Omar Maseroli

It took me two full meals at Mercante to actually write this post. I know, I know… it might sound like an excuse, but the first time I went there, interviewed Italian co-founder and foodie Omar Maseroli and tried their dinner menu, and the second time, last Sunday, I tasted their ‘gnocco fritto’ (fried bread dough), rejoiced while it was in my mouth and delivered a much deserved Chiara’s Pick.

连着去了两次商贾,我才把本篇采访完成…哈哈,我知道这听起来像是为自己满足口腹之欲找的借口。但是,我终于为自己心中的疑问找到了最佳答案:为什么一家意大利餐馆会起名叫商贾?选择隐藏在老北京的胡同里,是酒香不怕巷子深,还是有什么特别的原因?商贾的老板,意大利男人 Omar Maseroli娓娓道来。

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Mercante, tucked in the heart of Beijing, a few steps away from Nanluoguxiang, is your typical Italian trattoria, where you can experience solid and down-to-earth cuisine the way your grandmother would prepare it for you, with love and focus on the quality of the ingredients.

商贾,位于东城区方砖厂胡同4号,距离热闹的南锣鼓巷仅几步之遥,是典型的意大利式trattoria。热爱美食,又精于此道的意大利人认为餐馆也有很多种概念,Trattoria装修呈现典型的意大利式风格,没有一般意义上的菜单,服务亲切热情,分量上大大满足你,就像是意大利人传统的家庭厨房。

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That is, of course, if you live in Emilia Romagna and if your grandmother is a countryside women with a weakness for home-made bread.

当然,如果你碰巧住在艾米利亚-罗马涅,祖母又是热爱烹饪的可爱乡村老太太的话,体会就更深了。

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But given we are in Beijing, I was curious to understand why Omar came all the way here to share this culinary experience with Beijiners. We sat down, drank some coffee (the Italian way) together with his boss (and girlfriend!) Yuan Yuan and talked about past, present and future of Mercante, which opened its doors to the public in January, 2012.

为什么奥马尔要千里迢迢来到北京开一家意大利餐馆?直到他在我面前坐下,并给我引荐餐馆的另一位老板时,我才恍然大悟!元元,一名北京大妞儿,奥马尔的爱人,也是商贾的老板之一。2012年1月,餐馆正式对外营业。

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Here is his story.

下面是我们谈话的全部内容。

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Has a place like Mercante always been in your plans?

[Laughing] No. But I have always loved to spend some quality time around a dining table; it could be with friends, family, my girlfriend. When I turned 18 I started driving my car around my region, Emilia Romagna, to explore new restaurants and new flavours – this has always been my passion. Moreover, I’ve always been curious about the process that magically takes place in the kitchen and transforms raw ingredients into a dish right on my table. I guess the most fascinating wizards were my grandmothers – I still look at them as a big source of inspiration!

开这样一家餐馆在你的计划中吗?

(大笑)奥马尔:不是!但是我享受餐桌时光,和朋友,和家人或者爱人。18岁后,我就开着车转遍了艾米利亚-罗马涅,找那些有意思的馆子,有意思的味道,我一直爱干这个。我对厨房里的秘密也总是好奇,特别是对我的祖母,她一直是我对食物热情的来源。

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How did you end up in Beijing and what about this city inspired you to open a restaurant?

I came to Beijing eight years ago, and back then my job was about figures and excel sheets. Let’s say that being away from home pushed me to actually spend more time in the kitchen to cook the things I wanted to eat – this is how I became more and more interested in cooking and sourcing high-quality products. Definitely Beijing was a rich soil for my passion to grow and evolve into something more solid: there is an ancient and sophisticated food culture here ad Yuan Yuan helped me discover it day after day, and, if it was not enough, this city is a microcosm where it is easy to find food from all over the world. Japanese, Korean, French, German… You got them all – and this is a continuous source of inspiration and exploration for me. I just felt it was right to be part of this dynamic reality.

怎么会来到北京呢?又怎么会想到开一家餐厅呢?

我八年前刚来到北京,当时我的工作就是跟数字、一堆excel表打交道。远离家乡,又希望能吃到意大利的食物,我自己下厨的时间越来越多。北京在这方面的资源十分丰富,饮食文化历史悠久,层次丰富。我的爱人元元在这方面是我的老师,她带着我了解这片土地拥有的丰厚的饮食文化和人群。在北京,你能找到全世界各个地方的风味,日本的,韩国的,法国的,德国的,这也是我寻找灵感的来源。我觉得自己已经完全融入了这部分文化。

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Why the decision to settle Mercante down in the hutongs, rather than in more expat-friendly areas?

Mercante offers Italian food in the hutongs, a very special setting I’ve always been attracted to. It’s lively, with busy locals walking up and down the alley from early in the morning to late at night to go grocery shopping at the nearby market. There is a natural sparkle in the old Beijing, a rush of light, colours,flavours. It has always felt very natural for us to look for a location for Mercante here. My girlfriend Yuan Yuan (partner in this project and, as Omar says with a conspiratorial smile, his boss) is a true Beijiner, and feels comfortable here – also our house is just around the corner. We feel we belong here.

为什么把商贾开在了胡同里,而不是外国人集中的地方?

我一直对老北京的胡同感兴趣,这儿文化很活跃,从早到晚都能见到胡同里遛弯儿的,聊天的,买菜的,特别有意思。这儿是老北京的核心,充满了各种色彩、各种各味道,各种神秘的感觉。我一直都感觉到应该把餐厅开在这样的一个地方。元元是老北京人,也是商贾的合伙人、老板之一。她在这方面给了我很大的帮助,我们觉得在这儿特别舒服。我觉得我们属于这儿。

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What is your personal role in Mercante?

