“Il Centro”, Restaurant in Priocca
The story of an authentic tavern that brings together territoriality, genuineness and sociality.
It was a warm night in ’56 when Pierin Cordero heard a knock at the door. He opened up, a little worriedly, to find two well-known faces standing in front of him who, without beating about the bush, invited him to buy Il Centro in Priocca.
Pierin was the man that the two mediators had singled out as the best person to carry on the success of a restaurant that had been offering some of the best local cuisine in the Roero for over a hundred years. They were absolutely certain that Pierin knew what he was doing in the kitchen, because he had worked for years as assistant chef in a very fashionable restaurant in Alassio. Not that the restaurant was going cheap, but at the time what made the difference to a venue were a billiard table, playing cards and sawdust-burning stoves… all proof that the place was very popular and always full. Two million lire was a lot of money in 1956, but early in the morning the deal was done. Pierin Cordero and his wife Rita set to work immediately, laying the plans for their new venture.
Roero folk are known for their history of sacrifice; they don’t count the cost and they don’t measure the time. Enrico was just four years old at the time, but he remembers that his grandmother brought wisdom and experience into the kitchen. Grandma Lidia was one of those women who had learned her trade at home and honed her skills by drawing on the extraordinary compendium of popular gastronomic culture, capable of transforming simple ingredients into dishes of excellence. The foundations of the gastronomic myth of Il Centro in Priocca were built up around her and it was together with Lidia that the Cordero family purchased the premises that housed the restaurant within the space of just a few years.
Lidia passed on her energetic vitality and skilful preparation of the dishes to Rita Brignolo, Pierin’s wife and, meanwhile, Pierin himself became known by the villagers and residents of the neighbouring villages as “Pierin del Centro”.
Rita planted herself firmly in front of the cookers and took control of the reins of the kitchen, especially when Pierin passed away unexpectedly in 1970. It is to Rita’s credit that she never gave in to the fashion for serving invisible portions on huge plates, choreographically decorated with sauces and flowers, continuing, instead, to prepare her super-light tajarin, her fritto misto and her finanziera. Rita reproduced Lidia’s good, wholesome cooking, prepared just the way it should be, with soul. Il Centro was an authentic tavern that brought together territoriality, genuineness and sociality and, thanks to Rita, its reputation for excellent local cuisine was consecrated.
Elide Mollo, Rita’s daughter-in-law, arrived at the restaurant in 1983. With great passion and humility, she soon succeeded in making her own personal mark on the kitchen, while respecting tradition. Thanks to her ability to gracefully develop the authentic flavours of the territory with understated style, steering them towards a more contemporary taste, Elide soon began to gain praise from her loyal customers and from critics too, establishing herself as one of the few female chefs in Piedmont.
Since 2016 she has been joined by Joan Marc Espadas, a young Spanish chef with extensive international experience and a burning passion for Piedmontese cuisine. Together they have embraced a project to recover traditional recipes and reinterpret them with their technical skills.