Chef Profile: Floriano Pellegrino & Isabella Potì – the rebel chefs from southern Italy

By / Food / August 10th, 2022 / 1

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 print issue of Quench Magazine.

Floriano Pellegrino and Isabella Potì from restaurant Bros’ are young, beautiful, and talented. Their confidence and smart marketing have divided the Italian food world in two. Love them or hate them, Pellegrino and Potì aren’t interested in staying “right” as in the mainstream. Or fucking right, as Floriano himself has probably put it. Meet the rebel chefs from southern Italy.

Restaurant Bros’ opened in 2016 in the baroque city of Lecce, in Apulia, on the Italian heel. Two years later, their first star arrived in the Michelin Guide. From the beginning, Pellegrino’s brothers were involved as co-owners, hence the name, but today the brothers have preferred to go other ways. Apulia is a region more associated with Italian mothers, who cook traditional dishes in large steaming pots, and not ambitious fine dining. This is some-thing that Bros’ intends to change.

Pellegrino and Potì returned home after years of work abroad, accruing a great deal of experience in the process. Potì, among other jobs, worked at Hibiscus in London and Geranium in Copenhagen, while Pellegrino was at Noma as well as three-star Azurmendi with chef Eneko Atxa. But it is Martín Barasategui, at the three-star Spanish restaurant Lasarte, and one of Spain’s most influential chefs of all time, who is their mentor. In addition to Bros’, Pellegrino and Potì recently opened a traditional trattoria called Roots and a pastry bakery called Sista’. They have also taken over the old local football stadium and started a rugby team.

Recipe for Spaghetti Scorranese and Pasta Burro Rancido e Bottarga by Bros’ here.

Spaghetti Scorranese and Pasta Burro Rancido e Bottarga by Bros’ | Photo Credit: Bros’

Photo Credit: Bros’

Floriano Pellegrino

WHERE DO YOU LIVE:
I live in Scorrano, in the province of Lecce. The centre of Salento in Apulia.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP:
I was born in 1990 and grew up between Scorrano and Trepuzzi, two small villages in Salento. My parents are divorced, so I shared my time between the two.

FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD:
Pizza and all that is good and fucking perfect.

WHY DO YOU SAY FUCKING SO OFTEN:
(laughter) It was a chef at Noma who swore all the time and since then it has stuck with me. 

WHY OPEN A FINE DINING RESTAURANT IN LECCE: We are beautiful, we are talented. Both Isabella and I have been on Forbes’ list of the most influential people under thirty. Two from the list working on the same project. There is no one else in the world who does. We are a fucking case study. Bros’ would have been cool in New York but is even cooler in Lecce. As the Spaniards say, we have cojones. 

FAVORITE INGREDIENT TO COOK WITH: Lemon.

BEST CHILDHOOD FOOD MEMORY:
Being Italian, I am very attached to my grandmother. The best memory of my childhood is in the summer when on Sundays she made eggplant parmigiana.

YOUR GO-TO RESTAURANT: Martín Barasategui.

WHO IS YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT CULINARY INFLUENCE: Martín Barasategui.

WHAT DO YOU DRINK AT HOME:
Always still cold water.

MUSIC YOU LISTEN TO WHILE COOKING:
Trap and rap.

HOW DID YOU START COOKING:
My mother had a farmhouse and my grandparents were farmers. I couldn’t help but get close to gastronomy and cooking.

ON THE FUTURE:
We are architects of our destiny, and our decisions are closely linked to our future, and therefore I try every day to make important decisions and to surround myself with the right people. The goal is to create a new Basque Country in Salento. Look at fucking Denmark, ten years ago they were nothing. Everything is studied on paper. We can do it too.


Photo Credit: Bros’

Isabella Potì

Isabella Potì, born in 1995, moves with ease between her kitchen and the fashion world where she is often requested for commercials and television shows. She is confident, extroverted, and very friendly when meeting in person. 

WHERE DO YOU LIVE:
in Scorrano, close to Lecce, in Apulia.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP:
I grew up between Surbo and Giorgilorio, in Apulia. I come from a very humble family. My mother is Polish and my father is Italian.  

FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD:
I love “cuccumarazzi” salads and I like leavened products, but I don’t have a favorite food. (Cuccumarazzi is a local vegetable from Apulia that tastes and looks like a mix between a cucumber and a melon)

FAVORITE INGREDIENT TO COOK WITH:
Lemon. It is an almost fundamental element in my recipes. My desserts always include some kind of citrus. I love the acidity it brings.

BEST CHILDHOOD FOOD MEMORY:
I have so many! For example, freshly milked cow’s milk. In Poland I drank it every morning, my grandparents took it from the lady next door. It’s a beautiful food-related memory from my childhood. Another is when my great-grandmother went to pick the strawberries we had in the garden.

YOUR GO-TO RESTAURANT:
Alain Passard or some great Italian chef like Andrea Berton.

WHO IS YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT CULINARY INFLUENCE:
I have a technical base ranging from Spanish to Nordic and French cuisine. After my experiences abroad, Floriano has been my main culinary influence. Together we have been studying taste for some time and continue to do so at our restaurant Bros’.

WHAT DO YOU DRINK AT HOME:
Still water and lots of homemade fruit juice.

MUSIC YOU LISTEN TO WHILE COOKING:
A little bit of everything, I love rock music, but I also really like R&B and I like singing it.

HOW DID YOU START COOKING:
With the little experiences I had when I was a little girl. I was very close to nature because my father and mother taught me this. I was very lucky. But I don’t have anyone with a background connected to food in my family.

ON THE FUTURE:
I see the future as something that I can’t wait to discover. I see it immersed in nature, with much joy and certainly making my biggest dream come true; cooking and having my family, friends, and animals close by.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Åsa Johansson came to Italy from Sweden in 2001 because she loved Italian films from the ‘50s and ‘60s and wanted to learn Italian. It was love at first sight. Following a degree in political science and journalism at the University of Florence, she now writes about wine, food, and travel for Swedish, Norwegian, Italian and Canadian publications. Åsa travels back to Sweden on a regular basis to hold courses and seminars on Italian wines. Since 2019 she produces her own extra virgin olive oil, La Collina Blu, from the olive trees on the Tuscan hills where she lives with her husband Stefano and two children. Her latest project is Sweden’s first podcast about Italian wine.

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