Le soste and the new media

We find ourselves in a kind of paradox as regards the relationship that Italian restaurants have with the digital world. Restaurant sites that do not accept online bookings while the same restaurateur sometimes and very often, lives non-stop on social media to post dishes or positive customer reviews etc…I think it is essential to understand the full potential of digital tools in all their functions, starting with the most useful one i.e. the ability to book online and receive an answer. Customers today want service even before enjoying an excellent meal and their assessment starts there.

Luigi Franchi, sala&cucina

Every item, action and person (not just medals and the moon) has a second side that may be hidden or visible, good or bad. We should all do our utmost to enhance the better side and to minimise the worse side. If dogs bark or children scream and make a nuisance of themselves in a restaurant or along the street, we should blame their masters and parents for not training or raising them properly. And it’s the same with social media and restaurants. The issue is always the same: what use people make of it and what people write in it. Internet, chats, blogs and sites are only media and as such they can be used judiciously and competently or with rage and ignorance. If used well, they can be a godsend. A prime example: reservation platforms are helping restaurateurs to devote attention to people who want to book a table, as they used to do in the past by phone. The difference is that a dissatisfied caller would at the most tell his friends, nowadays a web user can tell the world. It’s important to keep pace with the times and to remember that the tool itself is innocuous.

Paolo Marchi, Identità Golose

Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach, warns the Italian proverb. In culinary terms this might be translated nowadays as: “Those who can, cook; those who can’t, tell stories”. Chefs are right to appear on TV and tell stories on social media with eye-catching images of their dishes. And it is right to raise awareness about the value of a chef’s work, but be careful not to glorify the image too much because any old pot-warmer might have finer photos and engage smarter ghostwriters. When a narrative goes beyond the product and the profession, it all becomes a sham. Conversely, when at table, we want art to reveal flavours that can leave us with a memory. Those who cook, work “hands-on” in a world where too much is virtual, even sex and finance. Let’s not allow communication to whisk everything together: form and substance.

Carlo Ottaviano, Il Messaggero

Even restaurants and the “oldest” chefs are now on social media, especially Instagram which can tell culinary tales more effectively through pictures. But I think that this is all self-referential and only reaches a limited audience, consisting of fellow chefs, friends, gourmets and journalists. The vast majority of the public are captivated by fame and success: they are not concerned with the true essence. They follow a chef because he or she is a media star, but they are not very interested in his/her ideas and rarely visit him/her at the restaurant. Le Soste existed before, and will continue to exist after social media. It’s right to use them and share ideas, but in the eyes of Le Soste, the kind of social interaction that makes a difference is one involving a warm welcome, conversation, a dish and humanity. Strictly face to face.

Roberto Perrone, journalist and writer

Ours is a world that is constantly changing, made up of generations that live together with a gap in existence and experience of less than half a century, during which time communication has gone wild. I remember my childhood with a phone inside the house or in places such as phone boxes that have all but disappeared, or when I was twenty and amazed to be speaking along the street with a device weighing a kilo.
Now everything revolves around multimedia devices, which have unimaginable computing power. If we wanted to, we could shoot a film with a smartphone; so we may meet a chef and recount one of his dishes, live, to thousands of people via social media such as Facebook, or immortalise his exploits with a story on Instagram. Time is the new challenge we need to address, keeping pace with it without getting lost, so as not to lose sight of what evolves faster than us.

Marco Colognese, food and wine critic

Lots of Tweets, above all lots and lots of Instagrams, trying to keep up with the narrative of their own cuisine. After suffering social media for years, sometimes with the feeling of being prisoners of the comments on TripAdvisor and the rampant food-porn on Facebook, Pinterest and so on, top class restaurateurs are now discovering how to take the initiative and talk about themselves, by investing time and physical and mental energy on social platforms. Telling a personal story about the emotions, identity and techniques behind a dish is, in my opinion, an essential step in a world that thrives on two-way communication.
Perfect, but be careful not to forget the importance of truly “mobile” sites – lots are behind the times! Because not being mobile is like not being at all.

Eleonora Cozzella,  La Repubblica

Well, the fool no longer has it or perhaps he has: when it’s a matter of predominating views, no-one can beat him. But when it comes to food and restaurants, there is absolutely no doubt that currently, thanks to (thanks to?) the invention and rampant activity of the web, visual appeal is getting the better of taste appeal. Aesthetics is beating substance hands down, with a tennis-type score, no longer with a minimum gap as the inventors and followers of nouvelle cuisine once foresaw. Those were top professionals who lacked the tools currently available to a bunch of amateurs capable of surfing the web in perfect style but incapable of telling the difference between a crayfish and a lobster (not in terms of taste of course – that would be too much to expect – but even in terms of appearance!), or of posting something in “tempo reale” [real time] ignorant of the fact that “reale” is also a cut of beef. And as regards substance? Le Soste are here. Fortunately, they come out strongly at the table: the dishes in front of you are really worth looking at and perhaps taking a photo of (but no wasting time or else the temperature will be up the spout…!) but above all their aroma and taste are to be savoured. Thank goodness they’re for eating.

Elio Ghisalberti,freelance journalist

Why is storytelling important for cuisine? This question is asked is again and again now that cuisine and chefs are everywhere in the media. The answer is anything but trivial. Talking about restaurants, trends and culinary cultures going beyond fashions, stereotypes and flattery is a social and political act. Whether it is done in the press, online or through social networks its impact is the same. To understand the level of responsibility of food writers or what we call influencers, you only need to think of the critic from the “Los Angeles Times”, Jonathan Gold, who died last year, the first food writer to win the Pulitzer, who through the columns of that American newspaper recounted and presented (and took part in dignifying and securing clearance for) that melting pot of international customs that were and still are behind the stories and specialities, for example, of the Latin-American food trucks or some tiny Asian restaurant on the outskirts. “When I write, I try to convince people not to be afraid of their neighbours,” he said. Two decades before people started to take ethnic cuisine seriously, he managed to make recipes and eating houses tell their stories and bring people closer together, thus demonstrating that food is one of the most precise and powerful and not merely cultural interpretations of the world around us.

Gabriele Principato, Corriere della Sera journalist

Where do you put your mobile on the table? On the right or left of your plate? It’s no laughing matter now that this tool is also part of our diet. You eat your food, but first you have to take a photo: restaurants design dishes on purpose to be “Instagram-friendly” and many of the dishes we eat (from the 10 euro dollop to star chef creations) are designed to serve our camera lens, rather than our taste buds. Our eyes have always been the first to devour our food, but the latest thing is that we have moved from torrents of pompous adjectives to describe a flavour, to the superficiality of a single shot, ironically called “storytelling”, as a kind of exoneration. “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture” said Frank Zappa. I don’t agree: talking about food is talking about culture and society – provided you have something to say.

Margo Schachter, 
freelance journalist

It’s something I have felt for years: when I know that a restaurant belongs to Le Soste, I breathe a sigh of relief, I feel reassured, I feel, let’s say, guaranteed. I know I’ll be visiting a place where quality, talent and passion are hard and fast rules and nothing is left to chance and mediocrity is out the window. So, this book and the precious signs next to the entrances to these numerous places of pleasure (that’s what I like to call the restaurants in Le Soste), are veritable icons of culture, emotion and updated precepts. This association rests on clear, solid foundations: quality and excellence are absolute values and, putting rhetoric and trends to one side, they clearly sanction what is for me and for others, who see things the way I do, a safe port of call. Namely, an object of desire…

Alberto P. Schieppati,  Bartù