Due Colombe

Nestled in the heart of a 1,000-year-old hamlet in Corte Franca, is the Michelin starred Due Colombe Restaurant.

 

The classic Italian cuisine served here is given an original twist by Stefano Cerveni, Head Chef, as he creatively blends traditional family recipes with a soupçon of modern inspiration.

We caught up with him in a quiet moment before service, to chat about his life as a chef…

 

You have often said that your grandmother was a big influence in your life?

Stefano:
Definitely, yes. She made me who I am today, and my father before me. She made me understand what it means to have a restaurant, providing this hospitality, this desire to make people feel good. Right from when I was born, I was surrounded by kitchen aromas and would play with bread dough rather than Play-Doh! This was my upbringing.

Of course, since then I have had the chance to meet and learn from many great chefs.

When did you realise that you wanted to follow the same path?

Stefano:
I decided around the age of 15 or16? The other passion in my life is music. I played the piano to a high level, so I didn’t know whether to join a piano conservatoire or go to hospitality school. I didn’t have to do maths at hospitality school, so I decided to go there! It was there where I realised I had found my path and I have been in the kitchen for 32 years now!

Do you always try to include Brescian cuisine in your dishes?

Stefano:
Absolutely! I was born in Franciacorta. My DNA is ‘Franciacortian’, my soul comes from this land. I try to use as many ingredients as possible from Brescia, and when working with other ingredients I still have my own style. I think every chef should represent their life and their land. You feel the strongest emotions when you come across a chef who cooks what they know with passion. This is how to stay original.

Let’s talk about your new venture in Milan. Was it strange to have new customers? Did you have to introduce new dishes?

Stefano:
Yes. Milan and Due Colombe are completely different, each restaurant has their own clientele. Customers come to Due Colombe because they want to try my cuisine, so here I can be quite daring. Milan has a more universal clientele, so I have to create what people like, adding a little of my own interpretation.

How important to you is buying seasonally and locally?

Stefano:
I prefer the idea of reasonable food miles to zero food miles? I buy red shrimp from Santa Margherita because they’re good and not available in Franciacorta. I found a fishmonger who brings them to me here in Borgonato six hours after catching them. For me a mile is significant, but it doesn’t always have to be zero.

The seasons are at the heart of it, because you spend less, you pollute less if you buy in season. The menu will change automatically. 

When did Due Colombe move location?

Stefano:
I made the most important change to Due Colombe in 2000, transforming it from a trattoria into a gourmet restaurant. From 2000 to 2010 we were in Rovato, where the Michelin star was awarded, and from 2010 to today we’ve been here in Borgonato.

Was the move because of a desire for growth?

Stefano:
By then, I found Rovato too restricting. I was in the centre of a village

and I didn’t have enough space. I needed somewhere in a beautiful, relaxing location to create another concept. It was a stroke of luck that I found the owners of this borgo (a medieval settlement.) The refurbishment took them ten years altogether, and they proposed that I manage it when it was finished. So, I moved Due Colombe here, where eating is an all-encompassing experience, including the atmosphere and surroundings.

Do you have any plans for 2018 that you can share with us?

Stefano:
Well, we make pizza now! I have two restaurants in the same museum in Milan. The upstairs restaurant was starting to suffer a little because of Terrazza Triennale below it, so we decided to turn it into a pizzeria instead. Of course, I don’t make the pizza as I have no experience, but I have a friend who is very experienced. His pizza dough is amazing and we are already thinking how we can transfer my dishes onto his pizza base!

How do you come up with the ideas behind your dishes?

Stefano:
Some dishes are born from the season, others from ideas, sensations or experiences in life. There is a traditional dish we cook here made from cooled spaghetti with mazzancolle (a species of tiger prawn) and sea urchins. It is incredibly simple but when served at 38 degrees, you taste a hint of iodine which amplifies. At body temperature your mouth tastes much more of it? When I made this dish for the first time, I let one of my customers try it and he said to me: “It is as though I am sitting in the sea at sunset.” I thought “Wow! I’ve given him a sensation with this dish.” The idea of making people feel something, communicating something, was born.

When you have a feeling, and translate it into a dish, it is really special. I was in Venice, cooking on a yacht overlooking the Piazza San Marco and I wanted to recreate that aroma, those sensations. Today I will make ‘Viaggio in laguna’, with a taste of the Venetian lagoon.

Stefano at work in Due Colombe
Outside Due Colombe in Brescia, Italy