Resident Head Chef Michele Berlendis is the hands and heart of MaMa Florence, since he joined the team in 2016. A native-born Tuscan, he attended a technical school specializing in hospitality and during weekends, worked in a local restaurant where his passion for the kitchen was born. His most significant formative restaurant experience was working alongside chef Filippo Saporito, who he defines as his culinary guru, at La Leggenda dei Frati. After honing his skills, Michele moved to Berlin where he worked at the premier Italian restaurant Boccadibacco and helped run Caffe Pfoertner. Michele’s approach to cooking is dynamic and he loves experimenting with simple flavors so the taste of the genuine ingredients he uses can really come through. He reinterprets classic recipes to give them his personal touch. You can find him coordinating the order from the butcher, finding the freshest seasonal produce at the local vegetable market, or in his chef’s whites in front of the stovetop at MaMa sharing his knowledge with smiling participants.
What’s on his plate: Ricotta and Spinach Tortelli with Butter and Sage Sauce
What’s in his glass: Castello di Ama Chianti Classico
Chef and Market Walk Guide Danny Ceccherini is the laughter and legs of MaMa Florence cooking school since he came on board in 2017. A Florentine native, Danny grew up with a curiosity for all things food, and he enjoyed Florentine favorites like lampredotto, crostini with cow tongue, and Francesina: the Florentine slow cooked beef stew with onions. He loves to take MaMa Florence guests on a tour of discovery through the bustling San Lorenzo market to learn about the ingredients and local foods before their cooking class. Danny has a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology from the University of Florence and completed a specialization in fresh pasta making. He has worked in important kitchens such as La Buona Novella Restaurant Grand Hotel Minerva, Relais Poggio ai Santi, and WinterGarden by Caiano at the St. Regis Hotel.
What’s on his plate: Fresh Tortelli Pasta with Ragù Sauce, and balsamic vinegar drizzled on just about anything.
What’s in his glass: Summer – Vermentino from the Tuscan coast, Winter – 100% Sangiovese
Valeria Piccini is chef and owner of Da Caino restaurant in Montemerano in the province of Grosseto not far from the Saturnia thermal baths in a quiet corner of Southern Tuscany. Even with a restaurant up a winding country road and boasting a mere nine tables, Valeria is one of the most influential Italian chefs and an incredible voice of contemporary Italian cooking. With her firm grasp on traditional regional ingredients, her beloved vegetable garden, and a pantry filled with homemade products, her dishes come to life as she experiments and painstakingly researches each dish. The end product is an incredible seasonal menu displaying her unique style at once elegant, delicate, and decisive.
Valeria never had professional chef training, but learned everything she knows alongside her mother in their home kitchen and later alongside her mother-in-law, the original chef of the family run restaurant she and her husband took over in 1987. What was once a nice local restaurant became one of Italy’s most highly acclaimed restaurants with two Michelin stars and numerous other accolades. Alongside her every step of the way has been her husband, Maurizio Menichetti, who is in charge of the service, hospitality and incredible 20,000-bottle wine cellar. Maurizio’s wines are stored deep beneath the town of Montemerano in subterranean tunnels, in one of the most beautiful and well-stocked cellars in Italy.
Luciano Zazzeri is the chef and owner of La Pineta Restaurant in Marina di Bibbona, Tuscany, set against the backdrop of the beautiful blue ocean, golden sand, and warm Mediterranean sun. In 1963, the Zazzeri family opened La Pineta, which translates to The Pine Grove, an establishment on the coast not far from the award winning Bolgheri wine region. The place was a beach club and bar as well as a quality seaside restaurant with his grandmother, aunt, and mother in the kitchen preparing local dishes. His father was a fisherman, and Luciano would later join him out at sea before heading into the kitchen himself. Three decades later, in 1996, Luciano took the helm and transformed the restaurant, gaining a Michelin star along the way but staying true to his roots.
Luciano recounts that a fourteenth century document mentions an inn at Bibbona and refers to the town as a place filled with “wild fishing folk and poachers”. He says these ancestors must have passed down their love of fishing and hunting to him, as it is the cornerstone of his restaurant. True to his love of both fishing and hunting, Luciano’s menu is full of fresh catch of the day offerings and in hunting season you will find game from the local area. If you are there to dine in the autumn be sure to try Luciano’s risotto with pigeon. To assure that the traditions continue long into the future, Luciano has brought in the next generation with his son Andrea as sommelier and Daniele as sous chef now working alongside him.