Story by Debbie Schallock
Step into La Gioconda, and your eyes immediately soak in the cool stone walls and ultra mod interior as your ears tune in the ambient/trance music. La Gioconda is a restored wine cellar turned ristorante with an eclectic decor. Art deco lighting, rust- and gold-colored tablecloths, wine bottles, and a large prosciutto ham mix together as design components.
"Cucina orgasmo," one customer wrote in the guest journal - an apt description of the menu Gabriele Giacomucci has created. This 25-year-old food connoisseur offers everything from an appetizer of whipped cantaloupe and a slice of prosciutto to gnocchi with truffles to beef with rosemary.
Giacomucci has a sly smile and eyes that easily express his passion for food and gestione , the Italian term for presentation and service. For three years, Giacomucci attended a renowned culinary school in nearby Piobbico. Beyond cooking courses, he studied marketing, customer relations, and Italian tax preparation - sort of chef meets MBA. To further enhance his culinary and business skills, the self-driven entrepreneur worked at a variety of ristoranti following his formal schooling.
La Gioconda opened its doors just over a year ago. The menu changes regularly based on which local fruits and vegetables are in season. Giacomucci buys as much meat as he can locally, but also imports from Argentina, Ireland, and France. What's his favorite item on the current menu? Fiorentina , a grilled T-bone steak. According to the young culinary talent, "good meat, good salt, and fantastic olive oil" are the required ingredients to prepare this personal favorite.
"I use creativity and ideas to prepare dishes," states Giacomucci, relying upon recipes only for traditional offerings such as tiramisu. Rosemary is his must-have herb.
Cervaro Della Sala Cantina Antinori is his favorite wine. "It has rich color, fantastic taste...there are no words to describe this wine," exclaims the enthusiastic chef. Giacomucci considers wine to be most important when dining and prides himself on offering a superior selection of wines from Le Marche region.
Along with La Gioconda, Giacomucci has also ventured into catering. Nikki Luccarelli and Matteo Susini are a young couple engaged to be married and recently asked Giacomucci to manage the all-day party following the wedding ceremony. According to Luccarelli, Giacomucci's professionalism is one thing that's greatly impressed the young couple. "He never loses his cool, even if the ristorante is filled with customers. He greets guests and makes everyone feel special."
Giacomucci's unique catering menu is another reason why the couple chose him for their parties. Ricotta-stuffed apricots and spoons laden with cheese and honey replace the typical fare of bruschetta and salami.
According to Luccarelli, Giacomucci's passion and youth are what make him special. "He has many aspirations and hopes; his youth brings out his happy-go-lucky personality, which is reflected in his dishes."
This artisan of food also has a passion
for bringing art to the stone walls of La Gioconda. Each month, the ristorante displays a new collection of paintings and photographs by local Cagli artists. Even the name has an artistic flair as La Gioconda is the Italian name for the Mona Lisa.
The energetic and charming culinary artist is not afraid to admit he had fears before opening his restaurant a year ago. "It's a serious thing," he adds humbly, but he has "worked hard and hopefully for the best. Returning customers tell me I'm doing a good job."
So what lies ahead for this visionary young talent? In his own words, "to grow La Gioconda so Cagli can be proud."
Video by Mary Shelley
Photos by Laura Treadway
Web Design by Aziza Jackson