Maria Grazia Soncini

Restaurant: La Capanna di Eraclio*, Codigoro (FE), Italy

 Aromas of old-fashioned cuisine: every dish of Maria Grazia screams authenticity and ancestral and pristine flavors, between wild and savory. It’s the result of three generations of the same family at work between the stove and the dining room. Maria Grazia learned from her late mother Wanda, a talented sfoglina (someone who makes tortellini), who
recently passed away but still at 87 was at work every day.
 As her mother Wanda used to do, Maria Grazia continues to roll out the dough by hand, using a rolling pin, and to whip up the mayonnaise with the eggs from the henhouse’s chickens, beaten with a wooden spoon. Maria Grazia, however, adds to the skills learned from the mother her chronometric cooking and a careful selection of raw materials. Elettra,
her daughter, works in the kitchen with her and shares Maria Grazia’s values.
 “In the kitchen I love to use my hands, to touch, because you cook firstly with your hands. One day, while I was cooking mallards, my hands were my mother’s hands. It was a beautiful moment, a great emotion, I deeply felt that there was continuity!", said Maria Grazia in an interview.
 The result of Maria Grazia vision is La Capanna di Eraclio, a restaurant that smells of life, with a cuisine that worships territory and tradition. “La Capanna is the perfect traditional restaurant, for cuisine and hospitality”, wrote a respected guide. The front of the house plays a big role, where there is Maria Grazia’s brother Pierluigi and, Niccolò, her nephew, who personify that “rustic courtesy” increasingly rare to be found.
 La Capanna d’Eraclio (Eraclio’s Hut) – Osteria con Cucina is in Codigoro, Emilia-Romagna, in a mythic landscape, with the sea, forests and the river Po on its doorstep (plus fantastic ingredients found locally). It was opened in 1922 as a coffee shop by Maria Grazia’s great grandfather. It was a tavern, a tobacconist, a grocery store and even a dance hall. Eraclio, her father, and his wife Wanda started serving food in the Sixties of the last century as more people had cars and would come to eat.
 Maria Grazia was almost born in the Capanna’s kitchen, she worked there in her childhood (cleaning frogs) and part time as a teen, during her high school and in the first University’ years (Medicine). She earned the helm of the kitchen little by little, after leaving the studies, because her mother was very dominant. Since the beginning she never looked for strange ingredients, they had never been her “cup of tea”. Nevertheless, since 1999 she has been rewarded continuously with a Michelin star.

 “It was unexpected news, the Michelin star for us who … are decidedly more anomalous compared to the idea that Italians have of starred restaurants”, said Maria Grazia when they received the award for the first time.
 Maria Grazia “feels” the privilege of having lived immersed in music, especially rock. Her first live concert was Emerson, Lake & Palmer in Bologna. Since then, she has listened to (and knows) everything, from Deep Purple to Black Sabbath, to Rolling Stones (no, not the Beatles, they were too melodic for her palate), up to R.E.M, Nirvana, Gun ‘N Roses, Metallica, Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
 The rock soundtrack (which plays only in Maria Grazia’s ears and mind) is perhaps one of the reasons for which in her cucina “the fried food is done properly, tasty and crispy, dry without a drop of grease. The raw meat is at the right temperature, without the prevailing cold of the fridge. The embers of the grill are only with the right woods. The pasta is made by hand and the desserts smell of home and tradition”.


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