Cerea Brothers

Cerea Brothers

Roberto and Enrico Cerea were brought up by parents who devoted their lives to culinary excellence. After training in some of the world’s best kitchens and culinary schools, the brothers returned to the fold, earning the family restaurant its third Michelin star for their signature seafood dishes executed with modern technique.

Brothers Enrico and Roberto Cerea grew up in Bergamo, a small town just outside of Milan. Their father, Vittorio, and mother, Bruna, founded the family restaurant in the 1960s and both brothers were brought in to help from an early age. Enrico, the eldest, told us: ‘My parents instilled in me a love for gastronomy and taught me how to be serious, how to be professional and how to truly love the profession. I adore my father, but he really made me cry in the early days, I was working so hard. But it is thanks to him that I have developed a passion for food and discipline in the kitchen that allows me to be consistent, yet creative.’ Roberto started working in the kitchen aged eleven. He told us: ‘I remember cleaning fish, vegetables, as every assistant does at the beginning. This is the routine, of course. I slowly started making some dishes, maybe now I'd define them as common, but at the time I thought they were great! I came into this profession thanks to my parents and they passed on to me a passion for it and a desire to do it well. I started out very young and I learned to keep up certain standards.’

Enrico opted to study foreign languages, which enabled him to train in some of the finest restaurants in the world. He trained for two years at Tantris Restaurant in Munich, Germany, with Heinz Winkler – then the youngest chef (and the first Italian chef) to receive three Michelin stars. He regards Winkler as an important mentor, one who greatly contributed to the development of his technique. He went on to work with Sirio Maccioni in New York, at George Blanc’s eponymously named restaurant in Vonnas, France, and with Ferran Adria at elBulli in Catalonia, Spain. Roberto Cerea trained with Michel Troisgros at his family’s restaurant, La Maison Troisgros, in Roanne, France, and with Roger Vergé, also in France. He added to this professional experience with training at a number of top culinary schools, including Richemont School of Bakery and Confectionery in Switzerland and Lenôtre in Paris.

But both brothers kept one eye on the family business, which earned its first Michelin star in 1978, and its second in 1996. After completing their training, they returned to the fold to work together, as a team. Their parents eventually stepped aside, leaving the siblings – their sister Rossella and other family members also work with them – to run the restaurant. As the business grew, they moved the restaurant to a luxury complex just outside of Bergamo. The restaurant’s third Michelin star was awarded in 2010 and has been retained ever since.

They now preside over the most successful restaurant in Lombardy, a true mecca for seafood lovers, creating an array of traditional dishes brought up to date with modern technique. Roberto told us: ‘Our cuisine is based on fresh, top-quality produce prepared in a traditional fashion, but drawing on the latest techniques, new ways of working with the products. We always try to serve the best products, we search for the best, both in Italy and abroad. Luckily, we have great producers in Italy, cheese, cured meats . . . We have the sea that provides us with beautiful fish, we have the soil that gives us really good raw materials. This helps us a lot.’ While their food is firmly rooted in Italian tradition, it is not slavish to it. Roberto continues: ‘Our cuisine is Mediterranean, but we always try to discover new dishes, explore new kinds of cuisine from other countries, cultivate new passions, because you never stop learning when doing this job. So some of our dishes are an evolution, a fusion of different dishes.’

Specialities such as Fritto misto with langoustines, prawns, squid, octopus, shrimp, sand smelts, whitebait and crab and Steamed langoustines with lemon and mayonnaise showcase the strikingly fresh seafood that the restaurant is renowned for. The cuisine of the region is celebrated here, with plates like The Mediterranean – burrata, prawns, Taggiasca olives, lemon cream and onion petals, while fish courses such as Cod with corn textures and quail egg hint at influence from outside Italy. The presence of their father who, together with their mother, started them on this path to greatness, is still felt through dishes like Paccheri pasta with Parmesan by Vittorio. Delicate desserts like Polenta and Osei with sponge, whipped custard, lemon syrup, sweet polenta, cocoa crumble and vanilla ice cream, and Apple spheres with almond granita and salted caramel crumble elevate traditional Italian flavours with modernist technique.

The drive improve, to perfect, continues to motivate the brothers. Enrico told us: ‘This constant development has brought me great satisfaction and joy. Every day is a challenge and an opportunity to get better and better.’ But it remains the customer who is at the heart of everything they do. Roberto explains: ‘The best thing is that our guests leave the restaurant with a smile on their face. Everyone is always glad to return and that's the greatest success. The Michelin stars and food guides are great, but the most important thing is that the guests come back because they're satisfied.’