All of the simplest, everyday kitchen utensils have their story to tell. There’s the story of who designed them, who produced them, what kinds of foods and recipes thay've helped to create. Anyone who spends their life in the kitchen and has a passion for cooking, has a personal story about the tools they use every day.
82 year-old Eugenio Medagliani still has the curiosity of a child, and knows everything about each of the seven thousand items he sells in his Milanese shop, the Alberghiera. It seems like he listens to them – packed onto the crammed shelves of his warehouse – to hear what they have to say, and then he shares these stories with his customers: great chefs, professional cooks and passionate foodies that come to via Oslavia in Milan from all over the world to buy his kitchen utensils, or even just to ask him for advice.
For over 150 years and four generations, the Medagliani name has graced pots and pans of all shapes and sizes. In 1860, his grandfather Pasquale began his trade as a tinsmith - the very same trade still practiced by Eugenio’s own son, Simone.
Just by watching Eugenio as he wanders through the aisles of his shop, one gets the impression of having a veritable, flesh-and-blood encyclopedia of cooking at your disposal, ready to give you suggestions: «To give the best advice about the right cooking utensil, I need to know somebody’s professional level, ability, and the kind of cuisine they’ll be using it for. Many people use stainless steel - he says - but they forget that it’s a material that should only be used for boiling or cooking in water, or else the food will stick to the surface. Tin-plated copper is one of the best materials in existence, it’s a real investment, but remember to always put ingredients in when they’re cold.»
Medagliani is known and respected by chefs from around the world with whom he studies and designs new objects, in collaboration with manufacturing companies, who even ask for something brand new, that’s never existed before. An example? Chef Pietro Leemann’s own hand-shaped mould which he uses for his handmade ravioli at his Milan restaurant, Joia. Medagliani’s been collaborating with chef Gualtiero Marchesi for almost 60 years (as you can see in the home page, an artistic homage to a famous dish they created together, to celebrate their 50-year friendship), and together they’ve produced various and personal objects for the chef’s use: his first pots, with which Marchesi (while still unknown) would use to prepare tripe at the markets, or the upstanding spaghetti pots that he commissioned to Medagliani in order to boil spaghetti while keeping the pasta straight.
Eclectic and enthusiastic, Eugenio Medagliani has also infused culture and art - which, along with cooking, are two other fundamental ingredients of his life - with the “humble” kitchen utensil. Together with the ground-breaking 20th Century Italian artist and designer Bruno Munari, he produced a series of witty forks, while he paid tribute to Maestro Riccardo Muti with a series of dough cutters for “a string orchestra”.
What’s Medagliani’s secret? When asked, Eugenio smiles, «Maybe it’s that my company, even today, brings to mind the kinds of craftsman shops that we think of in Medieval times, where strategy is intuition, management isnavigating by sight, and overseeing your employees is founded on a direct and personal relationship.»