Sunday, 11 April 2010

A restaurant chain with passion

    Marcello Dall'Aglio with son Alan at Osteria Colle Ameno

‘Passion’ was the word Ornella Visentini, the sfoglina at Osteria dell Orsa in Bologna used to describe her attitude to making pasta. That probably typifies the approach of the thousands of artisan food producers that still dominate the Italian High Street. Bologna is largely free of the global food chains we take for granted such as Subway or Tesco. Restaurant chains are also almost unknown – apart from two branches of MacDonalds - most restauranteurs, even the most celebrated, rarely run more than one establishment.

Marcello Dall’Aglio and his partners are something of an exception. Together they run four restaurants and a hotel plus a take-away deli in a busy suburban shopping centre. But his passion for fresh, local, seasonal and artisanal food is undimished as you can discover for yourself at the Locanda del Castello, in the medieval Palazzo Rossi just outside Sasso Marconi.

So how did this come about? An opportunity that was too good to miss is how it began. The proprietor of one of the best regarded local vineyards, Tenuta Bonzara, decided to restore the long abandoned Trattoria San Chierlo next to his cantina where the wine is made. He turned to Marcello Dall’Aglio to take on the job of overseeing the refurbishment and opening it. A similar opportunity presented itself in Borgonuovo, mid-way between Bologna and Sasso Marconi, when a take away and kitchen, Torte e Tortelli, became vacant.

Then came the Hotel Castello, which has twelve beautifully restored rooms above the Locanda del Castello. Not far away, son Alan and his girlfriend have taken over another orphan eatery, l'Osteria Colle Ameno. More recently, Marcello has taken over the management of another restaurant in a local trade union conference centre.

‘Why not’, says Marcello. ‘It gives me something to do and I can offer employment to young people who badly need opportunities these days in Italy.’

Take away display at Torte e Tortelli, Borgo Nuovo

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