His name is Aurelio, if you think about it one of the few names that includes all the vowels. His last name, however, is Barattini and although he is not used to being, like many other chefs, under the constant light of the spotlight, he is one of the best-known architects of Italian cuisine, but, in particular, of Luca . His restaurant, Antica Locanda di Sesto in Sesto di Moriano, is the only place, in our opinion, capable of competing, for the atmosphere that surrounds it and the warmth that is breathed, in Franco Barbieri’s Buca di Sant’Antonio and Giuliano Pacini. “That’s not true – he says – Actually Buca is much better with those wonderful copper plates hanging from the ceiling that manage to convey the feeling of going back in time”.
This chef with golden hands has the gift of modesty and humility. He is a character of the highest level in the Italian and, above all, Tuscan gastronomic scene, who has the merit of having always lived up to himself and the traditions that, since 1911, his family and ancestors have left him. . . In addition to managing, with his brother Lamberto and his mother Raffaella Tomei, the restaurant business, Aurelio Barattini has also started a fantastic estate that produces wine, an excellent red that we tasted preserved in the classic tax office of the past and also organic. . oil that is served at the table and that comes from his estate in San Concordio di Moriano called la Maolina.
We have been living in this valley of tears for 33 years, but in all this time we have never come to eat at these latitudes. We had stopped in Ponte a Moriano, a short distance from here, at another mythical place on the culinary scene in Luque, the Mora di Sauro Brunicardi, another genius and a true gastronomic institution of our house. We had never met Aurelio Barattini, we only heard him on the phone and that time it was not a pleasant conversation, far from it. He had just read the news in the newspaper with ‘stolen’ images related who knows how who knows where, in the Gazzetta where he referred and told of the visit of Bono and The Edge of U2 to a villa in the Morianese hills on the occasion . of a lunch to which he had been called precisely to introduce the Irish musicians to the real cuisine of Lucca. He asked us to remove everything because he was giving him headaches as the group’s spokesperson was complaining about the breach of confidentiality and the consequent risks. He also asked us, if we remember correctly, where we had taken the images.
We did not withdraw the article and did not reveal who had shot the pictures, but our interlocutor took it, so to speak, philosophically and invited us to visit him at his inn.
Tonight we are in the company of some friends we have known for years, Natale Mancini and his wife Paola Granucci, Gaia Lucchesi and her husband Nicola Battaglia. It’s raining, but not as much and from the car to the front door it’s a few dozen meters. Upon entering, even before running into the owner of this wonder, we are amazed and understand why this restaurant is so loved by foreigners, not outrageous, but class and quality tourists, certainly a minority, but who know how to appreciate everything, as the title of the book by Frances Mayes said Under the Tuscan Sununder the Tuscan sun.
Everything that surrounds the customer takes us back in time, when life traveled at a very slow speed and simple and good things for all tastes and all ages came to the table. Donna Raffaella Tomei is Aurelio’s mother and promptly supports him in his work, especially after her husband’s death, a disappearance that left Aurelio Barattini suddenly aware of carrying everything on his shoulders, including the farm bought by his father and that he, the cook, only knew so far how to continue.
He had attended the commercial technical institute in his youth, Barattini Aurelio and was also good to the point where he was able, at a very young age, to win a selection and have the opportunity to leave Lucca and climb to greater heights in search of his fortune. “Everything was ready and I just had to go through the door with my bags and go to Milan -he says- My father never forced me to follow what I loved, which is cooking and this activity, but since I was a child, following my grandmother, I had breathed that air, so, as soon as I went down the stairs of this building that has always enclosed, from below, the restaurant and above, our house, I wondered if I had to be the one to finish him off. a journey that began in the distant 1911 when my great-grandfather took this place, first with a companion, then alone. So, I decided to stay here and I have never regretted the choice.”
Who knows why, at a certain level of restaurants, the extremely efficient and professional service, but not aseptic or distant, is immediately striking. And, that of the restaurant and its employees, a kind of correspondence of loving senses and complementarity: the first cannot exist without the second and not even the second without the first.
Barattini works in Lucca, but lives in Rome near piazzale delle Province, Nomentano district, not far from Via Nomentana that leads to the Porta Pia gap and whose traditional cicadas -in the trees that line the Roman consular road, with their singing conveyed a typically summery languor – they were evoked in a book of poems by Carlo Andrea Fabbricotti from Carrara given to us by a dear friend, former partisan and PCI member, Antonio Bernieri, born, coincidentally, in Lucca in 1917.
We also thought about this, in Rome, while we were taking a look at the house menu although there were no doubts and, after an appetizer of the house full of cold meats and delicacies, we wanted to go to the s“Senatore cappelli” pocket felicetti with bacon and pecoringrana, mixed directly and in front of our ecstatic gaze, inside a form of parmesan. Some have tried the veal pozza di Garfagnina, an excellent lean and salty meat that goes very well with arugula and 36-month-old Parmigiano Reggiano.
Between going to and from the capital and returning to the family on time, which, for Aurelio, is the most important thing, he has also found in all these years the time and desire to travel the world cooking at the court of wealthy and famous people who They asked for it precisely because of its ability to restore, with its recipes, the flavor of a Lucca and a Tuscan cuisine that, at this point, are increasingly difficult to find. An example: “This winter, for Christmas -recalls Barattini- I accepted the proposal made to me by the owners of a luxury resort in the Maldives to move there for three weeks and cook in Lucca. It was the Grand Park Kodhipparu in the North Malé atoll, frequented by people accustomed to a very high standard of living. I thought about it for a while, then I accepted with two conditions: that the family follow me and that I could have with me, for the kitchen, all the things that I have here in Lucca. It was a success”.
At the time of the Covid outbreak, in the winter of 2020, Aurelio Barattini was in the United States, specifically in Seattle, in one of the homes of Jeff Bezos, the founder and owner of Amazon, the largest e-commerce company. company in the world world. She was supposed to stay there for a while and cook for him and his guests, but the arrival of the first lockdown forced her to suddenly board and return to Italy and accompany him to Canada to catch his plane and car.
Chef Barattini also had some nice words for a friend from Lucca, Francesco Colucci, remembering all those times that, even without warning, they went out to go to the embassies of half of Europe and the world to cook and put hundreds of people at the table . A tour de force that involved an enormous human and professional experience that still thanks the former president of the ATP, Lucca’s tourism promotion company.
Everything you eat at Locanda di Sesto has a genuine flavor, coming from the land, where we ourselves come from. It is precisely this place that seems to belong to a film of the genre You just have to cry, with that jump back, from the eighties of the 20th century, to ‘one thousand four, almost one thousand five’ as recited in the film by Troisi and Benigni . After all, the restaurant has been around since 1368, so as it was, we’re here.
Barattini is able to reassure his clients, pampers them, follows them, listens to them, accompanies them without ever faris. , are possible to taste only in these latitudes and that, for many, in cities and abroad, represent a dream.
In the end we realize that we were the only ones not to devour all the bacon drowned in 36-month-old cheese. And it is that, paradoxically, but very paradoxically, we should be on a diet. Among other things, one of the photos we posted taken by Gaia Lucchesi makes us look even more rounded than we are. Did she do it on purpose? We don’t even want to think about it. A truly enjoyable and relaxing evening and for those like us who have been breathing stress for decades, these are opportunities not to be missed.