I take care of the menu and I spent all the time in the kitchen during the first one year and a half after Mercante opened its doors. There was lots of work to do, to train the kitchen team and make sure the quality was up to standards. Around 6 months ago I stepped out from the kitchen and started spending more time in the dining hall, as a maitre – this way I’m more in touch with our guests. They are two completely different experiences and you need to both of them to understand how a restaurant works. From the very beginning, Yuan Yuan and I have decided to have a very hands-on approach and to spend most of the time in the restaurant, investing energy and resources into the training of the staff.

你在商贾的角色是什么?

我负责菜单和整个厨房。这儿活儿很多,要培训厨房人员,确保我们的食物和服务达到标准。大概半年前,我开始负责大堂的一些工作,和前来的客人们有了更多的接触。这是两种完全不同的工作,你得完全了解餐厅是怎么运作的,还要兼顾厨房。开始,元元和我都认为应该亲自去做这个事,然后再逐渐训练我们自己的团队。

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What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?

The biggest challenge is always to find more people to join our team – they have to be aware of our culture and of what we are trying to build. It doesn’t really matter that they have precious experience as waiters, we look more at their attitude and smiles. Yuan Yuan has a sixth sense for this: she just understands people when she talks to them. Her skill has been very useful, and most of the people in our team have been with us for a very long time. Now we are trying to give them more and more freedom, we want them to be more independent. Of course, we are always around if they need us as a back up.

你们现在面临的最大的挑战是什么?

嗯,现在最大的困难是找到适合我们团队的人,他必须了解我们的文化,和我们的目标。我们不是很在意他们之前的经验是什么,我们只在乎他们对这份工作的态度。元元对于选人这方面很有天分,她总能知道什么样的人适合我们。现在我们希望能让团队更独立,可以独当一面,当然,我们俩会时时给予支持和帮助。

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What about the future plans for Mercante?

I would love to see Mercante up and running, working like clockwork. I don’t want it to suffer from ‘generation turnover’ if Yuan Yuan and I are not here anymore. Sadly, this is exactly what happened to most Italian trattoria, where, once the mother is too old or tired to go to the kitchen everyday, the sons just buy frozen bread instead of baking it daily. This is a disaster, the tradition is lost because the mother has not been able to share her knowledge, passion and technique with the next generation. At Mercante, once we’ll be done with the training-and-sharing process, we will think about opening a second Mercante, in some other historical area of Beijing. But at the moment we are far from there, so we just keep going to make this place better and better.

和我们说说你们未来的规划吧。

我们希望商贾能顺利地成长和壮大,我们特别不希望看到“断层”的现象。在意大利,祖母通常照看厨房,负责一大家子的饮食。一旦祖母干不动了,儿孙辈开始走进厨房后就抛弃了上一辈那套。对待食物马马虎虎,应付着,我不希望我和元元离开后,商贾也变成这样。一旦我们完成了对团队的培训,我们希望能开另一家商贾。但是,目前我们专注于把现在这家餐厅做的更好。

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At Mercante the focus in on the basic ingredients, with cold cuts coming all the way from Italy, bread baked every day and pasta fresca rolled and stuffed with the best fillings – my favourite is definitely with radicchio, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese. Yummy!

商贾的原则是专注于原汁原味的食物原料,用最传统的意大利烹饪手法制作食物。我最爱的是莴苣核桃 戈尔根朱勒干酪做馅的pasta fresca!

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I’m so proud of being Italian when it comes to food (and fashion and style, but this is another story!). Omar and Yuan Yuan are great ambassadors of our food culture, and I personally love the combination of Italian cuisine and Chinese traditional setting and drive. Because of course #italiansdoitbetter, but I find #theydoitbestwhentheyhaveachinesegirlfriendandpartner!

作为一名意大利人,我为意大利食物感到自豪(当然我们在时尚方面也很厉害,哈哈)Omar和元元为北京带来了正宗的意大利食物,也把意大利文化带到了北京。意大利人在烹饪方面有着卓越的天分(哈哈),当然如果有一位北京爱人帮你就更厉害了。

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Conferire il Chiara’s Pick a Omar Maseroli e Yuan Yuan e’ stato per me un vero piacere: Mercante e’ una trattoria emiliana che non sarebbe fuori posto nella campagna parmense. Amore per le materie prime, attenzione per i dettagli e pane fatto in casa tutti i giorni. E anche la scelta della location e’ una piacevole sorpresa: Mercante non si trova nello sfavillante distretto degli affari, ma nel cuore della citta’ vecchia. Fare una passeggiata negli hutong e assaporare un po’ della vecchia Pechino prima di sedersi davanti allo ‘gnocco fritto’ e’ parte dell’esperienza. Provare per credere.

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For the chat with Omar Maseroli and Yuan Yuan at Mercante in Beijing I was delighted to wear:

采访Omar时我的搭配:

Pink blazer 粉色上衣: Max & Co.

Foulard 丝巾: Hermes

Brooch 胸针: Max Mara

Pearl necklace 珍珠项链: vintage

Bracelet 手镯: vintage

Diamond earrings 钻石耳饰: vintage

Nail color 美甲: OPI Alpine snow + OPI Matte top coat

 

For the delivery of the Chiara’s Pick to Omar at Mercante I was delighted to wear:

为“柯雅时尚单品推荐”拍摄,我的搭配是:

Black silk dress 黑色长裙: COS

Silver earrings 银耳饰: Georg Jensen

Silver ring 银戒指: Furla

Sandals 凉鞋: Zara

Toe nail colour 美甲: OPI Coca-Cola Red

 

All the pictures at Mercante were taken with my white Sony NEX-5T.

相机:索尼 NEX-5T。

Chinese translation by Jasmine Wang.

中文采访稿由Jasmine Wang翻译整理。

 


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