Interview with Antonello Sardi, La Bottega del Buon Caffè

A Michelin-starred chef in Florence

Helen Farrell
January 15, 2015

While you can certainly have your fill of exquisite bistecca fiorentina, crostini neri and ribollita in Florence, a new wave of creative culinary excellence is putting the city firmly on the map. Among those who are burnishing the city’s reputation for fine food is Antonello Sardi, the latest Florentine chef to receive a coveted Michelin star. I had the pleasure of talking with him in the elegant surroundings of La Bottega del Buon Caffè at its new location, along lungarno Cellini.

 

Antonello Sardi, Michelin-starred chef of La Bottega del Buon Caffè Antonello Sardi, Michelin-starred chef of La Bottega del Buon Caffè

 

Helen Farrell: Tell me about winning the Michelin star. Where were you when you found out? Were you expecting it?

Antonello Sardi: I was in Milan. I was invited to the press conference for the Michelin Guides, so I’d figured out that something was going on, but I tried not to think too much about the possibility of being awarded with a star. I kept saying to myself, ‘No, it’ll be something else.’ Instead, it was a star. It was an incredibly exciting moment. I wasn’t expecting it this year. Not because we hadn’t worked hard or anything like that, but because there had been a change in ownership of the restaurant. Everything had pretty much stayed the same—but the star was a real surprise.

 

 

HF: Now there’s the major change in location. From near the Fiorentina football stadium to lungarno Cellini. What does that mean for the restaurant?

AS: It’s fantastic. It’s a much better location, near the city centre, beside the Arno. It’s a more elegant place with slightly more covers than the previous restaurant in via Pacinotti. We have a great team, a new team, in the kitchen; we’re really motivated and the new venue helps a lot.

 

 

HF: It seems like a lot of the energy and motivation for the restaurant radiates from you. Where does your passion for cooking come from?

AS: I started cooking for fun really. When I went to live by myself at age 22, I started cooking at home for friends. So, I decided to throw myself into the restaurant world, first of all as a dishwasher at 25. At 27, I came to work at La Bottega di Buon Caffè under Francesco Gasbarro and stayed there for two years. Then I left and worked for a couple of other restaurants in Florence, including Fuor d’Acqua, which was a fantastic way to learn all about fish and seafood. I headed up north to Milan to work under Enrico Bartolini . It was a whole new world—seriously long hours and hard work. There, I met serious chefs who had worked in Europe’s finest restaurants. Milan was a game-changer for me, and I loved it. After that, I came back to Tuscany and opened a restaurant in the Val d’Orcia, near Bagno Vignoni; it was fantastic to work with organic and biodynamic ingredients through a local farm. In the end, I came home to Florence and back to La Bottega di Buon Caffè.

 

 

HF: There’s a certain poetry then.

AS:  Yes, I’ve gone full circle. For now, anyway .

 

 

HF: Your favourite dish?

AS:  I’m passionate about fresh pasta. Right now, I’m also in love with lamb and suckling pig because the way we serve it offers all the parts of the pig: leg, shoulder, fillet and belly. 

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