Italy’s cuisine is plural and authentic, it’s a universe where the table is much more than a place to eat and drink. A new restaurant ‘Racines’ (French for ‘roots’) will take you to the hub of mamas’ kitchen and to every nook and cranny of Italian vast culinary tradition - for it’s the food and conviviality of meals that are at the roots of Italian culture. And even if the name of the restaurant may sound pretentious for some, for Ugo Francesco and Federico Cury, the choice was more than obvious - ‘Racines’ is the shortest way to describe their culinary adventure.
Now, let's take a step back in time ...
‘Racines’ is the story of two children playing with the dough, running around the kitchen and breathing the amazing aromas of Italian cooking. It was at that very beginning when ‘eating right’ was carved into their destiny.
Ugo comes from the hills of Capri, an island that, despite being over-flooded with tourists, has preserved its cultural identity and its culinary traditions. His mother’s food had an incredible impact on his cuisine, it was the germ of his culinary skills enriched afterwards by the know-how gained while working with Fabio Picchi - a genius behind famous eateries in Florence.
Francesco’s path is more winding. Although he got hooked on cooking very early thanks to his parents - Calabrian mother and Parisian father - both keen foodies, he decided to study journalism and political science. He quitted them very soon pursuing his real passion - food.
They met during the taste week in Florence where Francesco discovered an incredible tomato sauce made by Ugo’s mom for the occasion. Very soon a strong and fraternal friendship is born from this encounter. Shortly after they have a chance to work together for Fabio Picchi, one of the greatest defenders of small artisan and local producers who in the historic center of Florence created a real paradise for all the food lovers - ‘Cibrèo’ restaurant, ‘Cibrèo’ trattoria, a café and ‘Teatro del Sale’ theater.
It is in this extraordinary environment where the two friends grow professionally and strengthen their passion for taste. Francesco handles the communication and together with his master writes 3 books of gastronomy and 3 novels as well as holds the theater management. Ugo meanwhile, is the first sommelier and very soon becomes purchasing manager of ‘Cibrèo’.
This duo's independence grows and they decide to leave Cibrèo to create, in one of the major European cities, a project marked with their own personality. Brussels seems like a perfect choice to realize their dream. Looking for the best place to open a restaurant, they first open a ‘Racines’ stand in small Brussels markets on the Place Van Meenen and Place Flagey. They serve pizza fritta, a dish originally sold by Italian mamas on their doorstep. The success is so immediate and enormous, that soon the collected funds allow them to move quickly to the next stage - opening ‘The Racines’ in early 2015.
Then, Ugo makes a crucial choice for the restaurant’s image that shocks even Francesco: no meat! The decision is harsh, but well thought through - since they’re not able to find sufficient quality to meet their requirements they will not serve meat at all. The same principle is applied to other dishes as well - only products passing the strict control of Ugo can make their way to customers’ plates.
There’s new menu created everyday with products that are seasonal, fresh, organic, that are local (if possible) or authentic Italian (where necessary). Francesco and Ugo source their vegetables and local dairy from Campesino, a Belgian cooperative run by their friend Niccolo Ferro. Everything needs to be fresh, so there’s no freezer, no cooler, no pressure cooker. And all ingredients must be used to fulfill the target ‘zero waste’!
Thanks to their collaboration with the importer, ‘L’Art et le Goût’ in Waterloo, the Racines offers an absolute guarantee to its customers to serve the freshest fish possible from the Basque fishermen. The fish is caught using only small boats and delivered to the restaurant within the 36 from fishing! Among the delicacies, you can find bonito which according to the principle ‘zero waste’ is used in its entirety - from the head and the fishbone. The only farmed fish served at ‘Racines’ is turbot - ordered in case of Basque fish shortage.
Changing the products and the menu everyday is a stressful way of working, but in the same time it’s an extraordinary adventure that starts from the the bread baking in the morning and follows with choosing the products, creating the menu and running the service. Francesco and Ugo both admit there’s a long way ahead of them to improve the concept, but they learn fast to bring their restaurant to perfection.
‘Racines’ is a place where you are go to discover another culture and unique flavors. Let yourself be transported through antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci. It’s a journey worth taking!