Giovanni may be young, but as he spoke it became apparent that his desires and drive are rooted in preserving tradition. Some could call his notions idealistic, but once you taste the dishes at Cipollino, you discover that perhaps being innovative is more about asking questions than having all of the answers.
And that’s exactly what Giovanni did. From a young age, living in Italy, he described himself as a foodie—he woke up and the three things he fixated on each day were breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “I was always thinking about my food, what was cooking in the kitchen, what I’d be enjoying for my next meal. I would ask so many questions—‘why is the lamb so tender?’ ‘how does the basil here have more flavor?’ ‘why does the aubergine from this region taste different from that one?’” And as his love and passion for food grew, so did Giovanni (literally)—to the point where his neighbor in Italy came up with a nickname: ‘cipollino’, or little onion. And though the ‘extra layers of food love’ may have disappeared as Giovanni grew into adulthood, the nickname stuck, and later would become an homage to the love of quality food and products that he and his team bring to the table.
Cipollino is authentic and traditional Italian home cooking, with a focus on seasonal and regional products. Giovanni spent a year perfecting his Roman pizza dough recipe at his lab in Montreux, and from that same lab comes his freshly made pasta. The restaurant itself is hidden – nestled in an alleyway perpendicular to Rue Saint-Francois, it’s literally off the beaten path. And climbing the little stairs, opening the door, and finding a cozy yet clean, simple yet sophisticated restaurant of only 30 covers feels like a triumphant discovery.
Due to the intimate nature of the restaurant and its small size, Giovanni and his team can pour love and innovation into each dish, while maintaining a sense (and taste) of tradition. We have since returned for casual lunches, to celebrate birthdays, and just for meals when we crave comfort – and each time we discover that sometimes the best dishes are the ones that have been made for generations. The ones where there’s someone watching their nonna in the kitchen, asking the questions, and willing to share their discoveries with the rest of us. This is Cipollino, both the man and the restaurant.