Davide Rangoni, an innate, self-taught talent for the culinary arts cultivated, first, in his family’s kitchen, where the pleasures of good food have always been the order of the day, and then in books on the fundamentals of cooking and others by some of the great chefs of the day. He finished his “schooling” under Igles Corelli and with his debut in the world of gourmet dining. Since the winter of 2018-19, he has been at the helm of the Dolomieu, a place of culinary beauty and research invented by the Zambotti Family and the holder of one Michelin star since 2013.
Rangoni’s cuisine is both local and personal, a balance of flavors and aromas near and far, all harmonized in excellent ingredients sought out with care and with a keen emphasis on the plant kingdom. A spontaneous herb or a vegetable from the garden are an ever-present feature in his dishes, whether in a supporting or a leading role.
His work is yet another confirmation that, in Madonna di Campiglio, gourmet dining is no flash in the pan. It’s here to stay.
When and how did you get your passion for cooking and for culinary research?
It all started as a boy. I was 15 and in school. After school, I would go to a restaurant near home on the weekend and help in the kitchen. From that moment on, I’ve never stopped! I knew right away that that was who I was. I loved it so much that, after high school, I never thought about anything other than learning this craft, which was also a family passion. My grandmothers, Rina and Lucia, were wonders in the kitchen, and my mother, Maurizia, always gave me good, wholesome food.
Throughout your career, which experiences and mentors have taught you the most?
I’m self-taught. I learned by doing, at the stove, together with a careful study of ingredients, up until the moment I met Igles Corelli [a master of Italian cuisine and a featured chef of the Gambero Rosso Channel with his Il gusto di Igles]. He was my first great mentor. I met him when he was the heart and soul of the Michelin-starred La Locanda della Tamerice, in the Ostellato valleys of the province of Ferrara. He taught me that it’s not the recipe that counts, but the way of thinkingThanks to him, I opened my mind to a world of combinations and of possibility. After my training under Igles, my next steps were taken under the guidance of Bruno Barbieri at Ristorante Arquade, a restaurant in Verona with two Michelin stars. My years as a sous chef with Andrea Costantini were then fundamental to my learning the art of hotel management.
Over the years, gourmet cuisine has come to prominence on television and social media. Is there a particular celebrity chef who you see as an example to follow?
I had the good fortune to get to know Bruno Barbieri, who, at a certain point in his career, made the leap from chef to celebrity chef. Over time, he collected an extraordinary wealth of culinary knowledge and skill, along with an incredible spirit and the ability to express it. I think that only professionals like him, with the right experience, can hope to become celebrities.
Where do you draw inspiration? And what can you not do without?
Every element of nature, of any kind, is a source of inspiration for me. I always make sure that the plant kingdom is represented, in the form of a vegetarian dish, even in the appetizers. And olive oil. The Dolomieu welcomes you with the aroma of homemade bread dipped in oils made by some of the best producers, especially from around Lake Garda.
How would you describe your cuisine in one word? Is there one dish in particular that best represents you? And what’s your own personal favorite food?
Those who describe my cuisine use the word “balance”. I try to make sure that no single ingredient overpowers the others. There is one, unexpected, dish that has come to represent me: brulè al Taleggio, alchechengi senapate and croccante di sesamo. Is it a cheese? A desert? Not only a desert? I’ll leave it to you to decide. For me personally, I’d put pasta made by local artisan shops topped with Trentingrana cheese and extra-virgin olive oil in first place. It’s something I would eat all the time.
My dream: the three Michelin stars
What is your experience here in Campiglio bringing to your cuisine that is new and different?
I have tried to get to know the territory well through a process of research that has led to quite a few discoveries, including amazing spontaneous herbs, knowledgeable artisans and other quality local producers, which I have added to my knowledge and skill in the kitchen and which has led to me entitling my tasting menu “All’orizzonte: dal sentiero dolomitico senza una meta” (lit. “On the horizon: from the Dolomite trail without a destination”). It is the culinary translation of an idea: that of what I see from the summits of the Brenta Dolomites to the sunset on the horizon. I interweave local memories and personal inspirations into my dishes along with flavors, aromas and textures from faraway lands.
The Dolomieu has had one Michelin star since 2013. How is this recognition a sort of value added for a restaurant’s culinary offering?
It adds value in multiple ways. First and foremost, for the local economy and community as a whole. It is a moral recognition for us all: the owners, the chef, the employees, and for the community. Personally, being able, when I first arrived, to maintain the star awarded to the Dolomieu was a source of great, and partly unexpected, satisfaction that makes me incredibly proud and grateful to all those who have helped me to keep this recognition.
Between one season and the next, chefs normally use this interim period to do research and gain experience around the world. What have you been doing during these weeks of the health emergency and the lockdown?
No study trips. No meetings with my peers! No anything! My daily chaos has stopped. I value the time I spend with my girlfriend and reflecting on all that I have done thus far, and I have thought about how it will be possible to start up again, although I haven’t wanted to get too worked up about it. I live each day very instinctively and from the heart.
Nowadays, we’re all in a sort of suspended animation that’s weighing on the economy, especially on certain industries like hotels and restaurants. What do you think might happen as we head into summer?
I place my hope in the common sense of us all, in respecting each other more, given what has happened, and in being able to feel free again! I have a hard time imagining restrictions in our industry. I love spending time and sharing my passions with my brigade, my closest collaborators who give me strength: my sous chef, Alessandro Peron; our pastry chef, Martina de Vit; and also Francesco Polla and Ilaria Malerba. I love the ritual of welcoming our guests and greeting them at their table. How can I give that up? I hope to be able to be close to everyone again, to give greater value to our lives.
What are your objectives for the future? Are their milestones you still have to reach?
I honestly don’t know what the future of my cuisine will be like, but I hope to continue being able to excite my diners. An objective? More like a dream. That of any great chef: the three Michelin stars.
Photos by Marina Spironetti