Wrap-up in the Alps: Alto Adige and Il Festival del Gusto

by Kathleen Culliton
Shannon Sturgis
June 2011

Piazza Walther - Bolzano, Italy during Il Festival del Gusto











When Mussolini attempted to "Italianize" Bolzano in Alto Adige, he left behind some beautifully tanned Neapolitans, some hideous fascist architecture, and a blunt cleft between the Austrian and Italian communities that may never heal completely. Today they've found a common ground in the ground itself. The soil, the climate, and the mountains make an ideal spot for harvesting the fresh ingredients at the heart of both Italian and Austrian cuisine.

At the Festival del Gusto, local farmers, producers, and purveyors performed a culinary coup d’état—the winding roads of the city guided the hungry hordes seeking the region's best apples, regional breads, milk, and speck. With Italian tranquility, city dwellers grazed through the fair. With Austrian dedication, they honored their culinary traditions. Together, Bolzano said quietly but firmly, "This is who we are. Now let's eat."

Floating Pier at The South Tyrolean “Teatro di Piaceri”

The South Tyrolean “Teatro di Piaceri” with Top Chef Roland Trettl

The gala to celebrate the Festival del Gusto took place on the shore of Lake Kaltersee while the sun set over Mendel Mountain. Alto Adige VIPs and their guests mingled on an expansive patio and wandered through gardens while nibbling on hors d’ouerves from Chef Roland Trettl of Ikarus and Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria. They sipped anything from Gewürztraminer to Moscato (from Alto Adige, naturally).

When the sun set, the party adjourned to a floating pier topped with a single row of candlelit tables, bedecked with white linens and fine china, to share an extravagant seven-course meal. Although diners were serenaded by a jazz band, it was Chef Trettl who provided the teatro. An enormous screen on the greens provided a window to the open-air kitchen where Chef Trettl furiously sautéed, smoked, and seared his dishes. His menu touched upon the products of Alto Adige with architecturally adept dishes, but the chef also focused on the acidic and fruity flavors that he mastered at Ca’s Puers in Majorca. Under white tents to shelter guests from the rain, the evening closed with toasts of Moscato Rosa to the festivities to come.

One of the Many Purveror Stands of "Gourmet Mile" in Bolzano, Italy

Festival del Gusto Street Fair

The streets of Bolzano gave way to farmers, families, and foodie tourists who sought the culinary delights of Alto Adige. In Piazza Walther, a stage provided entertainment that ranged from culinary (Chefs Anna Matcher, Herbert Hinter, and Karl Baumgartner lectured on their respective relationships to Alto Adige cuisine) to rock n’ roll (The Ganes band sang in their rare mother tongue, Ladin). This was the heart of the festival, pumping energy into the arteries of winding lanes that led to various worlds of taste.

Gourmet Mile, composed of Apple World, Milky Delights, The Speck House, and the Local Bread Station, forged a path across the small city. Farmers and distributors set up stands for festival wanderers to sample their wares and learn more about the products. Each product shared a startling freshness and purity in taste. Yet we were surprised at how many different flavors could be found in one small row of speck purveyors.

Grand Wine Tasting Forum: Alto Adige Winegrowers Present Their Wine

In the gardens of Maretsch Castel, Chef Willy Winkler prepared a light lunch where guests and producers chatted about the up-and-comers of Alto Adige wines. The menu intertwined Italian and Austrian staples in classic Alto Adige style; a Schüttelbrot Tagliatelle, pasta made with smashed bits of crispy flatbread, combined two stellar textures of hard bread crunch and al dente chew.

Appetites (for wine) appropriately whetted, the party moved into the ancient castle to taste wines from over 75 producers from the four corners of Bolzano. We stormed the castle (with reserve, of course) and tasted Gewürztraminers, Kerners, Pinot Biancos, Legreins, Schiavas, Moscato Rosa, and sparkling wines. Afterward guests made their way upstairs to enjoy views of the gardens and mountains, and to speak with the producers about their philosophies and their craft.

StarChefs.com Favorite Wines:
Tiefenbrunner Kirchleiten Sauvignon Blanc, Alto Adige, Italy 2010
Schreckbichl Colternzio Classico Schiave DOC, Alto Adige, Italy 2010
Loacker Lagrein Gran Lareyn, Alto Adige, Italy 2009
Kellerei Cantina Terlan Gerwürtztraminer Lunare, Alto Adige, Italy 2009