“In addition to being a formidable comedian, he was also a foodie, totally on the ball where cooking was concerned”.
They say that in the sixties, Ugo Tognazzi used to arrive at the legendary Cantagallo Autogrill service station at five in the morning to enjoy traditional Bologna delicacies.
The culture of good food, a love for typical produce, a chance to learn about the local area, conviviality.
Even then, these were the fundamental ingredients for the Autogrill lifestyle.
“A typical Bolognese restaurant, the only difference being that it was on the motorway. The Cantagallo service station was open 24/7 and many local youngsters would come here to spend their evenings in company”, recalls Guglielmo, former Autogrill employee who started his career right here at Cantagallo, the very day it opened.
“We used to grate truffles directly onto the tortellini in cream on the customer’s plate.”
Inaugurated in 1961, the Cantagallo service station was extraordinarily successful as a place of taste: particularly renowned for its tortellini in brodo (filled pasta parcels in hot meat stock), which in 1969, earned Marco Bazzani, the restaurant’s chef, the “Tortellino d’oro” award from the Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino.
A vocation that comes from afar
The sixties brought an economic boom and mass motorisation, with Italians taking to the road in their Fiat 600s and 1100s. For the first time, travelling had become a collective phenomenon and Autogrill service stations were filled by these Italians who, for the first time, were discovering their homeland in a quest for self-revelation that also included a journey into the delicacies of regional cuisine.
“At Mottagrill service station you eat in dialect”, was a title in the Quattroruote car magazine in 1970.
“Local cuisine, local flavours – they would never offer you a Milanese breaded cutlet in the Naples area”.
Autogrill has always shared with millions of travellers its passion for that gastronomic and cultural heritage that can be found all over Italy, that all-Italian richness of recipes, flavours and typical regional products. A true vocation that has strengthened at the same pace as the transformations that have characterised an increasingly mobile world.
The Bottegaccia, a window onto local flavours
“When I am in the area, I cannot help but imagine myself sitting before a hefty platter of “noce al pepe” (seasoned pork), accompanied by a glass of good wine.”
Giuseppe, businessman, 2012
The first one opened in 1970, in the sales point in Chianti and is perhaps the most famous corner in service stations managed by the Group, the one hardest to resist.[
Over time, La Bottegaccia has increasingly strengthened links with its local context and today is a splendid concentrate of excellences, somewhere hundreds of local products represent the best of Italian tradition, with charcuterie, cheese, pasta and preserves. With the Sagre project, in 2005, La Bottegaccia sales points became an extension of the festivals held in surrounding towns and villages, offering, as well as products for tasting, also promotion, encounters and educational activity.
The territory in a sandwich
Whether enjoyed on the way to the seaside or during a business trip, a sandwich at an Autogrill is a ritual that everyone on the road experiences sooner or later.
A ritual with precise rules: the choice depends on the moment, often it has to do with personal roots, other times it meets a desire to try local specialities.
To satisfy these whims, Autogrill has seen the creation of initiatives such as Panini del territorio (local specialities with bestsellers such as the Bufalino, the Felino, or one with Culatello di Zibello) or the Gran casato dei sapori campaign, a range of sandwiches that offer the clientele a chance to rediscover the authentic flavour of Italian charcuterie, or even the Territorio Piacenza Project: Bread, Coppa, Pancetta or Salami from Piacenza.
Flavours from Italy invade Europe
From oranges to cheese, from charcuterie to desserts, through to fresh pasta. Between 2007 and 2011, half of Europe was invaded by Sicilian oranges, Parma ham, pasta from Gragnano, platters of cheese and quality condiments, from Balsamic Vinegar from Modena to Extra-virgin Olive Oil, to mention just a few.
A triumph of flavours. Products from the Italian food culture became the main players for various initiatives that Autogrill organised in its eating places, with the objective of introducing European consumers to real Italian products of quality.
This strategy came to a head at the end of 2011 with the "Grand Tour. Gusto italiano in Europa", an Italian taste experience involving 14 million customers all over Europe.
More recent times: typicality, seasonality, regionalism and zero kilometres
“I take great care when doing the shopping. I try to buy only fresh, seasonal produce, and, if I have to buy packaged products, I read the label very carefully”
Cristina, mother of three, interviewed at the Salone del Gusto 2014.
Cristina is not the only one with this mindset. There is a very strong tendency worldwide for rediscovery of the value of food, with respect for the environment, the rhythm of nature and the territory where it is produced.
A philosophy that is fully embraced at the Bistrot Milano Centrale, where the flavours of traditional regional gastronomy team with the values of sustainability, characterised by careful selection of local producers, governed by regional seasonality and a zero-kilometre supply chain.
A trend reiterated with participation in the Salone del Gusto 2014, where Autogrill managed the dining hall for Terra Madre, the global network set up by Slow Food to safeguard the quality of local agro-food production.
This approach also characterises the range on sale in the new Duomo Store in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, which will house a city market selling fresh produce and plenty of quality eating places serving local products of excellence.