thing is to start considering both cuisine and mixology as culture. We invented these food pairing events, but the important thing is to go beyond the simple meeting between a dish and a drink. The important thing is to tell the stories behind the ingredients, the producers, the cooking and mixing techniques. It's important to tell the stories of those who came before us and allowed us to do what we do today. There is infinite richness in the simplicity of an art like mixology, and it is told too little. To be able to become someone you have to listen to these stories, you have to approach this world with humility but convinced that you want to be part of it. It's not easy, but someone can do it.
Does the new current already have a name?
MS Not yet, but we will give birth to him in February. Here we are still in the embryonic stage, but we are already very passionate about this project and you can be sure: when Sacco and Ferro put something in their heads, it comes true! This will be a place to welcome different thoughts, a large round table around which professionals discuss: young barmen, old barmen, hotel barmen, cocktail bar barmen…. Plan 35 must become a crossroads of ideas, comparisons, meeting trends, new proposals. It must become a place where culture is created first and foremost and young people have the opportunity to learn.
CF We are lucky: there are many professionals in this world who want to teach, one above all Mauro Lotti. Listening to him tell the history of mixology, the skills of a hotel barman and all his anecdotes is fascinating, it is an unmissable heritage that he loves to share with everyone, especially young people. This is what we need. We need to teach the sense of hospitality, the pleasure of welcoming and being a team player. And that's what we're going to try to do here.