An international showcase of the matchless Italian wine-and-food tradition. It is a proper definition for Expo 2015, the great and awaited event of Milan which makes expect a relaunch in grand style of our agricultural and food sector and not only. But it is the same for Autogrill, which historical vocation to promote in Italy and abroad regional typical dishes and products has been strengthening over the years. Since the Sixties, when a night-owl gourmet like Ugo Tognazzi stayed until five in the morning in the mythical Autogrill Cantagallo to taste the delicacies of the tradition of Bologna, making cookers and waiters sneer with his jokes. «It was a typical restaurant of Bologna but it was in the highway. At that time bars closed at 11, there were no pubs or restaurants opened late at night like today, while Cantagallo was opened 24 hours a day and many youths of the zone met here in the evening to spend nights together.» Guglielmo, a 67-year former employee, tells, he started his career in Cantagallo the day of its opening ceremony and over the time he had a career advancement reaching the position of District Manager of Autogrill.
The 1970 is an important year for the growth of Autogrill wine-and-food excellence. Indeed, the first building with the sign La Bottegaccia, brand of Autogrill dedicated to specialties of the Italian territory, was inaugurated in Chianti. A brand that over the years has successfully proposed products such as Noce di Prosciutto al pepe [tn. pepper ham], Speck of Alto Adige and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, still today top in the rank order of the most sold products of the Market.
Over the last years Autogrill has stressed its role as ambassador of Italian wine and food excellences in Italy and abroad, even entering agreements with institutions, consortiums and associations of local products. There are several examples.
In 2005 Sagre starts, a product developed with Unioncamere and with the patronage of the Ministry for Agricultural, Food And Forestry Policies. This is a simple idea: the points of sale La Bottegaccia of Autogrill become extensions of festivals [tn. in Italian sagre] that are developed in bordering territories, proposing a range of products to be tasted, in addition to promotional activities, meetings, educational. Thus Autogrill becomes with full rights showcase of the territory, privileged sphere for its promotion. In 2007 the experience of Sagre flows into a volume presented at the Turin International Book Fair by the gastronaut Davide Paolini.
Then, as of 2007 Autogrill increases the activity of appreciation of the Italian wine and food also abroad. It begins in France with the organization of a set of promotions of our regional products, from Sicilian oranges to the specialties of the province of Parma. In 2010 in Switzerland, with the initiative “Parma: I sapori autentici di una città Magnifica” [tn. authentic flavours of a Magnificent city”. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma [tn. a dry-cured ham], Felino salami, fresh pastas and other specialties have landed for two months in 100 Swiss Autogrills. Thus more than two million Swiss customers find the excellences of the territory of Parma in all Autogrill markets, in addition to a selection of special sandwiches stuffed with products of Parma in snack-bars. The gourmets taste in the Autogrill restaurants a variety of typical recipes of Parma such as the Tortelli d’erbetta [tn. Tortelli filled with greens and ricotta], Anolini in brodo [tn. Anolini with pork filling and in Chicken broth] and Jelly roles with Ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
While the travellers’ desire to taste and purchase typical specialties grows, Autogrill launches Sandwiches of the territory, prepared with local specialties. Such as Boschetto, prepared with Speck Pgi and Toma Dop of Piedmont, Sua Maestà il Culatello, the sandwich with Culatello of Zibello Dop, Bufalino, with Buffalo mozzarella Dop, Dolomiti, with speck Pgi and Asiago Dop, and so on. The success is immediate. In 2010 the sandwiches of the territory sold are more than 8 million, more than 25% of all sandwiches sold. In particular, Bufalino, with almost 3 million items sold in 2013, is still among the best sellers of the Group.
In 2011 Autogrill takes part as operator in TuttoFood - World Food Exhibition 2011, the biennial event dedicated to the agricultural and food business, with an institutional stand.
At the end of the same 2011 a project in grand style starts: to celebrate also in Europe 150 years of the Italian history, Autogrill together with Unioncamere and Assocamerestero launches Grand Tour. Italian taste in Europe. 600 Autogrill points of sale are involved in six European Countries – France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The customers are proposed typical products of three Italian regions, Campania, Emilia Romagna and Piedmont, chosen as ambassadors of the Italian agricultural and food. An initiative that reaches almost 14 million contacts.
In 2012 Autogrill launches the project “Territory – Piacenza”: six points of sale are turned into outposts of the territory of Piacenza along two main highway tracks (Milan-Bologna and Turin–Brescia) that pass through the province. A hundred of typical local products are involved, with a menu proposing both traditional dishes, such as Pissarei and Fasò [tn. Small gnocchi with bean sauce] or Chizzulein [tn. fried gnocchi], and innovative recipes.
The international projection goes hand in hand with the strengthening in Italy of the relation with typical products, in the pursuit of taste and tradition. Still protagonist in that behalf is the brand Bottegaccia, today present in more than 50 points of sale in the whole Italian highway network with hundred products representing the best of the local tradition: cold cut, cheeses, fresh and dry pasta, grocery and conserves, wines and typical cakes. A philosophy of appreciation of the excellences of the territory that finds its top fulfilment in the Bistrot Milano Centrale, the concept of a new generation inserted in the railway station of Milan realized in cooperation with Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche Unisg [tn. University of Gastronomic Sciences] of Pollenzo and awarded as Best Railway F&B Offer at the FAB awards 2013.
A place where the flavours of the regional gastronomic tradition are merged with the values of sustainability, characterized by a careful selection of local products, according to periodicity, regionality and zero km, and that is shown as a typical city market composed of many “stands”, where you can find specialties such as sfincione [tn. Sicilian pizza], the authentic Neapolitan coffee prepared in the traditional “cuccuma”, a wide choice of fresh centrifugations and milkshakes, cartocci di mondeghili (traditional meatballs of Lombardy) and other traditional dishes of Lombardy.
An atmosphere that can be found also in Territori d'Italia, the new Autogrill concept dedicated to wine and food excellences of the Italian tradition. A real gastronomy where you can compose, according to your flavours, dishes based on cold cuts and cheeses Dop and Pgi, along with a good stem glass of Italian wine.
Therefore Autogrill has developed over the years an important work of promotion of Italian wine-and-food excellences in Italy and abroad and Expo 2015 will represent for sure a further chance to express potentialities of Autogrill points of sale, along highways, in airports, in railway stations and in the cities, as privileged places for the promotion of cultures and food traditions of our territories.