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.
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.
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.
Until recently Dal Pescatore was the sole holder of the Michelin Three Star rating in all of Italy, which it earned in 1996. The fairytale settings of Dal Pescatore have an equally romantic story to accompany them.
"In 1925, our grandfather acquired a fisherman's hut built of rushes and a few bricks on the shore of a small lake that now lies within the Dell'Oglio park," Antonio Santini says while serving a group of journalists enjoying his restaurant's rigorously authentic Italian cuisine. "In 1926, he married Teresa and together they began their great adventure. Grandpa set out each morning, returning with fish that grandma would cook, along with some other traditional local recipes. In 1927 my father Giovanni was born and even as a small boy he pitched in to help his parents' small country tavern by selling fish".
"In 1952 Giovanni married Bruna", Antonio continues as he pours a local Lugana DOC wine as an aperitif.
Bruna took her place beside Teresa in the kitchen and as years passed white tablecloths and napkins appeared on the tables and the original name of the tavern - Vino e Pesce or Wine and Fish - was changed to Dal Pescatore in 1960.
In 1974, it was Antonio's time to tie the knot. He married Nadia and after a honeymoon in France, they came back to Bruna and Teresa's kitchen and integrated their philosophy. "Our cuisine respects tradition, the heart and life of our land, but it also blends in unobtrusive innovation," Antonio says, who joins in to make fresh pasta every morning.
A case in point is their signature dish, pumpkin tortellini, served with less butter and parmiggiano than the traditional version so that the pure straightforward flavor of each ingredient comes through.
With fish from the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, along with fresh water pickings it is no wonder the Santini's create a fabulous fish cuisine, like their Risotto of Catfish Filet and River Eel.
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.