Chef Cristian Lai. Cooking is not a job for everyone.

Chef Cristian Lai has been running kitchens for several years. As a child, he loved peeping into the kitchen to investigate flavors and ingredients. His dad is a former chef, and his mom worked with him. 

His journey as a discoverer of tastiness begins in Genoa. In Camogli, to be precise, where he attended a school that is no longer there today: the Convitto Guglielmo Marconi.

It is said that those who love their work will not work a single day of their lives, but being a chef, running a kitchen or being a waiter is sacrificial, a commitment studded with sacrifice and loneliness.

How is your job?

“Cooking is not a job for everyone. You have to know its negative aspects. There is a tendency to emphasize its positive side in order to push young people into a professional system that is, however, very hard.”

Grind crushes, time relationships and dreams if they are not in line with the trade. Young people need to be warned. Professions in the restaurant business are not alternatives just to do something. Passion is not an accessory, but the basis of every recipe.

“When you are young you have an ideal, you want to gain independence, then you grow up, you feel the need to start a family. It is not easy to match needs needs expectations. There is a material lack of free time. Until a few decades ago, working in the kitchen could be an escape from unemployment. Today it can no longer be understood as a fallback. You can only do it if you are convinced, otherwise it is an unmanageable stress. There are no holidays, no weekends, in fact it is during the most sacred times for the family that we work. How could we hold up and give up our affections if we had no passion and enthusiasm for what we do?”

Enthusiasm: en dentro thèos dio. A verticalization of the absolute.

The Art of Chef Cristian Lai comes from an authentic knowledge of territorial recipes and having traveled the world to have a 360-degree view of the work.

He was a waiter, a bartender. He detached himself from cooking and experimented with other professions in the restaurant industry.

He loves to cook everything with passion and loves to show it. Her dishes are an explosion of flavor particles, a combination of sublimation for the palate, experience for the memory. 

We, from BARNES Como, met him at D-Lounge Faggeto Lario, a restaurant in the larger luxury Domus Plinii complex overlooking Lake Como.

“To stand the test of time, one must evolve. So the Kitchen,” Chef Cristian Lai tells us with a smile that is an expression of his total dedication to his work, “day by day, every Chef has to be more and more creative and artistic, and everyone has to do what they do best. 

Resist and create. Especially in areas of high-end tourism, such as Lake Como, like Faggeto Lario, where those who arrive seek the exclusivity of the culinary tradition, which has always been renowned and recognized by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity.

Chef, how have reality TV shows affected the Culinary professions?

“They have done some good but also some bad. They created curiosity and interest about aspects of catering. Those who, like me, have been working their way up the ladder, since childhood, are today confronted with guys who have a different approach. Today people are looking for effect without going through knowledge or the rules of tradition. There are dishes from Italian history that have been twisted by the great chefs and have been somewhat lost. Although there is a trend coming back to reevaluate tradition, and to look for the flavors of the past.”

Chef, what is the place where you had the best meal?

“Mom’s house”.

Known for its simplicity, our cuisine does not require affabulations of ingredients, but demands care and mastery in preparation. No improvisation but knowledge of provenance, processing. Successful traditional dishes come out of the kitchens of grandmothers, of mothers, even before those of great chefs, and are geographically located in one or another region, in one or another season. 

Food

What is the secret of a winning recipe?

“Simplicity. Today there is a bit of research to complicate recipes, to create complex menus to demonstrate the academic approach. But on the technical stage or product knowledge, there are many gaps.”

It is a matter of approach to work. Passion is as necessary as determination and humility. They are must-have ingredients for any recipe that wants to satisfy the palate.

Chef Cristian Lai uses local products by combining them in a tactile balance of taste.

“Those in this profession must never feel that they have arrived, but must continually study, ask, inform themselves. I have been collaborating for years with Davide Bordoli very young, he is 24 years old humble and knowledgeable professional. We have been working together for years. When people ask me who is the Chef here I answer that at D-Longue in Faggeto Lario there are two of us, because alone you don’t go anywhere.”

Davide Bordoli has been working in the kitchen for eight years. The restaurant environment has been his habitat since childhood. He grew up in it. It is his family. It is what he is used to doing. He, too, reiterates the notion that it is the professional roots that help him deal with the difficulties and compromises of this job. His words, too, are the winning recipe based on passion. 

“It is easier to understand this trade if you know it as a child; those who come to it in adulthood are not able to fully understand it.”

Did reality television help make you love this profession?

“No. I grew up in the reality TV boom but never followed or liked them unlike many of my peers. I never believed in them. I lived the direct experience and was trained in my parents’ restaurant.”

We let him in on a secret, though: as a child he followed Chef Tony from Miracle Blade. He was fascinated by the mastery of handling blades, of that quick fingering of a skilled instrumentalist.

How do you see yourself in ten years?

