Gabriele Giacomucci: The Essence of Fine Dining in Cagli
An hour before dinner service begins, Chef Gabriele Giacomucci gingerly removes a black truffle from a small, unmarked paper bag and surveys the delicacy a local farmer delivered just minutes before. The chef scoops up the truffle with both hands and holds it up to his nose. With his eye closed, he takes a deep breath and fills his lungs with the pungent aroma of the fresh produce. He opens his eyes and visually examines the product as only a trained professional can.
He looks at the farmer, smiles and nods. The truffle passes inspection.
Chef Gabriele owns and operates La Gioconda. Classically trained at the Istituto Alberghiero di Piobbico, a 30-minute drive from Cagli, Gabriele opened La Gioconda almost a decade ago to fulfill his dream of providing quality food at a good value.
La Gioconda is not the typical pizza, pasta, and salad restaurant. Inspired by what’s in season, Gabriele brings a variety of culinary offerings to Cagli with his fine dining establishment. His menu features fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and he frequently updates the offerings based on the earth’s bounty as well as his mood. During the past eight years, 29 different menus have appeared at La Gioconda, and Chef Gabriele can go back to each one and recall exactly how he was feeling at that particular moment.
“Every ingredient is equally important,” the chef says. Each spice, vegetable, and grain is like a note in a song, creating harmony and balance. Chef Gabriele pours his heart and soul into every dish he creates and works constantly to perfect each bite. The focus is not on quantity, but quality.
Gabriele views his food as a blend of technique and personal experience. “My personality is in every dish,” he says with a passion that comes from a man who has found his true calling.
Chef Gabriele’s purpose is to design a meal that cannot be replicated at home. He feels this is the major difference between his restaurant and others in Cagli. Eating at La Gioconda is an experience.
Balance is the cornerstone of Gabriele’s philosophy. This is represented not only by what is consumed but also by what is seen. While the food is a marriage of technique and creativity, the décor inside La Gioconda teeters between old and new. Rustic stone archways offer a glimpse of architectural history while modern furniture provides a contemporary atmosphere.
Balance is also represented in the nucleus of the restaurant—the kitchen. Chef Gabriele, along with his mom and sous chef, prepares every meal. Working as a team, the three cooks are a culinary trifecta. Mamma Giacomucci brings culinary tradition, Gabriele provides creativity and technique, and the young apprentice offers fresh perspective.
The kitchen is a small yet effective space, and the three chefs work in harmony. Each cook focuses on their individual tasks, their movements in sync like choreographed dancers, each step seemingly rehearsed time and time again.
While the majority of La Gioconda’s clientele are from Cagli, international critics recently took note. The 2013 Italia Michelin Red Guide gave La Gioconda “Bib Gourmand” status for good cuisine at a reasonable price. Inclusion in the Red Guide – known as the restaurateur’s bible – is synonymous with quality and prestige.
Gabriele works hard to promote La Gioconda. The restaurant website and Facebook page provide a snapshot of culinary offerings. Additionally, a series of You Tube videos highlight cooking tips and techniques for the world to see.
He shies away from the term “celebrity chef” and feels prime-time cooking shows such as “Master Chef” focus on food as entertainment. Instead of playing a part on television, Chef Gabriele prefers to feed the people in his hometown. However, he does admit the popularity of cooking shows is good for business.
His ultimate goal is to one day receive a Michelin star, but for now, Gabriele is content to offer customers a fine meal at a fair price. One day he may move on, he says, but until then, he plans to focus on designing dishes from the region that he knows and loves.
As with everything he cooks at La Gioconda, Chef Gabriele balances his craving for more with his tie to home. Food is in his heart; Cagli is in his blood.