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Giancarlo Godio’s Restaurant, “Genziana” Val d’Ultimo (BZ)

coperine-genziana“The year was…I don’t remember! It’s been years since I drove with my white car “FIAT 127”. It was the first time I went to val d’Ultimo.
I was leaving Merano and its wonderful thermae when I saw a wide valley with two-thousand years old larches.
However, this was not so romantic because of the terrible weather. I was moving to the restaurant “Genziana” in Fontana Bianca, at about 2,000 meters altitude, driving on narrow and frozen roads, without thermal tyres (nobody knows about it at the time), that was such a strange adventure! “Where are you Godio!” I was asking myself when I suddenly saw a little artificial lake and I realised my strange trip was over. I had finally arrived in the right place.
It was cold, but luckly, it was time to lunch so I went inside the restaurant. Not a distinctive place, I was the only one client.
He wanted to take my order himself. I don’t remember, of course, what I ate but I have good memories about that meal. It was not hard to think about me as a Michelin inspector, who would have been so crazy to have a lunch in such a hidden place like that!
After the meal, he seated at my table to spend sometime talking with me. Whilst we were talking the magical snowy landscape enchanted us. That was a sort of confession, we talked about young boys who had to gain experience in cooking world, washing up and peeling potatoes. But, sooner or later, the time to take a pan comes for everyone. He did that stubbornly, in fact, at 25 he become a chef at the hotel “Aquila Nera” in Ortisei. Before he started living in val d’Ultimo, he instructed a lot of youngs in cooking; some of them became famous figures in the cooking world.

He told me his whole past and I (I was a young Michelin supervisor at that time) heard his stories with great interest. “What a strange guy” I asked myself. How he ended up in this lost place?
Not long before, he got his first Michelin star. He was very proud of that.

He told me when famous people arrived on that place in summer such as the Senator Andreotti. He did his best. He prepared delicious dishes complying with his tradition. He always teased me, saying that his “torrone” (typical confection made of honey, sugar, almonds etc.) was much better than mine in Cremona…

Moreover, there was something special in his speech. He was always searching for “soul”. He was used to offer game, but I have never understood how he got it! He must have been a poacher, however, he did it for his guests and this made him such a “noble soul”.

I left the wide valley when sun went down but I was too happy of that meeting. What a kind man! Of course, I went there again and again… but it’s always awesome at first!

Then one day, something changed his life!

Nothing was going right for him, he was living family issues and decided to open a new “house-restaurant”. He lost his Michelin star and this made him very sad. One day on a damned sunday come. He was flying from Jugoslavia with some friends when due to a thick fog and clouds the pilot was mislead and the airplane crashed into a big mountain, the same “big mountain” he had always loved. That day he passed away.

Giancarlo Godio marked life of many chef in Alto Adige. Every year, he is remembered thanks to a special award named after him. If you happen to reach the wide valley, you have to know he didn’t leave traces. The restaurant is closed and they can only admire a gentian blossom raising on the ground where the Italian Cooking lost one of its most important figure.

Fausto Arrighi

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