Il bollito elettrico
I meet Mario Cucinotta on a sultry summer evening in Chiusure on behalf of the magazine Il Dolce ed il Salato, I have to interview him for a study on the Post Gourmet movement. At first, he comes across as gruff but he is just very anxious. I ask him to tell me how he got to this point and he begins to unload endless rivers of seemingly bumpy and irrational words on me, but I follow a thin, coherent thread. Mario was born in Little Palermo in Palermo (that’s how its new inhabitants call the historical centre) in November 1981, his star sign is scorpion. He comes from a family of leather goods traders who had gone rack and ruin because of a powerful local cultural impoverishment and the advent of mass tourism. Their shop is now a 24-hour laundromat. However, he passed happy teenage years pampered by drug friends and relatives, finding himself in his twenties without having understood a fucking movement, occupations, punk concerts, trips of hope to Rome, beers in the gardens of San Lorenzo, the bookshop of Valerio Marchi. Anyway, all of a sudden he is twenty-four years old in Palermo and never decently busy. He attends art school and after graduating he leaves for Milan to work as a warehouse-keeper «…mindful of the night when I slept enveloped in bubble wrap in the basement of the Sorelle Gemelle tunnel…» and is torn between being drunk and feeling moved. He tells me a lot about beating himself up for terrible mistakes for which he still feels an enormous sense of guilt (he apologises). After Milan, he begins his career as an artist: he is mostly self-taught. Things were initially going well but in 2014 an unpleasant experience that is still unresolved leads him to turn his back on the art world — suddenly as if a vase had fallen on his head, he changes his mind, he forgets everything, he has a total rejection.
He dreams of Adriano, a friend who guides him in a small glass resin boat through an impenetrable sea. The very high waves prevent him from taking off from the Cala di Palermo and reaching other friends waiting for him in Aspra. He and Adriano decide to reach Aspra on foot, dragging the boat with them. The boat has a fuel leak and because of the friction with the asphalt it catches fire, not only the boat, everything is on fire: Adriano, the landscape, the dream itself, and the cars, all on fire. Mario manages to save himself miraculously and come out of what has become by now a nightmare of flames. He wakes up (he continues to tell me) and has a vision: he decides to perfect the cooking technique he had seen in the dream «… to the other protagonists in the dream, indifferent to the flames, the bonnets of the burning luxury cars were ideal plates from which they fed themselves by cooking on them…». He leaves for Thailand, “the Mecca of street food,” he said to me muttering. Our Cucinotta spends nine years working for many restaurateurs and he grasps the most unimaginable secrets. He prepares delicious dishes, loves to fight, dreams, loses all hope, sees – due to strong hallucinations (from to the indigestion of pork and shrimp) – the Palermo of his happy childhood spent to pass the chemical hunger after techno marathons of whole weeks in the worst grills and sandwich shops. It was a world almost devoid of the word gourmet: cardboard and coca cola, mice sausages and grilled chips everywhere, under the bridges on the avenues towards the sea in jail. He returned to Italy and founded his empire, his first restaurant was called “Il Bollito Elettrico” and public kitchens in collaboration with Jaguar, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Mazda. Maserati, Ferrari have since become one of the world’s references for the Post Gourmet movement.
Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, 28 August 2023