Near Palermo, there's a summer restaurant housed in a former railway station that changes chef every year

Jun 5 2024, 12:36
In its third season, Stazione Vucciria, a wonderful inn by the sea in Finale di Pollina, has resident chef Lorenzo Careggio

As every year, the end of May coincides with the announcement of the resident chef at Stazione Vucciria, the summer hotspot of the Virga&Milano group in Finale di Pollina, about a hundred kilometres from Palermo. Overlooking the beach of Torre Conca, Stazione Vucciria occupies the spaces of a former railway station, transformed into an inn: a restaurant with a single, enchanting room on the first floor, a kitchen centered around a huge outdoor grill, and about fifty outdoor tables where you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset. Previous chefs have included Kobe Desramaults and Yoji Tokuyoshi. "Our philosophy for 2024 is: make way for millennials," says Franco Virga, who, along with Stefania Milano, has spearheaded the gastronomic revolution that has transformed Palermo's dining scene in recent years. Virga has been contemplating this since the spring (but the project resumes after the summer), when the group's flagship restaurant, Gagini, launched lunch formulas to attract younger diners to fine dining, which at Gagini is represented by Mauricio Zillo. "For us, the crisis in fine dining and the luxury sector leaves millennials out, which is why we have invested in them." He continues this approach by launching the Stazione Vucciria season, inviting Lorenzo Careggio, born in 1983, originally from Piedmont but born in Casablanca, and son of that Turin which Virga and Milano consider a second home, where they have replicated their Buatta (Tre Gamberi for the Gambero Rosso) inside the Mercato Centrale of Turin. "Even though he’s not exactly a millennial," says Virga, "we want to focus on a young talent."

Franco Virga e Lorenzo Careggio

Who is Lorenzo Careggio

He studied engineering, but then his path led him to the kitchen. He began working in restaurants in Turin but then decided to delve deeper, attending the Niko Romito Academy in Castel di Sangro. From there, he worked in Romito's establishments: Spazio in Rome and Milan, and at Reale in Abruzzo. He returned to Turin and was at Ristorante Carignano when he earned his first Michelin star. After a year and a half, he was ready to strike out on his own, doing so at Eragoffi, a venue that quickly made its mark on the city's culinary scene, generating other establishments in the city, all under Careggio's leadership. His latest experience was as executive chef at La Locanda della Rocca at Rocca di Arignano. Now, he spends the season by the Sicilian sea, and perhaps beyond: "I will try to secure him a longer-term contract to develop a broader project in the coming years," announces Virga. As a skilled entrepreneur, Virga knows how to move pieces where needed. For example, anyone visiting Maison Bocum - restaurant and home of the artistic space Project Room (which from June 20 hosts works by young Turin artist Francesca Dondoglio) - would find Alessandro Fanara, who arrived from Libertà, now closed. "We don't yet know what we'll do with Libertà, maybe a pizzeria, who knows...". Meanwhile, preparations are heating up for the opening of Stazione Vucciria on June 21.

Photo: Fabio Florio

Stazione Vucciria 2024

There are some constants, such as the local raw materials, showcased on the large outdoor grill, and the cellar of natural wines, primarily Sicilian. The format changes a bit, tripling the appointments: lunch-aperitif-dinner, each marked by a proposal that, while always speaking the same language, changes tone throughout the day: contemporary trattoria by day, wines and cocktails with gourmet petit plats at sunset, a slightly more dressed-up restaurant in the evening. To strengthen the project, this year Virga plays the card of territoriality, working to build an alliance with four other local establishments: Le Calette in Cefalù, Arrhais in Finale di Pollina, Nangalarruni, and Palazzaccio in Castelbuono. "I want to promote this area, also involving hotels and two NCCs to create a tourist network

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