The Italian Almanac

Niki Romito

A New Star

A newcomer in the top three-star category has popped up in the 2014 edition of the Michelin red guide for Italian hotels and restaurants: Reale, a restaurant in the Abruzzo Medieval town of Castel di Sangro with chef Niko Romito at the helm. Reale is a restaurant with only six tables which also trains young chefs. It brought Italy's three-star count up to eight from seven last year and became the first in the central Italian Abruzzo region to enter the select club.

''This is simply a dream come true, a marvellous achievement'', said chef Niko Romito, 38, who was awarded his first Michelin star in 2007. ''I want to share this joy with my sister Cristiana and my tireless team because this is without a doubt the victory of a group''. The chef added that he will continue to work ''without losing touch'' with the key principles guiding his cuisine, citing research of top-quality ingredients and products and the importance of projects he heads like the Niko Romito training school for young chefs and Unforketable, a project he is slated to launch later this month to promote authentic, top-quality Italian cuisine abroad.

The Italian edition of the Michelin guide has this year 33 new one-star choices and three new two-stars. Italy was the second country worldwide for the number of stars awarded this year, 329. Overall 281 restaurants have one star and 40 two stars.

There were no shifts in the top three-star category other than the new addition. Michelin said its inspectors noted that, in spite of Italy's economic crisis, an increasing number of restaurants are promoting more affordable but high-quality meals. This year's guide also increased the number of affordable venues, listing 940 restaurants with menus under 25 euros, 30% more than last year.

Michelin inspectors visit each restaurant anonymously and confer with a chief inspector before setting rankings.