Eat dust, Nigella! Italy's Nadia Santini named world's best female chef at foodie awards (and she was taught to cook by her nonna)

  • Santini is head chef at Michelin-starred Dal Pescatore restaurant, north Italy
  • The family-run dining room serves authentic Italian fare with modern twist
  • Was awarded honour at World's 50 Best Restaurant awards today
  • Signature dishes include pumpkin parcels, chargrilled eel and herb omelette

By Martha De Lacey

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Move over, Nigella. On your bike, Delia. A gastronomically gifted Italian has officially been named the world's best female chef.

Nadia Santini, who was taught to cook by her nonna-in-law, is head chef of the Michelin-starred Dal Pescatore restaurant in a small village in northern Italy, and was today honoured with the Best Female Chef gong at the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards.

Dal Pascatore, which was founded in 1925 by Santini's husband's family, is situated in Runate, between Mantova and Cremona, and their menu changes seasonally but always includes signature dishes such as pumpkin parcels, tiny meat ravioli in broth, herb omelette, chargrilled eel and tortellini stuffed with pumpkin, amaretto, Parmesan, and mostarda.

Nadia Santini, who has just been named the world's best female chef, in her kitchen at Dal Pascatore

Nadia Santini, who has just been named the world's best female chef, in her kitchen at Dal Pascatore

The kitchens of Dal Pescatore, where delicacies such as chargrilled eel, pumpkin parcels, tiny meat ravioli in broth, herb omelette and tortellini stuffed with pumpkin, amaretto, Parmesan, and mostarda are served

The kitchens of Dal Pescatore, where delicacies such as chargrilled eel, pumpkin parcels, tiny meat ravioli in broth, herb omelette and tortellini stuffed with pumpkin, amaretto, Parmesan, and mostarda are served

Santini was trained by her husband Antonio's grandmother, Teresa, who was running the restaurant when Santini married into the family nearly 40 years ago - she had never previously cooked professionally.

Dal Pascatore serves authentic Italian cuisine combined with modern influence, and in 1996 Santini became Italy's first female chef to be awarded three Michelin stars for her kitchen's delectable and imaginative fare.

 

'At the helm of the culinary dynasty that is the Santini family, Nadia Santini's cheffing expertise has lifted the restaurant to the highest of values,' said a statement from the World's 50 Best Restaurant awards, run by British magazine Restaurant.

The restaurant remains a family affair with her husband, Antonio, managing the front of house while their sons Alberto and Giovanni also work there.

The lush garden setting of Dal Pescatore in northern Italy, where Nadia Santini is head chef

The lush garden setting of Dal Pescatore in northern Italy, where Nadia Santini is head chef

Chef Nadia Santini checks a tray of tortellini pasta at her Dal Pescatore restaurant

Chef Nadia Santini checks a tray of tortellini pasta at her Dal Pescatore restaurant

Previous winners of the annual award that started in 2011 are Elena Arzak, head of the Arzak restaurant San Sebastian, Spain, and French chef Anne-Sophie Pic, of Maison Pic in Valence, France.

The award is decided by votes from 900 international leaders in the restaurant industry who make up the World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy.

'A considerable balancing act is necessary to give our dishes a modern identity'

Nadia Santini

Nadia Santini

'There is a growing synthesis of style: the cuisine now offered by "dal Pescatore" passes from the methods used by Antonio's mother to Nadia's new sensitivity.

'There are still strong links with tradition, but their style is independent, avoiding any sort of stagnation in a fixed and inopportune eternity but reaching unique balance and harmony.

'The dishes prepared at "dal Pescatore" are generally derived from family traditions or testimonials collected in the vicinity.

'The recipes are almost always adapted to the times: "tortelli di zucca" are now served with less butter and less parmesan cheese to appreciate the ingredients, returning to their flavours which are clear and linear.

'At present there is special attention to the dietetic aspect of food, traditional cuisine is being adapted to new nutritional systems and a new lifestyle which have a subtle but decisive influence on the recipes without destroying their original appeal.

The preparation of a dish so that its flavours can be enjoyed in their totality, without stealing their harmony, also means using light products which do not, however, make it too informal or out of the ordinary.

'This is a considerable balancing act, absolutely necessary to give our dishes a modern up-to-date identity.'

The Santini Family


 

The comments below have not been moderated.

"Get the teas in, pet!"

Click to rate     Rating   11

What is a 'nonna'? I thought that was what you got for making a big payment to a political party.

Click to rate     Rating   38

loving the Italian angle but when were Nigella and Delia restaurant chefs. Surely self taught Brit cooks.

Click to rate     Rating   34

stuff and nonsense! a medium rare steak with all the trimmings or a large cod and chips after a few pints knocks all that pasta / pumpkin parcel 'food' into a cocked hat.Yes I know that Italians live longer,but they can have my share of their 'healthy diet as well.

Click to rate     Rating   43

She sounds like a cow!

Click to rate     Rating   63

I never heard nor read that Nigella defines herself a chef. She is quite adamant in saying she is a cook. How about researching before "writing", DM?

Click to rate     Rating   89

Think you will find that Nigella and Delia have never once claimed to be chefs they are cooks More sensationalism from the DM

Click to rate     Rating   98

I trust Pippa is feeling worried by this .....

Click to rate     Rating   111

Nigella isn't a chef she says she isn't a chef, she's a self taught cook a bit different. Angela Hartnett is a chef maybe you should have used her name to get your dig across.

Click to rate     Rating   125

congratulations Wonderful to see a family tradition recognised in the normally anti-tradition restaurant ratings

Click to rate     Rating   100

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