The height of Italian culinary perfection

Where good food is about respect for nature

Alastair Smart

17/11/2016

They are taking cuisine to new heights at Piano 35 in Turin.

The new restaurant, on the 35th floor of Intesa Sanpaolo’s skyscraper, is the highest in Italy. Some 545ft (166m) up, it offers diners a stunning vista of both the city below and the distant Alps, from the peak of Monviso to that of Monterosa.

According to head chef Ivan Milani, however, it’s hoped the quality of Piano 35’s food will match that of its views. “We realise, of course, there’s a certain novelty factor.

“A lot of people have been coming here to take in the experience of dining in an iconic, new spot. But the only way they will come back to us is if the food is of the best standard."

Ivan Milani, head chef of Piano 35



To that end, Milani has teamed up with the University of Gastronomic Sciences, in nearby Pollenzo, to create a menu with a lively combination of flavours.
The chef is from Turin himself and offers an array of dishes from the local region – with a frequent Asian twist. One of the standouts is Se Torino Avesse il Mare (If Turin had Sea) – a plate of agnolotti pasta filled with fish, cooked in squid ink and served with a Japanese dashi soup.

Such experimentation has certainly proved popular so far. Piano 35 – which has 60 covers and is open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday – is booked up until the early months of 2017. But has it been only locals coming in, or has the restaurant's fame spread further?

“Most of the clientele up until now have been from Turin,” says Milani. “It’s very much Intesa Sanpaolo’s aim for the restaurant – like the whole building – to become one of the beating hearts of this city. But we are open to national and international diners, too, of course, and I’m confident they will come more and more, in time.”

Indeed, it is open to everyone, regardless of budget, thanks to the lunchtime offer of a three-course meal for €35-40.

Milani and his team work at the top of the Intesa Sanpaolo skyscraper. Designed by Renzo Piano, it opened its doors in 2015 – a year before the restaurant.

Around 2,000 employees work in the building – but, according to Vittorio Meloni, Intesa Sanpaolo’s head of external relations, Piano 35 is “definitely not just for bankers”.

“The restaurant very much fits into our plan that the tower be more
than just a place of work,” says Meloni. “It’s a place for leisure and events, too.”

The top three floors of the skyscraper are open to the public, with a space for art exhibitions on Floor 36 and a lounge bar on Floor 37.

Since its opening in June, the building has hosted an array of free public events – from Punctum, a photography show featuring the work of 10 young artists (on until November 7), to rooftop yoga classes at sunrise and astronomer-led star-gazing sessions at night.

In Piano 35 itself, Ivan Milani has chaired talks on subjects such as the joy of truffles. The auditorium on the ground floor, meanwhile, has already served as the setting for a film festival, classical music concerts and even a dance music venue.

Guided tours of the whole building are also available about once a month (the greenhouse conditions in which Floors 35, 36 and 37 are kept ensuring agreeable temperatures for visitors all year around).

“Not many banks open themselves up in such a way,” adds Meloni, “but then our aims have never been simply financial; we try to add to the cultural richness of society, too. Italian cuisine is as fine an expression as there is of such richness, and we support it wholeheartedly through Ivan Milani and his team at Piano 35.”

Vittorio Meloni, Intesa Sanpaolo’s head of external relations



Milani, 45, started his career not far from his current workplace, in Turin’s landmark Caffè Elena, before taking jobs elsewhere in Italy. Piano 35 didn’t simply offer him the chance of a homecoming, though. It allowed him to work with a range of culinary innovators.

Milani is far removed from the cliché of the imperious head chef, ruling his kitchen with an iron fist. His approach is more collaborative; hence his alliance not just with the University of Gastronomic Science, but also with Wood*ing – a wild food laboratory that sources up to 9,000 ingredients for Piano 35, including roots, fungi, mosses, weeds and lichens.

These are mainly local to the Piedmont region, but in a few cases are foraged further afield – the algae from Sardinia, for instance, is apparently without rival.

"I'm a firm believer in letting nature take its course, many of the ingredients we forage are around for just a few weeks a year. And when the time is right, they appear on the plates at Piano 35 – but only then."
Ivan Milani

The chef is well aware that, in an age of globalisation, diners have become spoiled, and used to enjoying pretty much any product at any time of year. He insists that for optimum results, however, we should show more respect to the seasons.

Matching both the name of the restaurant and the floor that it’s on, Milani leads a team of 35 staff at Piano 35, all of whom – including the waiters – are fully up to speed about the ingredients and cooking processes for each dish.

 

So does he think seasonal produce holds the key to the future of cooking? “I haven’t got a crystal ball that can predict which direction gastronomy is going in,” says Milani.

“That’s not what we’re about. If anything, by following the timeless rhythms of nature and the ecosystem of Piedmont, we’re actually doing something traditional rather than futuristic.” The plan at Piano 35, in other words, is as simple as it is bold: to go back to the future.

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