Friday evening, after months of seclusion for the drafting of the new edition of my book, I decided to spend a special evening with my husband to celebrate the end of this immense work. So I went to my favourite restaurant, to the only restaurant capable of exceeding my always high expectations: Tentazioni Ristorante di Costa Volpino (BG). After a perfect dinner, a thought came to me spontaneously, which I will now try to put 'black on white' to share with you, in the hope of sparking an interesting debate (as less polemical as possible) on the Michelin Guide and starred restaurants.

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

Through my work as a wine blogger I have had the privilege of tasting dishes by Gordon Ramsay**, Antonino Cannavacciuolo**, Carlo Cracco*, Heinz Beck***, Davide Oldani*, Igles Corelli*, Tommaso Arrigoni*, Marco Sacco**, Alessandro Gavagna*, Isa Mazzocchi*, Herbert Hintner*, Gian Piero Vivalda**, Luigi Pomata*, Christian Costardi*, Chicco Cerea***, Enrico Crippa***, Enrico Bartolini**, Niko Romito***... and a whole slew of Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Italy. So, when on Friday evening I experienced another perfect evening in a restaurant that, although it has been open for a few years now, is not even listed in the Michelin Guide, I asked myself a few questions.

Yes, because among the names I have mentioned - and I am sure I have missed a few - there are cooks who have excited me and others who have not: I confess that if I had paid for dinner I would have been pissed off too.

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

Michelin awards stars on the basis of the quality of the ingredients used, the mastery of the control of flavours and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef within his kitchen, the value and consistency of the dishes. I cannot therefore, after yet another dinner that has made me drunk with pleasure and happiness, not ask myself what the problem is. Surely there is an aura of mystery behind the Michelin Guide that the various attempts at alleged transparency have never managed to dispel. I am sure that you too have a favourite restaurant that is worth the trip and that is not in the Michelin Guide. Why?

It is said that the scoring systems used by the inspectors are a jealously guarded secret. To me, this honestly not only doesn't like it, it's scary. When a source is authoritative it MUST be transparent. The lack of transparency makes me question the authoritativeness of the source itself. For example, if you taste a wine in order to give it a score, the AIS points sheet has well-defined evaluation criteria accessible to anyone. First this gives the wine producer a check list to use to grow, then it reassures the end consumer as to how scores are awarded.

Instead, we faithful consultants of the Michelin Guide hold only blind faith in a Guide that was born over 100 years ago and that, in the vast majority of cases, gives us extraordinary experiences. 

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

The Michelin Guide certainly rewards great restaurants and I always consult it if I want to treat myself to a special evening. However, after yet another perfect evening at Tentazioni Ristorante I wonder... how much is out there? How many valuable restaurants are out there that are not mentioned in any guidebook and especially not on the Michelin? On what criteria are stars awarded? I am not a Michelin inspector, but in my humble experience Tentazioni Ristorante di Giacomo and Sandro Pittelli should have at LEAST one mention, more correctly a Michelin star. Not only to reward their talent, but their entire team from kitchen to dining room.

But now let's talk about what I ate... so maybe you will decide to make a stop (*), a diversion (**) or even think that this restaurant on Lake Iseo is worth the trip (***)!

We took the Tasting Menu 'Your Free Hand which, inexplicably, costs only 50 € with 3 courses chosen from the menu that must be the same for the whole table, dessert that everyone can choose freely, water and coffee. The cover charge is incredibly cheap (3 €) when you consider that it includes breadsticks, homemade bread, crispy waffles, welcome pizzas, fingerfood.

The first dish I chose had teased me the week before on Instagram, so much for those who say this channel doesn't work: I practically choose everything I eat in my feed. Instagram knows what I like to eat more accurately than my mother. Here's the Piedmontese fassona beef tartare, anchovy colatura, hazelnut butter and fried egg yolkthe best of my life. No need to add anything else, I think the picture speaks for itself. Ingredients apparently not easy to combine that danced for me in perfect harmony.

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

The next two dishes were an off-menu item worth mentioning. Up the Royal with parmesan cheese, hazelnuts, porcini mushrooms, blueberry extract and black truffle. I think the most incredible thing I have eaten in the last 9 months. I would never have thought that blueberry could go so well with Parmesan cream and black truffle. The chopped hazelnut gave a touch of crunch to a dish that started out creamy and I find it hard to put into a course: I consider it a moment of incredible pleasure. Royal sauce is also used to prepare the famous Quiche Lorraine, would you like to try my recipe?

