Luigi Sartini

Luigi Sartini

As San Marino's most prominent chef, Luigi Sartini is bringing the tiny republic's local cuisine to the attention of Europe's culinary elite. Having trained under the legendary Gualtiero Marchesi, he now owns the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the state.

Having a baker for a father means it wasn’t the most surprising thing in the world when Luigi Sartini decided to become a chef. He grew up in the kitchen, watching his grandmother cook and helping to make the dough for pasta or plating up for big family occasions. Even his uncles were cooks, back in the family’s original home of Emilia-Romagna, and he was always eager to help his father bake bread whilst growing up in San Marino.

After graduating from catering college with full honours, Luigi’s first taste of professional cooking came with a stage at the Gran Hotel de Bains under chef Gino Angelini, in 1984. Gino became Luigi’s mentor, teaching him the foundations of being a chef and how to run a kitchen. Following this, he moved to Milan in 1989 to work with the legendary Gualtiero Marchesi (the first chef in Italy to win three Michelin stars). This is where he truly learnt how to cook at the highest level possible, creating award-winning cuisine with one of the great Italian master chefs. Luigi developed a passion for taking traditional, forgotten or very old recipes and breathing new life into them. With this newfound love of reinventing dishes, he returned to San Marino with the dream of opening a restaurant in the tiny state that would become known throughout Europe.

Luigi was able to fulfil his dream after meeting Maria Righi, who was the fourth generation in her family to own the Pianello Palace, in the centre of the city. She’d been running it as a restaurant since 1965, but wanted to bring it into the modern day and showcase San Marino’s local cuisine. Luigi took over the kitchen in 1990, and Ristorante Righi soon began to become known for its unique, top quality food.

‘My philosophy is simple; to cook local cuisine with a great respect for produce and seasonality,’ says Luigi. ‘I try to create simple plates which look clean and are balanced in flavour and texture.’ His signature dishes all represent San Marino’s food and drink (he even has a menu which only uses ingredients produced within the city) and has become incredibly popular with both visitors and locals – particularly the state’s politicians who regularly eat at the restaurant after meetings.

In 2008, Luigi won his first Michelin star, which he puts down to his hard work and dedication at Ristorante Righi over the years. This shone the culinary spotlight on San Marino, and made Luigi the region’s most prominent chef.

Nowadays, Luigi loves nothing more than coming up with new dishes for his menus. ‘I come up with new dishes in two ways,’ he says. ‘I re-elaborate traditional dishes, which requires good technical skills and the very best ingredients, or I work with my instincts, insights and perceptions when working with an ingredient or travelling, turning it into a completed dish.’

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