Food means pleasure, but more than anything else it means health. Interview with chef Simone Bernacchioni, of Quinoa, the first gluten-free restaurant in Florence

Food means pleasure, but more than anything else it means health. A vital combination that can’t always be found at the table at home, much less in the restaurant business. We discussed this idea with chef Simone Bernacchioni, a Florentine entrepreneur who has been active in the restaurant sector for more than 20 years. He is also the owner of Quinoa, the first gluten-free restaurant in Florence.

1) Tell us about your restaurant. How did the idea for Quinoa come about? You had perhaps the first restaurant of its kind in Florence, how was such an innovation received? QUINOA restaurant is situated right in the heart of Florence, in the old Church of Santa Maria Maggiore Cloisters. It was the first GLUTEN-FREE restaurant in the city. Each day nutrition specialists work together with chefs to guarantee quality cuisine with a traditional flavour, among other styles. The restaurant embraces the QUINOA project, a pseudocereal used for producing a flour which is rich in both protein and fibre. This addresses a particular gap in the market for those who are intolerant or allergic to gluten. It is certified by the Italian Celiac Association.
2) Today, “gluten-free” is a concept that we often hear mentioned, sometimes even without much knowledge of the facts, but what does it actually mean? Can we call it a real diet? It’s a nutritional regime, and right now it’s the only way to stop the symptoms of the disease.
3) How are the gluten-free dishes prepared then? Is the food as tasty as traditional cuisine? It’s definitely as tasty and I’d even say it’s often better, especially because “new” raw materials which are different from the traditional ones are used. For us, this is a source of inspiration and drives us to create dishes with really interesting and healthy ingredients every day.
4) You must have so many recipes to suggest... but if I asked you to think about a colour on the table, which recipe would you describe to us, inspired by this colour? You can’t match cooking to any one colour, just like music isn’t associated with any one note: all cuisine is a RAINBOW… to bring to the table! This is one recipe among many: PAD THA with tofu, Chinese cabbage, soy bean sprouts and peanuts.