An advocate of sustainable business for many years, three-starred Italian chef Norbert Niederkofler has been living his Cook the Mountain beliefs and promoting them through various events. Now his followers are also practising the philosophy of cooking with nature at the mountain tops of the Dolomites along the Italian-Austrian borders.
Since it opened five years ago, and with breathtaking mountain views and beautiful dishes by Chef Fabio Curreli, AlpiNN-Food Space & Restaurant allows guests to experience and cherish the bountiful produce nature has to offer.
Chef Curreli is a follower of Norbert Niederkofler’s Mountain belief, but he actually comes from Sardinia, the second-largest island in Mediterranean. He graduated from a hotel management school and was running his own restaurant in Aosta Valley, northwestern Italy, at the age of 21. After two and a half years, he travelled to Egypt, London and Australia, where he ran his Italian restaurant for four years.
In 2014, he returned to Italy to further his studies, attending three-starred chef Massimiliano Alajmo’s Master’s programme in Italian Cuisine, during which time he expanded his network and horizons, including meeting Davide Cassi, an advocate of scientific cooking. Six months later, he joined La Pergola by three-starred chef Heinz Beck in Rome as Chef de Partie. Then, on the suggestion of Beck, he moved to Monaco to work at Robuchon in Hotel Métropole in Monte Carlo. Afterwards, he worked in Spain for three years before he returned to Italy. After meeting Norbert Niederkofler in Verona, Italy, he was invited to join AlpiNN as Executive Chef and Manager.
What used to be an old cable car station at an altitude of 2,275m on the summit of Kronplatz in the Dolomite Mountains became AlpiNN, a restaurant standing next to Lumen, a museum dedicated to mountain photography. The restaurant was designed by Martino Gamper, a designer of international fame, to become a convivial space where he combined naturalness of the mountains with clean, modern lines.
Welcoming people with a 270 degree view of the mountain ranges, the restaurant is located inside a spectacular floor-to-ceiling glass structure which overlooks the valley below while giving the impression of walking above the clouds. The mountain-based cuisine includes ceviche, local goat’s cheese with flaxseed, red currant risotto, and a specialty of venison with fermented apricot jam and pine needles, finished off with a mille-feuille apple pie. In addition to the commitment to local ingredients, AlpiNN also pays attention to the use of recycled water and green energy. It’s a restaurant worth traveling to despite long distances.
Red currant risotto/Venison with fermented apricot jam and pine needles
In recent years, I’ve been thinking about what it takes to make a true destination restaurant. Should it sit on the edge of the world, offering scenic wonders that are not commonly seen? With the new trend of Nordic cuisine, many of the more recent and well-known destination restaurants are waterfront restaurants with lovely sea views. Restaurants in the mountains, on the other hand, are less known and under-recognised.
Standing in front of the majestic mountains, AlpiNN is more than just a restaurant, it’s a sanctuary for sustainability and ethical dining. The space hosts regular events organised by Mo-Food, a sustainability consultancy run by Chef Norbert Niederkofler and a partner, including The Ethical Chef Days (CARE) and shooting cooking videos in collaboration with other chefs. It is a new take on the classic restaurant, a place that offers a chance to approach the world of food in a different way.
Just like the other two three-starred Italian chefs, such as Mauro Uliassi and Niko Romito, talking to Norbert Niederkofler is an inspirational exchange with an open-minded and humble soul. They are not only chefs but ambassadors of altruism. This world needs more culinary artists like them.
Norbert Niederkofler (on the right)
A visit to AlpiNN would be an interesting experience. It is a ski paradise in the winter and a summer resort that is far from the hustle and bustle of the city, reachable if you take a cable car or do a several-hour walk. It enriches the skiing area by filling hungry stomachs with delicious food.
Visiting the Dolomites will fill your days with unforgettable “am I dreaming?” moments. No matter it’s AlpiNN high up the mountain, the Atelier Moessmer Norbert Niederkofler, or the three-starred Le Calendre near Padua in Northern Italy, they are all worthy of being included in a gastronomic trip to the borders between Northern Italy and Austria.
Photo: Instagram@alpinn_food_space_restaurant, @fabio.curreli