Restaurant Review: La Credenza in Italy

by Michele Longo

La Credenza

Via Cavour 22

10077 San Maurizio Canavese


Tel: +39 011 9278014

La Credenza is a restaurant that occupies a special place in my heart; not only because the food is very good, but also because it is one of those few places where, even if I’m not at home, I feel like I’m at home: in other words, a “happy place”. I have known this restaurant for more than twenty years and they are always good to amaze me each and every time with their dishes first and foremost, but also their wines and their hospitality.

The story of La Credenza begins in 1991 with Giovanni Grasso, who after gaining various experiences in the restaurant business, succeeds in fulfilling his lifelong dream: opening a restaurant of his own with his wife Franca Pulcini (an expert sommelier). In 1995, Igor Macchia (a highly skilled chef with experience in prestigious European and Asian multi-starred restaurants) joined Franca and Giovanni. Over time, a clear subdivision of roles is defined: Igor Macchia, the Executive Chef to lead the kitchen brigade; Giovanni Grasso, in the dining room receiving the guests and running the show; Franca Pulcini managing the wine selection. In 2006, thanks to hard work, research, stubbornness and the desire to improve, not to mention extreme passion for their life’s work, La Credenza achieved the first extraordinary result in its history with the first Michelin star.

The team likes to refer to themselves as “family”, one in which they have transformed the  diversity of each of the team players into wealth. Giovanni Grasso is a chef-manager, a still rare figure in the Italian restaurants panorama, able to combine the quality of the gastronomic proposal with healthy budgets and proper personnel management. He manages a highly motivated team, one in which everyone has understood and adopted the philosophy of the restaurant. Not the least of Giovanni’s abilities is, like few others have, to welcome the customer and make him feel at ease. The handshake and the smile with which he welcomes you, tells you more than many words ever could about his positive character and communication skills.

La Credenza is a beautiful restaurant hidden inside an ancient house in San Maurizio Canavese, a small village near Turin Airport (Caselle). The restaurant entrance is through an elegant door in solid wood featuring a glass-fused sculpture by Elio Garis (a contemporary Italian artist), surmounted by a hand-painted sign. An original touch is the pan hanging on to the side, with the restaurant doorbell inserted in its center.

Crossing the elegant entrance and passing a first small vestibule reveals a delightful dining room: beautiful, welcoming, warm, elegant, with a soft arched ceiling and a large and bright window overlooking the pleasant terrace. The terrace is designed as an oriental garden, an environment dedicated to conversation and relaxation with large wicker sofas. Actually a very elegant environment, with accurate attention to detail and materials used. The immediate sensation is of pure harmony, of serenity even, the perfect environment for the gourmet who will sit at the tables, well-spaced and set with care.

The wine cellar is a little gem. An eighteenth-century vault, where bricks, stone and walnut wood house the wines that the sommelier Franca Pulcini (with the help of Takeharu Cho, simply known as Take, the room sommelier) carefully selects.

For those who worry about going hungry, have no fear: there are three options: a Tasting Menu (6 courses to introduce and help understand the restaurant’s cuisine), a Gastronomic Menu (9 courses to deepen your knowledge into their cuisine) and the usual “à la carte” selections. On this night, we opted for the Tasting Menu, having a preference for its fish dishes, and all ran smoothly. Professional, rapid and friendly service, very nuanced food, and wines competently paired to the dishes (by Take) are the recipes that make La Credenza a winner in my books. Each dish was a small work of art, exciting for those who – like me – are a lover of aesthetics in the kitchen. The skillful use of edible flowers, buds and colours plays a very important visual role at La Credenza, but without diminishing the flavours, which are clear-cut and with all the ingredients easily distinguishable within the preparations. Each course conveys great knowledge and careful selection of the ingredients (carefully chosen by Giovanni and Igor from producers selected over the years) used and their application in the various dishes, each perfectly cooked, and showcasing study, research and lively creativity. It follows that the cooking style is never an end in and of itself, but a means by which to convey the quality of the ingredients and the message of the kitchen. At La Credenza, historical and traditional recipes are taken as a pretext by which to present new interpretations and renditions, in which different gastronomic cultures are also mixed, but always with great balance and elegance. From the Cal-amaro (“Bitter squid, lard and grapefruit”) – a funny word-pun (squid in Italian language is calamaro and amaro means bitter … then Cal-amaro) a very flavorful dish, both very balanced and tasty – to the “Octopus, ginger, purple and sweet potato cream” as beautiful to look at as it is good to eat. I love “risotto” and the “Oyster risotto, smoked katsuobushi tuna and soya sauce” was a memorable experience, a lovely mix of textures and flavors. Also excellent is the delicate, in terms of both colours and flavours, the “Turbot, cauliflower and bufalo mozzarella”. I especially enjoyed the desserts, exquisitely prepared by the pastry chef Chiara Patracchini (one of the best in Italy), which showcased a lovely balance between sweet and acid elements. If I had to pick just one for an encore (easier said than done), among the various “Sicily (nougat mousse, orange, zibibbo jelly and almonds sorbet) and the “Smoked chocolate mousse, rum, Kafa coffee and sesame powder”  would have chosen Sicily … but only because I love the taste of Sicily, for they were both great.