Below the Carnaroli rice risotto, porcini mushrooms, Fatulì della Val Saviore, grilled vegetable powderanother exquisite dish. As I have already told you, I am not a risotto lover, but Sandro Pittelli's risottos always manage to amaze me with their mastery of execution and combination of flavours, although my favourite will always remain the risotto with tomato emulsion, sour butter and red prawn, amberjack and Mediterranean tuna tartare that has stolen my heart forever. By the way, I take the opportunity to make a special request to Sandro: next time I come, will you prepare it for me? 😍

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

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Let me be clear, I am not questioning the work of the inspectors, nor do I doubt the fact that a restaurant is visited several times before receiving a star. What I would sincerely like to understand is whether these inspectors have ever been to Ristorante Tentazioni in Costa Volpino and if so how many times they have been there and if not why they do not set foot there. I know perfectly well that there are plenty of restaurants in Italy, but the Michelin Guide is so prestigious and there is so much money revolving around it that I don't doubt that it can pay for any extra inspectors, should they be needed. The pandemic kept restaurants closed for months, creating incredible damage to the sector that the restaurants can never compensate for. This is because even if they were sufficient to cover expenses, they would not be able to cope with the damage caused by people's changing habits. Of course, there are places like Sandro and Giacomo Pittelli's that are so excellent that they are always full, but the focus remains. I believe that the job of the Michelin Guide today is to bring in new restaurants to give them the chance to promote themselves to a wider group of potential customers, customers who can really give satisfaction to a talented chef.

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

But now back to the dinner...

Of all the proposals, the spaghetti, black cardamom oil, marinated lobster and shellfish broth was my favourite. The rightly salted butter, the thick shellfish broth like a bisque that gave a bitter touch and balanced the sweet tendency of the butter, and the beautifully marinated lobster were a culinary orgasm. With this dish then the riesling was perfect.

Speaking of Riesling, they have changed cellars and I must admit that I like this one less. Not because it is not good, but because it has a style that is all about citrus and grapefruit in particular. I, on the other hand, love Rieslings loaded with hydrocarbons. I guess next time I'll go for a certain Burgundy Chardonnay....

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

Argentine rib-eye beef and barbecued lettuce, clementine mustard is a delicious dish. I am deeply carnivorous and love blue meat. Argentine beef is delicious and the rib-eye cut is the rib-eye, so called because of a piece of fat that seems to form an eye. It is not at all trivial to find it so tender: unlike fillet, it contains a piece of muscle that might be tough when cooked. This one was perfect, cooked to perfection and with a perfectly done Maillard Reaction despite the very short cooking time that had imparted all those delicious aromas of freshly baked bread, hazelnuts and roasted coffee. I also loved the choice of soy, but it was the clementine mustard that was the real work. I think it contained horseradish and not mustard because it reminded me of wasabi, either way it was magnificent. I would have eaten a ton of it!

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

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The cake really moved me: a Sicilian cassata revisited (my absolute favourite dessert!) with a buffalo ricotta cream played on two consistencies. The first, inside, more like a semifreddo, has the classic cream consistency of cassata filling. The second, the single-portion topper, is very soft, almost silky. The crunchy topper is also delicious. Very nice presentation, it just needs a little more precision in the topping to be absolutely perfect. The pairing suggested by the waiter Giovanni, who knows me well, was the Riesling Passito Benaco Bresciano IGT Cascina San Giovanni from an (almost) local company: Pasini. Well, I liked it so much that I will visit them soon!

The coffee is good, which is absolutely rare in a restaurant of any level. And the small pastry that accompanies it is simply divine: the cannoncino was the best of my life! Freshly filled, flaky and very caramelised, it created a wonderful sweet and bitter contrast with the cream.

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino

I reported Sandro and Giacomo Pittelli once to Michelin years agoand I am also going to send them this article to see if they will send an inspector. I expect to see Tentazioni Ristorante top in the 2023 Guide and at least with a fork, if not with a star: the restaurant is disarmingly beautiful and well cared for, a thousand times better than many other restaurants I have seen in the guide, sometimes with very dated furnishings. 

Michelin has now become the consecration of a chef. For me, however, the real consecration is a restaurant full of happy customers eager to return, as Francesco and I were on Friday night.

Cheers 🍷

Chiara

michelin guide restaurant temptations costa volpino
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