“I am from the lake, I belong to this place. I love it, as I love my work, I know the sacrifices. I would like to have my own place here on these shores, which are my home. It is important to stand up for your territory and create value for your territory.”

Innovating and evolving does not mean forgetting, desecrating, disrupting. Uberto Giulini, General Manager of D-Lounge and Domus Plinii, knows this well. Professional, Lombard Doc, Milanese roots, lacustrian soul. Although he is “arios” – as they say in Milan of one who comes from outside – he loves the Lake, knows it, respects it. He lives it.

He has revisited high-end accommodations with style and elegance to give guests a truly welcoming experience, in a fascination of refined atmospheres, shapes and colors, while at the same time marveling both with exclusive services and locations and with the naturalness of familiarity, in the balance and ethics of the area.

Nino’s Crotto and lacustrine dualism.

Crotto del Nino is the epitome of the dualism that characterizes the entire lake landscape, always suspended between nature and urbanization, past and present, ancient and modern. A complex system of opposites that complement each other. A dual soul: as rurality and nobility.

Rural as in the rural imprinting of the Lario, of the bucolic, wild, forested landscape.

Noble as the memory of the ancient mansions, elegant and seductive, which reveal themselves imposingly from the lake or from the opposite shore. And in the case of Crotto del Nino, the opposite shore is that of Cernobbio, that of the prestigious Hotel Villa D’Este.

There are innumerable examples of lake architecture in which the two souls-rural and noble-harmoniously intersect.

One example, full of symbols and history, is the Crotto del Nino.

The name is related to the Rio Nino, which originates on the Larian slopes above Brunate and flows into the Lake.

It was a place of refreshment and gathering in the postwar period, a renowned inn reachable only from the lake.
When the tavern ceased operations due to withdrawal of the license, the owner made it the refuge to devote himself to his passions: fishing, farming and the meditative life.

Today, Crotto del Nino is a home of luxury, synonymous with privacy and modernity.
Already in its location we find a double truth. It is located halfway between Como and Blevio. It is on the lake, in a private location, but it is a nothing from the urban center. It is a place of silence-a contrast when we think of the noisy hubbub of patrons landing there from the Lake or the modern bustle of the Lake.

Crotto del Nino is set in a park, owned by the property, of about 10,000 square meters planted with local vegetation.

When the property was renovated, its original features were preserved. The central block was supplemented with a new construction, clad with split stone. Split stone is the most rustic and rough and is obtained precisely by a mechanical process of separating materials. It is an ancient process-now facilitated by the use of machinery, whereas in the past only a hammer and chisel were used-that, compared to other processes, has less impact on the environment.

Vista lago dalla terrazza

The property has been redesigned and developed to provide the comforts of modernity while retaining the style of lakeside architecture, typically unobtrusive to its surroundings. It offers the possibility of ideal lakefront living without sacrificing the vitality of downtown.

The mansion is equipped with ancillary facilities swimming pool, gymnasium, dock and has the privilege of a private cable car as a means of access from the road.

In addition to being an essential transportation facility, the gondola lift is also a plus for admiring the landscape and having an immersive view on the move, surely one of the most exciting and exclusive on the Lake.

The cable car acts as a separator of places, leading from the mundane to the private, from the public to the private. It leads away from prying eyes, like a conveyor in wonder, and is the only means to reach, from above, enchantment.

The Greenway of Como Lake

With the recent opening of the Regina, the road connecting Como to Chiavenna, and the spring weather, there is a perfect opportunity to spend an afternoon walking around the lake. A pleasant walk immersed in the beautiful natural landscape of Lake Como, lasting about 3 hours and a half and suitable for everyone, which can be covered in full starting from Colonno and arriving in Griante, or in part by choosing to start from one of the stages.

The Greenway, on the western shore of Lake Como, covers a distance of about 10 km, through the villages of Colonno, Sala Comacina, Ossuccio, Lenno, Mezzegra, Tremezzo and Griante, following in parts the ancient Via Regina.

The Greenway route is divided into 7 stages:

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1st stage: Colonno to Sala Comacina
Leaving an inhabited stretch, you can admire the beautiful view of the village.
2nd stage: Sala Comacina to Ossuccio
The lake and the mountains in the background are the backdrop to the Comacina Island.
3rd stage: Ossuccio in Lenno
Village Ossuccio, public park with playground and bar, Villa del Balbiano
4th stage: Lenno to Mezzegra
Green areas for picnics, Villa del Balbianello, Lido di Lenno, Boat on the Lake
5th stage: Mezzegra to Tremezzo
From the churchyard of San’Abbondio, a real terrace on the lake and Bellagio.
6th stage: Tremezzo to Griante
Village Tremezzo, Villa “La Quiete”, the botanical garden of Villa Carlotta
7th stage: Griante at the end of the Greenway
Cadenabbia embarkation towards Bellagio and Varenna.

A wonderful opportunity to spend an afternoon with friends.
It is possible to get to one of the stages by car or by public transport.