10 top Chefs of the New Wave of Italian Cuisine

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Ten emerging chefs are taking Italian cuisine into the 21st century by drawing on the best of the past

La nonna forever stirring polenta. Lamb slowly roasting in a wood-burning hearth. Startling simplicity and direct, honest flavors. Sure, we can spend another millennium savoring these age-old clichés. But where's the contemporary Italian food scene?In the land of Versace and Prada, what answers to Californian fusion or Catalan fizz? Loaded with clues from the top Italian restaurant critics, I went in search of 10 emerging chefs whose pots offer a glimpse into the future of Italy's alta cucina. Did I expect culinary cross-dressing and other postmodern bravado?Not exactly, but the results were, well, unexpected.

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Surprise No. 1: Call it the umbilical factor. Ties to land and family are so entrenched, the new restaurant scene remains unapologetically anti-urban. Don't look for innovation in Rome or Turin, or even Milan.

Surprise No. 2: Italy is light-years away from the concept of haute-casual dining. Few kitchens blur the boundaries between high and low. The shiny universe of silver and crystal is still undimmed.

Surprise No. 3: Culinary time is languid here—anything avant-garde has to fight for a generation to be born.

And yet, I felt a fresh breeze wafting through Italian kitchens. And it wasn't scented with curry or Kaffir lime. Having recovered from the nouvelle cuisine disastro, the next generation is creating small revolutions by nurturing and redefining regional tastes. Here, then, are the chefs who are shaping the future by celebrating the past. Luckily in Italy, the silver-haired specter of la nonnastill haunts every stove. Continues travelandleisure.com

photo: eatingwithziggy.com