Herbs

The Story of Noris & Féro

Photography by
Stefano Triulzi
Translation by
Gino De Blasio

“I am amazed by beauty every time, I see it in a stroke of light, in the clouds, in the sky: they are moments, destined to remain forever” Noris

Noris was born here, in the forests of Val Rendena, in Trentino. Féro instead, a little more east, in Val di Non, still in Trentino.

Sometimes they move together, sometimes alone through the valleys, collecting herbs in a forest that knows they are there, no matter how quiet they remain; they never ask from nature more than nature will allow them to take, going further than any other form of agriculture because, as they say, “nature gives you everything and from the forests you must throw nothing away.”

Eleonora Cunaccia, better known as Noris, has always been passionate about herbs. Ever since she was a child she has been collecting from her valleys, choosing the herbs and understanding each one uniquely. In the 1980s along with her now ex husband, they opened the Locanda Mezzosoldo in Spiazzo. A restaurant that specialised in herbal gastronomy, changing the landscape of the local cuisine, but one that gained its first (and last) Michelin star of the area.

After years of glory and success, Noris was burning out. Splitting from her husband, leaving the restaurant and just like that, she needed to start again, a new life born from the excesses of burning the candle at both ends.

It is this experience that makes this new adventure, Primitivizia, all the more interesting; a new challenge, something that allows her to showcase her skills, knowledge and ideas. To this day, Noris still collects herbs, albeit, more spontaneously than before but there is a twist. These are not collected to finish off dishes but moreover, to be the key ingredient in what is an experimental form of preserving herbs, dating back to artisan traditions. They are mixed with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and in some cases vinegar for better conservation. The end result is staggering.

“The Queen’s Garlic”, ideal to serve over a simple pasta; hops, perfect for serving with crostini and beer and what about “fen”, perfect with pigs cheek o pear mustard, or to be enjoyed by itself. There is rose ketchup, for sandwiches and soups and pine cone extract, perfect for winter days to alleviate the symptoms of a cold and sore throat. There is “meadow mayonnaise”, “bear radicchio” and so many other ingredients that we could go on about, but the main ingredient, the main attraction is her, Noris. Someone who is so magnetic and penetrating that Italy’s best chefs’ want her products, like Massimo Bottura or Davide Scabin, because everyone loves what she does, but more importantly, everyone loves who she is.

Sometimes however, it is important to be able to speak the same language; Ferruccio Valentini, Féro to you and I, is that person. He picks more than just herbs though, a fruit forager, he specialises in finding fruits that have otherwise been forgotten like the famous apples from Trentino from which he creates a secret, yet delicious magical sauce. Everything is done without scales, just knowledge, years of it.

This is who Féro is. A man who has lived a noble life from the land to which he is eternally grateful. He has never stopped reading books on science to experiment with new products, such as dandelion coffee or to learn something new, like discovering the origins of old dishes, dating back 280 million years!
Every now and again, whilst foraging, they sleep in the woods almost as if to feel part of the world, which they have treasured, but they do it with class, they are after all, lords of the forest. Meeting them happens in a moment, but a moment destined to remain in a memory forever.

Herbs by Norris
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