Mimì e Cocotte: a slow mentality

22 May 2023

“From cashmere sweaters to cheese from cows raised on the meadow eating thin grass, there are many people who cannot afford good, clean and fair products, because of the large-scale retail trade.” Our interview with Giovanna Abbondanza, of Mimi and Cocotte, begins on a firm foot. We talk about Emilian puff pastry, the growth of slow trends and the importance of mentality

Giovanna, chef at Trieste restaurant Mimì e Cocotte and leading member of the Slow Food Cook’s Alliance, delights us with a tasting designed for the Taste Workshops where she presents her work alongside Michelangelo D’Oria, former chef of the Venissa restaurant.

“My role as a cook is critical,” says Giovanna. “The problem, in my opinion, is that I educate an already conscientious public about sustainable food choices.” That’s because the customers who come to Mimi and Cocotte are usually already aware that they will not find the same dishes and ingredients on the menu all year round. “There are also new customers, of course, but thanks to social media the identity of the establishment is always very clear and so the choice to come here is already a sign of recognition.”

Food as a political revolution

As Giovanna sees it, good, fair, and clean food is not within everyone’s reach: “In our country we are lagging behind because many of the places where you can buy food are dancing to the tune of big business. We’re in a kind of monocultural latifundia: the real revolution will only come when everyone has full access to ethically-grown food.”

We know and we reiterate, years and years of surplus have brought us to this tragic situation, and despite the struggle of many and much theoretical popularization, ethical food is still difficult to find and expensive to buy: far from being accessible to all. Another problem is the fact that the same people who could theoretically afford to make more conscious choices are often the same ones who buy zucchini all year round.

The revolution must start from the bottom and, according to Giovanna: “Slow Food should open up even more, moving its voice to the periphery. There is a risk of Slow Food itself becoming elitist. On the contrary, it must be a movement of popular involvement, even if this doesn’t bear fruit immediately. In the long run, it’s the only way forward.”

From Emilia to Trieste – June 2, at 1 p.m.

Giovanna Abbondanza tell us a bit more about the dishes she’s presenting at her Taste Workshop in Genoa: “At Slow Fish I’m bringing a first course of bugie with seafood ragu, a mock stuffed pasta rolled out with a rolling pin, with seafood soup; Fratte Rosa fava bean macco, with a raw turn of bianchera extra virgin olive oil, Swiss chard and shellfish ragu.” Attention is focused on ingredients and raw materials, which are chosen from ethical and sustainable supply chains, while fresh produce is selected according to the seasons.

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The Cooks’ Alliance

Mimì e Cocotte is a small business that uses local raw materials and composes simple dishes inspired by love: “We do not aspire to a Michelin star. I like to make food, and I am happy when people eat and are happy here. That’s the only kind of success we aspire to.”

“She won’t last a month” is what they said about this Bolognese emigrant to Trieste when she opened up her eatery.

It was January 2015 when she moved to Trieste: “I had already been there twice: once for a Pearl Jam concert and on vacation one summer with a friend. I noticed that everything was cheaper here and maybe, at that time in my life, I felt I needed to get away from Bologna.”

On the day she opened her restaurant, no one in town knew her. Over the years she struggled to lay a solid foundation of her business, but she also found sincere support: some savings left by her grandmother, a business plan put together with a friend, a suitable location… And lo and behold, three out of four banks agreed to help her start the project. In addition, says Giovanna, “The path I took with the Cooks’ Alliance help me to mature professionally. I started to change my ways by starting from the small things.”

After the pandemic came the turning point: “I started using eggs from free range hens from Fattoria Sant’Eliseo and bacon from Bajta Sales. My closest collaboration is with Davide Lippolis, who curated the natural wine list.”

At Mimì e Cocotte you can buy flours and eggs from Mulino Tuzzi, honey and pollen from the Natisone Valley, extra virgin bianchera olive oil from Rado Kocjančič and Radovic Farm, as well as oils and wines from the Tuscan estate San Donatino.

No secrets

For Giovanna, the seasonality of raw materials is an essential element of the menu. Fermented foods, yogurt, jams and preserves also stand out, not to mention elderberry syrup and asparagus, which she harvests by hand. “I’ve tried to make precise choices, wherever possible. Every week a local farmer brings me salad and radishes. One afternoon a week, farmers will come to my place to deliver their baskets of fruits and vegetables and sell their produce. I want to get the message across that what I put in my dishes is not the result of some unattainable spell, I don’t have any secrets, in fact I want to give my customers the opportunity to be able to create their own dishes at home with the same genuine local ingredients that I use.”

Giovanna would ideally like to do even more: “When a plot of land becomes available I would like to buy it, and have a piece of land where I can grow what the customer will taste in my dishes.”

In addition to the success of her Emilian puff pastry and pastiera courses, another work-in-progress is the cook’s opening of a bakery 100 meters from her restaurant: “SpaccioPani”, which is currently being renovated.

A healthy mix

Mimì e Cocotte is not along the seafront, but on a smaller street in the heart of Trieste. “In the first years it was a problem, not having lots of passers by. But now lots of people know where we are and search us out.”

Giovanna continues, “There’s a very famous seafood restaurant, and we often welcome customers who are turned away there when it’s full; I’m fine with that. There are days when we don’t many reservations and we fill up thanks to customers who can’t find a find a table next door. The good thing is, once they get to know us, they tend to come back.”

I ask her about her Emilian culinary heritage. “Well, I don’t like to define my cuisine as Emilian: Rome, Naples, Romagna…there is a little bit of everything on my menu. I have a great passion for Japanese cuisine. In 2018 we were the first in Trieste to make Poke using quality ingredients. And once a month I make ramen. I sniff out the trends and repurpose them in my own way, with the right ingredients. I’d get bored if I was just rigidly fixated on one type of cuisine.”

by Cecilia Cacre, info.eventi@slowfood.it

Slow Fish 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the Liguria Region, with the support of the City of Genoa. We’re in the Porto Antico of Genoa from June 1-4. Sign up to the Slow Food newsletter for the latest updates. #SlowFish2023

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