Italy's highest vegan restaurant opens: the adventure of Andrea Fugnanesi in Livigno

Jun 10 2024, 12:33
In Livigno, at an altitude of 1,816 meters, the vegan and vegetarian restaurant "Stua da Legn" of the Lac Salin SPA & Mountain Resort opens on June 21. The kitchen is led by a young Umbrian chef, already at home in Valtellina

We are in Valtellina, in the province of Sondrio. Livigno is a town well known to mountain and ski enthusiasts, boasting 115 kilometers of slopes. Known as "Little Tibet," it is the second highest town in Italy, almost tying with Chamois in Val d'Aosta (1818 m) and following Sestriere in Piemonte (over 2,000 meters). The altitude record is reached in its fraction, Trepalle, which lies between 1900 and 2200 meters and is recognized as the highest permanent settlement in Europe. From June 21, Livigno will also have its fine dining vegetarian and vegan restaurant, the first on these peaks. It is called "Stua da Legn - Alta Cucina Naturale" and is located within the Lac Salin Spa & Mountain Resort, a refined establishment designed in harmony with the surrounding nature, featuring an open-air spa. The land and its products become the protagonists of the new, entirely green gastronomic course, led by Andrea Fugnanesi, a chef not even in his thirties who successfully launched Stua Noa inside Hotel Concordia in the town center last season.

Who is the Chef of Europe's highest vegan restaurant?

Born in 1995, Umbrian from Sigillo (Perugia), Fugnanesi attended a hospitality school in Spoleto and cut his teeth in a small restaurant in Gubbio. After other significant experiences (notably at Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole), his big break came at 22 when he participated in the second edition of Top Chef Italia. Though he did not win, it propelled him into a higher league. He represented Italian cuisine worldwide in Brazil, then arrived at the Grand Hotel Bagni Nuovi in Bormio, where he fell in love with the mountains. However, it was his recent partnership with the Giacomelli family, a notable name in local hospitality and dining, that marked another leap forward in his career.

He began at the Grand Hotel della Posta and now continues with the other establishments of the Lungolivigno group, which includes five hotels (three in Livigno, one in Tirano, and one in Valdidentro) and six distinct restaurants, each with its culinary peculiarity: Stua da Legn Alta Cucina Naturale and the more traditional Lac Salin Panoramic Fondue at Hotel Lac Salin, and Stua Noa Fine Dining and Concordia Grill Bar & Bistrot (grilled meats and smart lunch) at Hotel Concordia. "My culinary philosophy is guided by a passion for excellence and innovation," says Fugnanesi. "In every restaurant of the group, I strive to carry forward this vision, offering refined, authentic, and carefully crafted dishes that reflect my roots and creativity."

What to eat at Europe's highest vegan restaurant

The season dictates the rules in Fugnanesi's "alta cucina naturale" (high natural cuisine), which always centers on the vegetable element in a personal and creative way. Dishes include stuffed escarole with stale bread, lovage mayonnaise, vegetable stock, and parsley cream; wild egg crusted in polenta, goat caciotta fondue, and black truffle (also present in other versions at Stua Noa in Concordia); or "Vegetable Verticality" with celeriac, potato, radishes, zucchini, white turnip, and four types of vegan mayonnaise (turmeric, tomato, vegetable charcoal, and spinach) among the starters.

Additionally, a mushroom-shaped ravioli filled with rosemary potato, mushroom powder, mushroom cream, mushroom consommé, and parsley cream (Fungo) and a playful "fusion" between Campania and Valtellina in "As if it were a pasta and potatoes": "mescafrancesca" (mixed Campanian pasta), local potato cream, bitto cheese, potato peel oil, and vitelotte potato chips. Tubers also appear in the main courses, such as orange celeriac and beetroot skewer in various consistencies, and desserts - interestingly, desserts were Fugnanesi's Achilles' heel during Top Chef - like crêpes suzette with lemon and orange juice, Alpincello from Valchiavenna or Grand Marnier with homemade Valtellina blueberry ice cream, chocolate soufflé with cream ice cream, or a more unusual almond milk panna cotta with Tonka bean and pepper jam.

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