Ganzo: Life’s Learning Lab
When I moved to Florence in 2013, it was a bittersweet transition for me. While I was excited and eager to start a new life and gain more independence, at the same time, I was somewhat apprehensive that I might not fit in or would miss out on the typical American college experience. I used to envision myself moving into a dorm, becoming best friends with my roommate, and making a second home out of my beloved college campus. So when I made the decision to move to Florence for college, I had mixed feelings but knew that this was a unique opportunity that few have the privilege of experiencing. My Italian-American dual citizenship allows me to travel and live in any country of the European Union and I thought that it would be absolutely ridiculous not to seize the opportunity. With that said, I was fully aware that it would be a challenge, but I knew that when I found my purpose, Florence would start feeling like home.
Rich in history, art, and beauty, I immediately fell in love with the city (how could you not?!). Despite the love for my new home, it still didn’t feel like home. It was evident that I had changed – I was significantly more independent, confident, and happy; but I lacked purpose and a strong feeling of belonging. Soon enough, this all changed once I started my bachelor’s degree program at Florence University of the Arts which included classes at FUA’s school restaurant, Ganzo – which serves as one of FUA’s experiential learning labs. This unique learning lab has been a major factor in my new perspective on not only education and the workplace, but on myself as well.
Located on Via dei Macci in the quiet and lovely neighborhood of Sant’Ambrogio, Ganzo is one of the learning labs within FUA’s International School of Hospitality, Apicius. This means that Ganzo is a restaurant run entirely by FUA culinary and hospitality students with the supervision of our outstanding professors. The menu changes every three weeks, which gives the culinary students the opportunity to cook various dishes and experiment with different cooking methods. It’s also great for dining clients wishing for a change in palate and an opportunity to try different dishes.
Derived from my 100% Italian roots, I have a deep love for food. Whether the cuisine be Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Peruvian, Greek, you name it – I’m a fan. I’m very open minded when it comes to trying different cuisines and food items, so whenever there’s a menu change at Ganzo, I make it my mission to try every dish. I can honestly say that I have never had a bad dish or experience at Ganzo, and I’ve been there nearly every week (if not, every other) during the school year for the past two years! Not only is the food absolutely delicious, but you can really see the creativity and passion that goes into each dish by its impeccable presentation. Every dish is as aesthetically pleasing as it is mouthwatering.
Ganzo offers much more than a dining experience. Every Wednesday, in place of their dinner menu, they offer an aperitivo known as “AperiGanzo”. Five euros gets you a drink – with a choice of wine, a non alcoholic beverage, or a wonderfully crafted cocktail by Ganzo’s fabulous mixologist, Manuela – as well as access to the bountiful buffet. What sets “AperiGanzo” apart from the numerous aperitivi offered in Florence is that the buffet set up which changes throughout the night. The buffet offerings begin with finger food (mini panini, cheese), then transitions to entree dishes (pasta, rice, beef, etc), and finishes off with delicious desserts and pastries.
If you think AperiGanzo is enticing then you must grab a reservation for their Thursday themed dinner! This event includes a six-course themed dinner, each dish paired with a glass of wine hand picked by FUA’s wine students. Once again, my Italian roots are calling to me as I think about all the food and wine! I love seeing and tasting all the creative dishes the culinary students come up with for these dinners. In truth, Ganzo’s themed dinners are so much more than a six-course meal – it’s a total experience!
If you are looking for something less filling, on Fridays, Ganzo offers an à la carte menu, which includes one dish each for antipasto, primo, and secondo. Unlike the themed dinner, you don’t have to order the full menu – you have the freedom to pick and choose. And If you’d like to check out Ganzo’s regular menu, it’s available every day at lunch and on Monday and Tuesday nights for dinner. As each Ganzo event is a different experience, I strongly suggest trying each one!
Being a hospitality student I have had the pleasure of working at Ganzo and I can definitely say that it was a very rewarding experience in so many ways. It was my very first class at FUA and basically my first impression of the school entirely. To be honest, I was a little surprised that my first class would be working in a restaurant only because I was fresh out of high school and used to learning through a textbook. This was definitely a bit outside my comfort zone since I had little experience, but being put in this environment right away gave me a push in the right direction and made me face my insecurities head on and eventually overcome them. This could not have been done without the guidance of my two teachers and managers of Ganzo, Lapo Bartalesi and Christina Kambanella.
They never fail in encouraging and motivating their students to work to their full potential and always have faith in each and every one of us. They have taught me how to work hard but make sure to actually enjoy myself in the process. Lastly, they constantly remind their students that even though Ganzo is a real restaurant serving real clients, it is still a school and there is in fact room for mistakes as long as we learn from them. You can only learn so much from reading a textbook, but you will never actually know the extent of your knowledge, skills, and abilities unless you apply what you know to your own personal life and see what works for you and what needs improvement. My experience at Ganzo has molded me into a more confident woman who has a clear vision of her capabilities and potential. I am always looking for ways to improve myself and my studies as I continue to conquer challenge after challenge, whether it be in my personal life, at school, or at work. I now find joy in working and interacting with others and am certain that the hospitality industry is the perfect fit for me.
FUA’s overall study program coupled with the many hands on learning experiences thoroughly prepares students for the real world workforce after college, giving them a solid understanding of the hospitality and culinary industry and its day-to-day operations. FUA’s experiential learning also gives students the opportunity to learn to deal with stressful situations, working as a team, and acting as a leader/manager. I can’t think of a better way to help students grasp the fundamentals of a workplace than to have them experience it head on, which is why I believe Ganzo (and FUA) is superior to many other schools in Florence as well as the United States, including those I’ve attended in the past. Before I came to Florence, I was an average student and just did the school work solely for a passing grade. Attending FUA and working at Ganzo has caused me to fall in love with what I’m studying. I now excel in school because I do sincerely care about my studies and want to show that through my work. I never thought I would find myself through school, but Ganzo has made my purpose clear and helped me feel more welcome and part of the community. Florence, I am finally home.
If you’re dying to check this place out, head over to ganzoflorence.it or their Facebook page for more information!
Article written for FUA course E-Marketing in the Hospitality Industry taught by Marco De La Pierre
~ Michela Diletti, FUA Hospitality Student and Certified Foodie