One of Italy’s most beloved chefs, Vittorio Fusari, pioneering gastronome and champion of traditional Italian foodways, has died in Chiari in Brescia Province (Lombardy) not far from Iseo where he was born. According to mainstream media reports, the cause was complications from a heart attack. He was 66 years old.
Fusari began his career in Iseo in 1981 when he opened Il Volto, his first restaurant in Franciacorta, an area known for its sparkling wine production, fresh water fish dishes, and prized beef. Renowned for his deft hand in the kitchen and his imaginative interpretations of classic Lombard recipes, he cooked in some of Lombardy’s most noted restaurants before opening his celebrated Dispensa Pani e Vini (Bread and Wine Dispensary) in 2007, a sort of culinary “campus” where he ran a gourmet food and wine shop, a casual dining bistro, and a fine dining restaurant in Torbiato (Brescia province, also not far from Iseo).
Following the success of his critically acclaimed and wildly popular Dispensa, he shifted his focus to Milan where he became the executive chef at the Michelin-starred Pont de Ferr in the city’s fashionable Navigli (canals) district in 2015.
In one online obituary published yesterday, he is quoted as saying (translation mine): “My work extends beyond the kitchen. My life is devoted to sharing Italy’s ancient gastronomic traditions [with future generations]. Eating well brings people together. It helps them find their shared values. It helps them to be happy.”
In a social media post, composed before his passing, he told his followers: “I haven’t left you. I leave you my recipes and they tell the stories behind my ideas. Copy them and bring them to life as you build a better world through food.”
He is survived by his wife and son.
I had the great fortune to meet Vittorio and dine in his restaurants on numerous occasions. I enjoyed his cooking immensely, as did my wife Tracie and our oldest daughter Georgia who ate at the Dispensa when she was just a toddler. He always insisted that the secret to his cooking was the materia prima, the raw ingredients he selected for his work. And whether it was dried pasta from Puglia, mozzarella from Campania, Prosciutto di Parma from Emilia, or Franciacorta’s famous air-dried “sardines” (actually a fresh water fish, Alosa agone), the foods you found in his shop and restaurants where as wholesome, pure, and authentic as they were delicious.
Vittorio was a humanist gastronome, always bubbling with culinary joy (like his cherished Franciacorta wines), meticulously informed, and contagiously energetic in his work and passion for great cooking. He was tickled by the fact that I brought my pregnant wife to eat in his restaurants and shop at the food counter (she was carrying our youngest). He saw wholesome cooking and eating (as evidenced in the quote above) as a key element in a healthy, happy, and productive life.
Sit tibi terra levis Victor. The sun may come up without you, but the world will never be the same.