Pianeta Terra in Amsterdam is on the list of the 50 best Italian restaurants in the world.
Despite using locally sourced Dutch ingredients, they manage to cook in a classic Italian style.
It is currently a major trend in gastronomy to cook with local and sustainable ingredients. However, at Restaurant Pianeta Terra, the menu has been dedicated to sustainability for over twenty years. The restaurant, run by Fabio Antonini, Laura Martini, and Raul Mini, recently earned a spot on the list of the 50 best Italian restaurants in the world.
In Pianeta Terra’s kitchen, they exclusively work with 100% organic ingredients, often forgotten or even unwanted, all sourced from the Netherlands (with the exception of wines, cheeses, and oil). As an editor specializing in sustainable gastronomy, I feel somewhat embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of this restaurant on Beulingstraat in Amsterdam before. The Italian Fabio Antonini settled as a chef in Amsterdam over thirty years ago, having grown up in Fiumicino, a fishing village near Rome. At the age of 20, he moved to London and eventually found himself in Amsterdam. When his childhood friend Raul Mini and his girlfriend Laura Martini came to visit him in Amsterdam, the three of them decided to open a restaurant together in 2000. Laura and Fabio are now married. A chef is nothing without good products.
Having worked and lived in various places around the world, the three entrepreneurs knew they didn’t want to open an ordinary restaurant. Antonini says, “We already saw back then that things were not going well with the planet and how we handle our food. We wanted to approach things differently in our restaurant.” Mini adds, “We didn’t want to start an ordinary pizzeria, but rather a place that would work with sustainable ingredients.”
From the very beginning, the Italian trio decided to open an organic restaurant. Antonini remarks, “Now it’s trendy, but back then, organic still had a big ‘tree-hugger’ image.” For his menu, Fabio exclusively works with small producers and products that have the least impact on the environment and nature. Antonini says, “Building collaborations with farmers and translating their stories onto the plate is one of the things I enjoy the most in my work. I often tell the producers I work with, ‘If you stop, I’ll stop too.’ A chef is nothing without good products.”
Italian hospitality is evident
Although all three owners are Italian, you won’t find pizza or spaghetti bolognese at Pianeta Terra. The restaurant is not necessarily an homage to Italy but rather a plea for Mother Earth, which is also reflected in its name, Pianeta Terra, meaning planet earth in Italian. However, when you enter the establishment, you can’t ignore the Italian roots of the owners, especially through the service. We are greeted with “buonasera,” and after a drink at the bar, we are smoothly guided to our table. Mini says, “Hospitality is deeply ingrained in our culture. You have to be able to read tables, know what they want before they ask for it. Our strength lies in making guests feel at home.” The chef agrees, stating, “You can recognize my Italian roots in my dishes, but I work with Dutch ingredients. The fact that we are an Italian restaurant is primarily evident in the service.”
Crow breast as a main course
As we are served one course after another, Mini tells us about the products on the plate. They include wild Wadden Sea oysters from De Goede Vissers, Dutch opperdoes potatoes, and perhaps the most remarkable ingredient is crow breast from De Keuken van het Ongewenste Dier (The Kitchen of the Unwanted Animal). This organization collaborates with restaurants and food producers to demonstrate that unwanted animals can be incredibly flavorful. They aim to make a statement about the absurdity of the current meat industry.
Antonini explains, “The way we consume meat is not sustainable for the future. With our crow dish, I want to show guests that unconventional meat can be very flavorful and that we need to change our perception of meat.” Indeed, the crow is highly flavorful and can be compared to the taste of wild pigeon or duck.
Many chefs nowadays boast about (hyper)local organic products on their menus, but working with organic producers was quite challenging in 2000, Antonini recalls. “In the beginning, we had to import almost everything. Now, only our wine, oil, and cheese come from Italy, and we have a fantastic network of fishermen, farmers, and other suppliers here in the Netherlands.” Since 2009, Pianeta Terra has been a member of the Slow Food Alliance, a network of chefs established in Italy. The network aims to raise global awareness about food and biodiversity and strives for a more sustainable food system. In 2009, Pianeta Terra became the first restaurant outside of Italy to join the alliance.
Although the three entrepreneurs have been making their mark for twenty years, Pianeta Terra recently reached the 30th position on the list of the 50 best Italian restaurants in the world by Prosecco DOC (50topitaly.it). As a cherry on top, Italy Magazine recently crowned the restaurant as the Best Italian in the Netherlands for 2022. While Antonini, Martini, and Mini are undoubtedly pleased with the recognition, their focus is not on the accolades. “For us, it’s about the message and making guests feel at home.”