Rice is one of the three leading food crops of the world, maize and wheat being the other two. With almost four billion of the world’s population consuming rice as part of their staple diet, experts do not see a future decline in rice consumption any time soon.
The top ten rice producing countries in the world today are India, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Pakistan.
Italy is the leading European producer of rice grown mainly in the Po basin, Milan is at the heart of the Po basin.
So, when we received an invitation to visit Italy’s number one rice producer Riso Gallo to discover all about Italian Rice we accepted.
Riso Gallo has heritage in abundance being established in 1856 and today is managed by the sixth generation of the same family that created the business led by Carlo Preve.
We met Carlo at Riso Gallo’s headquarters based in Robbio, in the Pavese region in Northern Italy near Milan.
We are not the only press keen to meet Carlo Preve, having doubled Riso Gallo’s global revenues in recent years, the Italian economic and business press regularly feature Carlo. Last Thursday it was our turn, and we were talking rice.
Carlo is very evidently proud to lead the family business and is quick to explain that the role is not simply inherited. The family members who wish to work in the business must earn their role and Carlo earned his in the UK working in Unilever’s marketing team.
Today Riso Gallo is a global power in rice and Carlo’s passion for everything rice is contagious, as he runs through a presentation of 160 years of Riso Gallo you feel as if you are being let in to share in his passion.
Questions are welcomed, his knowledge extensive, his answers eloquent shedding light on both where Riso Gallo came from and where the business is going. The values of an artisan rice producer in the mid nineteenth century are intact in the twenty first.
Part of the presentation looks at marketing and how the business is positioned to maintain and build the growth it has enjoyed in recent years, much was clearly absorbed at Unilever.
Following the presentation we enjoyed lunch, there were many courses, but we will focus on the mushroom risotto. Risotto is notoriously difficult to cook so, we are pleased to report perfect consistency and texture and a taste balance that was exquisite. Two helpings ensured we were able to report accurately.
The final part of the day we toured the Riso Gallo factory. We witnessed the base product being delivered in huge trucks and deposited through industrial rice drains into storage tanks through the various production stages to the finished product. They do say you learn something every day and last Thursday we learned much about rice, it was a fascinating and insightful tour.
In the evening we went out to try Riso Gallo rice in one of Milan’s most in-vogue restaurants, Aimo e Nadia BistRo. The restaurant proprietor is Fabio Pisani who is half of the chef duo that earned his other restaurant, Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia two Michelin stars.
We are informed by Fabio later in the evening when he came to join us after finishing service at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia that Aimo e Nadia BistRo’s philosophy ‘honours the territory and the wisdom of Italian culinary tradition’. Our experience of the food that evening would confirm his philosophical goal is being reached. Ingredients are also key to Fabio, he focuses on ensuring only the best basic ingredient elements make it into his larder’s, rice at both of his restaurants he emphasises is and always has been Riso Gallo.
Fabio spoke about ‘the family’ who work with him in both restaurants, he mentors and develops skills and sees his rewards not only from Michelin stars but also in how his team develop and grow. One of our party was Danilo Cortellini Head Chef at The Italian Embassy in London. When we spoke with Danilo during the trip he expressed the same approach as Fabio with his team. The emphasis from both Danilo and Fabio is both encouraging and an example.
Friday morning, we were collected early from our hotel and taken to the local rice grain market, a trading hub where rice farmers, brokers and buyers buy and sell rice grain. Like the Riso Gallo factory tour it was fascinating, and we were accompanied by the head buyer at Riso Gallo to explain how the market works. This year’s harvest is late and as such supply low and prices anticipated to be high when the grain is harvested.
On the way back from the grain market we stopped off at a rice field to see a field almost ready to be harvested, field after field of the crop as far as the eye could see, it was a sight to behold.
The last part of the trip was to visit another restaurant that exclusively uses Risa Gallo and Friday evening we were treated to dinner in Maio Restaurant at la Rinascente Milano. Located in Piazza del Duomo in Milan City Centre, Maio Restaurant is a rooftop restaurant on the seventh floor of the La Rinascente department Store. It is directly opposite and overlooking the majestic Duomo di Milano the 5th largest church in the world.
The view from the restaurant is…breath-taking, how ever many times you look up to take it in it never fails to please.
The food had a lot to live up to, the menu is below.
- Pumpkin flowers, lobster and black truffle
- Milanese style saffron risotto with orange and bitter Campari
- Spaghetti with anchovies flavoured butter, lime and caviar
- “Pluma” of Iberian baby pork, bergamot flavoured soft potato and roasted peaches
- Tasting of fruit sherbet
- Creamy dessert with Tonka beans, white chocolate and raspberries
The Iberian baby pork was the best of the savoury courses all were delicious, both desserts were a delight, the Maio experience was unique and one we plan to repeat at the earliest opportunity.
Our visit to Riso Gallo in the Pavese region of Northern Italy near Milan was an enjoyable and informative trip. We learned everything from how rice grain is selected and sown, to being harvested and the various production processes though to being served on our tables.
We gained this insight through Italy’s number one rice business who after 160 years is today a global business. They retain their artisan principles celebrating rice by producing Italy’s finest. We are sure the founders would be extremely proud that their business DNA remains as intact as the family blood line leading the business today.
Our thanks to our host Carlo Preve, our thanks also to Jason Morrison, Managing Director of Gallo UK and Sue Wilkins and Zarya Williams from Panache PR for organising and being perfect company throughout the trip.