Al Mèni and the fairytale of flavour

Al Mèni is a one-of-a-kind event, that came out of the meeting of Andrea Gnassi and Massimo Bottura.

Andrea was the mayor of Rimini who revolutionised the city, fully bringing out not only its flair for tourism, but especially the cultural side of the Romagna capital. A unique destination, with thousands of years of history and a capacity to charm tourists that has its roots in the post-war years.
Massimo is the legendary chef of Osteria Francescana in Modena, a man who has made history in contemporary Italian cooking and brought our cuisine to the rest of the world.
What they have in common is having unearthed, from among the roots of two symbols of Italy as iconic as Rimini and cooking, what has made them legendary, and restored them to full contemporary splendour.
"Al Mèni", which in Romagnolo dialect means "hands", from the title of a poem by Tonino Guerra, is one of the most important taste events on the national scene; an open-air exhibition of creativity and skill that brings to life a one-of-a-kind food festival.

For two days, designer products and designer food are displayed along the seafront, inside and outside the Market-Circus. Inside the Big Top, show cooking and chef's specials at street food prices; while the market for crafts and high-quality products stretches along the seafront, with tasting experiences, talks with authors and experts, workshops, michelin-starred picnics and special spaces dedicated to designer street food.

Now on its ninth year, the Market-Circus of flavours, which is sponsored by the Emilia-Romagna Region, has revealed itself over the years to be more and more of a unique event, where style mixes with the celebration of food culture to promote the identity and the strengths of a city and its territory.

The beating heart of the event, the enormous circus big top, aims to recreate the fairytale atmosphere of one of the greatest films in the history of cinema: 8 ½ by Federico Fellini.

Inside the big top is a spectacular contest between the 12 best chefs in the region, belonging to the CheftoChef emiliaromagnacuochi Association, and 12 of the most interesting young chefs from around the world: promising talents in international cooking who travel to cook, and, on their journeys from festival to michelin-starred restaurant to gastro-bistro, travel new routes - unthinkable until a few years ago - in search of the right moment to release their creativity.

Because it is through the eyes of these young chefs, who know the value of the finest Italian and Emilia-Romagna products, that the dialogue can become more rich and creative.
All too often, we take the potential of our region and our past for granted. The spectacularisation of its products, experienced as ingredients in great cuisine, offers the opportunity to promote our land and the artisans who live here, and pay homage to the immense riches of the Bel Paese. 

These dishes were created to be simple and affordable, so they could be offered to everyone simply and affordably. Sharing taste in its most circular form.

Just like that: dishes from some of the best chefs in the world and from our country are offered at 5 euros, so they can be tried by anyone.

Then there is the market, selling the best products from the area, the winery with the most interesting wines from the region, street food from the chefs, the producers, the fishermen of Rimini, and much more. Every year has had its own unique characteristic expressions within a well-tested format that is full of inspiration, and accessible to all.

In 2022, the event has matured, and the important themes are now well-consolidated. Plastic has not been sold here for 4 years, with only biodegradable materials used instead, and the water is all public, provided through large numbers of drinking fountains available to everyone.
The care taken to make the event more sustainable, with less of an impact on the environment, has been one of the cornerstones of its development in recent years.

This year, they also decided to further boost the content, developing it around the theme of the Mediterranean, with a series of events involving chefs and producers, organised by Slow Food and CheftoChef.

The Mediterranean has not only been interpreted as a body of water, a collective imagery of animals and products, but above all in terms of its cultural history: a sea that has hosted encounters and exchanges between populations, and a cradle of civilisation.
Therefore, we have made space for social collaborations, such as Tortellante, a therapeutic-educational workshop where young people and adults on the autistic spectrum learn to produce handmade fresh pasta, and also for a Ukrainian chef on the stage, and an association of volunteers from the country, to raise funds to finance an ambulance for the populations affected by the war.

And then there is an event with chefs from areas often less well-known or forgotten, such as Malta, Croatia, Israel, Greece or Turkey; a guest from Procida, Marco Ambrosino, who has put the Mediterranean at the centre of his research, and also a Sardinian who lives in France, Simone Tondo.

Lots of works of comparison, for example looking at flatbreads (piadina, pitta, bazlama), as well as discoveries of local products and their similarities and differences. But above all, a great deal of humanity: chefs helping each other on the stage, or getting help from the journalists or wine producers who are presenting pairings; cooks proposing wine pairings after tasting the wines in private tasting sessions, and journalists mixing with the staff in a truly amicable atmosphere, where we are constantly aiming to eliminate the distance between staff, guests, partners, behind-the-scenes workers and customers.

In the city of Federico Fellini and his most beloved places, all committed to presenting the great culinary history of the Mediterranean: never before have we all found ourselves reflected in the same sea.


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