Anna Zegna’s grandfather founded the fashion company that bears her name in Trivero, Piedmont in 1910. Still run by the family, the firm recently opened a cultural centre at the Zegna house. Anna invites us in for her foodie finale.
“After seven long years of planning and renovation we have finally inaugurated Casa Zegna. It is basically an exhibition space and an archive of the Zegna company which includes original textiles, designs and old documents. We housed it in the property we grew up in, and walking around the grounds brings back a lot of fond memories. Like most Italians, everything revolves around our family and in particular the fun we have in the kitchen and dining room. If I were to eat my last meal, it would be at my home in Biella and in the company of family, close friends and my four beautiful dogs. I would never spend something as important as my last meal in a restaurant – you’d have to be crazy!
My first recollection of eating with the family is at the beach near Alassio on the Ligurian coast, where we would buy gelati from a local ice-cream maker called Antica Gelateria Artigianale Giacomel. I can still taste it – there were the freshest fruit flavours with a sherbet tang. Buonissimo! In the winter things were more formal, but still very enjoyable. There would be huge gatherings around the table at my grandfather’s house in Trivero, and each of the children would have to sing a song or recite a poem in German because we had German nannies. It was a nightmare! I have a vivid memory of having to stand on a chair because I was too small to see over the table, so I must have been very young. We would feast on the local ravioli, followed by salmon. My parents loved Scotland and they would go there on fishing holidays and bring home their catch.
If this really was going to be my last meal, I wouldn’t tell anyone. I mean, who wants a lots of depressed people around them at a time like that? I’d invite my husband and kids and my dogs. I’d invite my good friend James Hillman for his great mind and conversation; I’d like a Peruvian friend of mine to be there because he plays the guitar and music is always necessary; I’d bring my Spanish friend Carlos for his spirituality; and I’d want my sister Benedetta there because she has been a part of every crazy moment of my life.
We’d begin with ceviche – it’s something I came to appreciate thanks to my Peruvian friend – and we’d follow that with pasta pomodoro. I’d drink a bottle of Menabrea beer, which is actually brewed in Biella – it has won international awards. Do you know the secret? It’s the water, we have very light water. And as this is my last meal on earth I want to keep things light, I want to fly right away, heavy food would keep you hanging around!”
This small region of Piedmont in the foothills of the Alps has a tradition of woollen manufacturing that began in the 11th century. Its lush mountain pastures and plentiful supplies of pure water ensure optimum conditions for grazing sheep and textile mills. Ermenegildo Zegna took good advantage of the environment and built a community around his mill at Trivero. By the early 1930s he had opened a library, gym, theatre and pool for the residents, as well as planting many thousands of trees.
Ceviche de bacalao (Peruvian marinated cod)
Raspberries and peaches
Menabrea beer from Biella
900g cod fillets, cubed
8-10 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh coriander, chopped
1 habanero chilli, seeded and chopped
8-12 limes, freshly squeezed and strained to remove pulp, enough to cover fish
1 red onion, thinly sliced and rinsed
Combine all the ingredients except the red onion and mix well to ensure all the flavours infuse the fish. Place the red onion on the top and allow the dish to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving. Before you do serve it, mix well and add lettuce, sweetcorn, avocado or other cold salad vegetables on the side. It is important to use a juicer to squeeze the juice from the limes, and not one that will tear the membrane of the lime segments, since this will make the lime juice bitter.