The wine list at La Credenza boasts numerous very interesting choices and allows to satisfy all needs and palates.

We began with the Zamuner 2008 Metodo Classico Brut Blanc de Noirs. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, grown on the hills of Sona (near Verona), on calcareous soils of morainic origin, and spent about ten years on its lees. It offers complex aromas of white flowers, black currants and brioche; on the palate it is fresh, balanced and very lively thanks to harmonious acidity, with an enticing mineral note. A lovely wine … a wine of which that to use my long used motto, one bottle is not enough!”. Then we oved onto the Hartmann Donà  2010 Mitterberg Bianco Donà Blanc, a blend of mostly nPinot Bianco (50%) and Chardonnay (40%). The grapes for Donà Blanc come from ancient vines located on two different soils, one loose and porphyritic, with a high mineral content, the other, clayey and calcareous. Complex and elegant nose, with floral, fruity and mineral notes, then rich, structured, with lively acidity, beautiful minerality and a long finish on the palate. The Edi Kante 2012Malvasia Venezia Giulia is always a lovely wine from someone who is, in my view, one of the best Friuli’s producers. I find his wines are emotional, vibrant and deep,  characterized by an intense minerality. This 2012 Malvasia is textured, complex and alluring. Orange blossom, peach, passion fruit, almond and citrus with enticing mineral notes soar from the glass at every sipm, and closing with clean, salty, long and vibrant mineral finish.

Every time I walk out of La Credenza, I do so with considerable happy heart and mind.

Call it “home sweet home”, call it “great food and wine”, call it “lovely company” … or just all of these things together. I don’t really know how many times I have eaten here over the years, but I’m sure the number is impressive. The amazing thing is, I never tire of the place: and God willing, I’ll be back. And back again. I suggest you come and taste Giovanni’s cooking for yourself, and I bet then you will do too just like I have over these many years.

The dishes

Amuse bouche

Bitter squid, lard and grapefruit (Cal-amaro, lardo e pompelmo)

Octupus, ginger, purple and sweet potato cream (Polpo, zenzero, crema di patate viola e americane)

Oyster risotto, smoked katsuobushi tuna and soya sauce (Risotto mantecato alle ostriche, tonno affumicato katsuobushi e soja)

Beans and pasta, black-eyed peas and razor clams (Pasta, fagioli dell’occhio e cannolicchi)

Turbot, cauliflower and bufalo mozzarella (Rombo “in bianco”, cavolfiore e mozzarella di bufala)


Sicily (nougat mousse, orange, zibibbo jelly and almonds sorbet) (Sicilia – mousse torrone, arancia, gelatina di zibibbo e sorbetto di mandorla)

Smoked chocolate mousse, rum, Kafa coffee and sesame powder (Mousse affumicata al cioccolato, rhum, caffe’ Kafa e polvere al sesamo)


The wines

Zamuner 2008 Metodo Classico Brut Blanc de Noirs             92

Hartmann Donà 2010 Mitterberg Bianco Donà Blanc             90

Edi Kante 2012 Malvasia Venezia Giulia                         93


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1 comment
Michele Longo