In December 2015, an exceptional gastronomic experience unfolded beneath the skyscrapers of CityLife in Milan. An exclusive market dedicated to all the culinary treasures of our traditional heritage.
It was called the Mercatino del Gusto at CityLife because, unlike the many markets that pop up everywhere during the holidays, it wasn't focused on artisanal crafts. Instead, it was a unique market exclusively dedicated to food—the heart and soul of Italian gastronomic tradition in its various interpretations, from sweet to savory, from the cellar to the pantry. All of these delicacies were handpicked by Longo un Mondo di Specialità, the industry leader in corporate gifting based on gourmet cuisine, with Christmas hampers and gift packages exported worldwide. The Mercatino del Gusto at CityLife retained the charm of traditional markets, consisting of 23 enchanting stalls, each hosting a producer showcasing the best of their offerings.
The holiday season is a time when we all return to a childlike state and cannot resist the allure of sweets. The desire for panettone grows stronger with each passing moment, and the list of sweet temptations at the market at CityLife began with this essential treat. Whether in a traditional or innovative version, with a pastry brand that couldn't be found elsewhere, Bardi's iconic panettone, packaged in a colorful burgundy box, represented the quintessential Christmas dessert.
Moving from one classic to another, there were aromatic and delectable soft nougats, a synthesis of Sicilian pastry art, and the ancient almond brittle from Lonigo in Veneto, proudly bearing the Bauce signature. And then, there was chocolate in abundance, this extraordinary gift from the New World that found its most skilled and passionate interpreters in the old European continent, exemplified by Cioccolateria Bodrato. A true experience awaited those who witnessed the moment when Marco Colzani, the latest descendant of a dynasty of pastry chefs from Cassago Brianza, prepared a fountain of hot chocolate. This family of pastry chefs had achieved prestigious awards throughout Europe as maitre chocolatiers.
Italian bakery excellence was on display, featuring biscuits that made the territories where they were conceived famous. There were Novara biscuits from the historic Camporelli pastry shop and Falanga orange-flavored tiles, a taste of Sicily, each occupying its own charming stall, arousing much curiosity. Indulging in childhood nostalgia, it was equally fascinating to explore the gastronomic journey in search of traditional specialties representing the richness of Made in Italy, based on the extraordinary variety of products from our land.
Humble products that had been transformed into table delights thanks to the ingenuity of artisans, such as the heirs of Amerigo, who operated La Dispensa, a simple trattoria that had consistently earned a Michelin star for eighteen years. They offered tortellini, tigelle, pickled vegetables, and star-rated sauces for those seeking flavors of the past. Italy takes great pride in its cheeses, and there was a wide variety on display. From goat's milk Robiola to Parmigiano, from Bagoss to Caciocavallo, from Pecorino to Mozzarella, and finally, Mascarpone. Many people from Milan make the journey to Arona on Christmas Eve to purchase this delicacy, as there's simply nothing like it.
Street food has become a trend, but it has its prophet, Giuseppe Zen, the pioneer of Italian street food, both chronologically and in terms of quality. His stall was redolent of "polenta concia," lampredotto sandwiches, and mulled wine. These were hints of a bygone world that, in the present, offered our palate new sensory experiences. Savini Tartufi presented an array of truffle-based proposals, oils, and condiments enriched with the precious diamond of the earth. Another important component of cuisine is oil, and Salvagno showcased an authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil, among many other gourmet treats.
Italy boasts a multitude of cured meat and the Bernardini brand represented them splendidly, with a special focus on Tuscany, known for its intense and robust flavors. From Tuscany to Friuli, at the ham stall, Dall'Ava ruled with its Dok brand, offering a San Daniele of exemplary quality, as befits this historic specialty from the far northeast of Italy.
Spain was represented by Joselito, hailed as "el mejor jamon del mundo" (the best ham in the world).
And finally, there was wine, with Longo Un Mondo di Specialità offering a selection of wines, Champagnes, and Christmas Sparklings among the highlights of its catalog every year. Enoteca Longo of Legnano, a two-time Oscar winner in the wine industry, presented the best of its labels, chosen from the most prestigious in Italy—whites, reds, bubbles, and dessert wines. Next to them was a stall dedicated to champagne, where the maison Henriot presided. It has been in operation for seven generations, all within the same family, in Reims. For those who preferred beer, Follina beer was available, born from the ingenuity of an eclectic character from Trentino, Giovanni Gregoletto. The grappa from the Pilzer distillery, a protagonist in the art of distillation in Val di Cembra, was another option. It is produced on the slopes where fellow countryman Francesco Moser took his first pedal strokes.
Because good food pairs best with beauty, the Mercatino del Gusto at CityLife reserved a stall for home items designed by the world's greatest designers and crafted by Alessi. Strolling among the stalls of the market at CityLife provided an opportunity for a variety of sensory experiences, a chance to learn about the heritage of Italian artisanal cuisine, to gather useful information, and to cultivate a preference for quality. It was also an opportunity to discover gifts for friends and family. Gifting food is an art, and this is the message that the Mercatino del Gusto at CityLife leaves with those who attended.