May 21, 2022

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From Valtellina’s Mines to Distinguished Restaurants: The Story of Nicola, Who Carves Stones to Make Pots – Interview

The Bagnada mine was discovered in the Lanzada municipality of Valtellina in 1936. It has been open for 50 years and employs two generations of young people in the area. It is no longer active now, although some levels remain open to the public. Among the materials excavated from these rocks there is also soapstone, the same that Nicola Baggioli now uses to make pots. Born and raised in Lanzanda, in 2019, 26-year-old Nicola opened a shop that sells Lavec, stoneware carved with a technique that has been disappearing. After two years of activity, he opened a profile on TikTok, the social network that in 2021 received two medals: it was the most downloaded application in the world (656 million downloads) and the most visited site in the world (more than Google).

Nicola has started posting videos showing the processing steps, the use of Lavecs and how they are packaged and shipped throughout Italy. Together with his partner Ariana del Agostino, Nicola also tells the entire process of packing orders, a major activity since he now ships all over Italy. These themes managed to carve out a space among other content, to the point that the number of likes on his profile has now reached nearly 190 thousand. Tiktok has attracted not only private customers with a passion for cooking but also gourmet chefs, such as Alessandro Negrini of Il Posto di Aimo and Nadia, two Michelin stars.

Tweet embed Remove Lavéc from the lathe! Now I have to smooth out the bottom and it’s ready to bind! #lavec ♬ Pieces (piano solo version) – Danilo Stankovic

Let’s start from the basics, what is Lavec?

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“It is a soapstone bowl. In Valmalenco, the valley where Lanzada is located, it has been produced for 400 years ».

What changes compared to a regular steel pot?

“The difference is that you cook completely on stone, with all-natural cooking. It enhances the flavor of the food because the temperature is low and the heat is spread evenly over the entire pot. On the other hand, in an ordinary vessel, it is higher where the flame is.

How long does it take to create Lavec?

“It’s hard to give timing. This depends on the stone you find. Sometimes you have a hard rock in your hand and you struggle a lot, sometimes you find soft stones and it takes less time. To return it takes 4 or 5 hours. Then the linking process takes about an hour.

This was your grandfather’s job. Why did you decide to restore it?

“It all started in 2019. I was a professional cyclist who, a few weeks before the start of the Giro d’Italia, I was hit by a car. I started having back problems and couldn’t ride my bike for three months. I told myself I had to think of something new to do. When I was a child I heard the stories of my parents and grandparents. I now have a new set of irons, but at first I still used my grandfather’s irons and lathe to shape the pots. I learned all the techniques from my father.”

Are you still riding your bike now?

“No, on the contrary. I still have a one-year contract with the team. In the morning I was training and in the afternoon I was training at Lavec. It is no longer a sustainable pace. Now I have changed direction and I only deal with this ».

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You’ve rediscovered an old work but you’re transmitting it through a contemporary social network. How did you discover Tik Tok?

“My friend Ariana helped me set up the site. I decided to focus on TikTok because I read several books on marketing that talked about this social network, and I also remember that Marco Montemagno recommended it.”

Tweet embed Thank you to all of you who support us every day and believe in our work! #lavec ♬ original sound – Lavec

Did you expect all this general response?

“I was amazed. I thought TikTok was a kids thing but I found a lot of people interested in my cooking utensils.”

In addition to regular people, are there also any restaurants interested in Lavecs?

“Last year we also worked with many clubs, some of them even with stars. We delivered our Lavecs to Pergola in Rome or to Chef Michelangelo Mammoliti. We have worked for some time with Alessandro Negrini, a chef who has three restaurants in Milan, one of which has two Michelin stars. Together with him we are experimenting with new ideas and thinking about new cuts.”

Now your business is a small project: you and your girlfriend. Will you expand?

“No, that’s fine. There is a limit to this activity: I want Lavecs to remain an artisanal product.”

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