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Andrea Tumbarello, truffle genius: "I drink so that every day there is a moment to enjoy"!

andrea tumbarello white truffle

I drink so that every day there is a moment to enjoy!

Andrea Tumbarello, in sips

By Lali Ortega Cerón

The table reveals everything to you. Also a noble, simple and polite person.

The Restaurant Vivanco, located in Briones (La Rioja), starts on 7 March an annual journey through the unrepeatable palate, Stars among the vineyardswhich brings together great experts in their respective specialities. Andrea Tumbarello, Maca de Castro y Juan Antonio Zaldúa The first few days of the six-month period will be a very special event. Each chef, in addition to sharing their proposals in this privileged oenological environment, with those products and techniques in which they shine for their mastery, will reinterpret some of their best-known dishes by introducing wine as an ingredient in the recipe: a suggestive wink to the Culture of Wine. A unique opportunity to savour signature cuisine, which in each case will be paired with the most representative wines of Bodegas Vivanco, always in accordance with each dish and the personality of each raw material. A pleasure that will be joined by a relaxed conversation with each chef, once they have finished their preparations in the kitchen. You can get your ticket here.

star menu between vineyards

These are moments that verge on happiness, a state that the Italian Andrea Tumbarello (Marsala, Silicia) aims to achieve in his daily life, from the moment he wakes up, with the faithful company of a determined attitude to not complicate his life. To talk to him is to breathe in a whirlwind of vitality, spontaneity, Italian passion that is reaffirmed in the kitchen, with his family and friends. This is what the aptly nicknamed Trufarellochef and owner of Don Giovanni (Madrid), known as the King of the Truffle for the excellence with which he handles this delicate and expensive mushroom. A simple man who values nobility. A man in love with life and even more in love with his, as he says, Madrid blonde, for whom he left his office as an economist in Milan. At 55 Tumbarello feels in top form, in perfect order. On 7 March, his menu Atruffle and wine (with his famous Millesimé egg with truffle cream and Don Giovanni focaccia, his truffled Ossobuco with Barolo risotto and his fantastic Panna Cotta with black truffle among other delicacies) will show us why his restaurant is considered the best Italian restaurant in the capital and the reason for his two suns in the Repsol Guide. A particular restaurant, a large table of friends where Andrea wants to be happy and share happiness with respect, education and humility.

Do we eat with our eyes?

Yes, we start with sight and work our way up to taste. I always say that, in addition to the five senses, there is one more (humour) and one less one (common sense). You have to apply them to cooking.

You moved from Italy to Spain for love. Did the change smell good to you?

I changed my wife, my country and my job. I have recently realised that the M has followed me in all the cities where I have lived. I was born in Marsala, I worked in Milan, now I live in Madrid and I met my wife in Malaga, in a procession. I was on holiday at Easter and she was on holiday at Easter. She was still studying. I cheated on her... because I have the taste! (laughs). I showed my charms and it wasn't easy to say no to me. I came for love, which is very different from someone who has to do it for work or because he's running away from a system. The blonde just came in. Lali, you can't imagine how beautiful she looks, fresh from the hairdresser's!

M for meraviglioso...

And cuddly (laughs). You women change everything. You have 500 gigabytes more than us. Our memory, compared to yours, is a yellow post-it that you stick on the wall and it gets lost! You are more demanding than us, you are never satisfied, you are a superior being, I am totally convinced!

What would you say to a person who has a big challenge or radical change in their life?

Enjoy the moment and what you are about to discover. In the end, every experience is new. You may like it or not. But if you go with the idea that there is no better time than this... the past and the future I don't control.

What kind of crush would we have on your Don Giovanni restaurant?

With the truffle. I hope you have it with the chef, but I can't aspire to that much! My best known dish is Egg Millesimé with truffle cream and focaccia Don Giovanni. I'll make it at the restaurant Vivanco. It was born by accident and is finger-licking good.

How should we educate our children's palate? Do they discover flavours because we offer them to them or do we deny them with children's menus that include macaroni?

Italian cuisine is the most widespread in the world and also the most abused. I have the following reflection: I worry about the world we leave to our children. In our house, the Lasagna della mamma has meat and peas, which were not in the recipe, but are there for my sister to eat. I have given some courses to children between 9 and 11 years old. I love doing it. It has to be a game with them to find out what they like and what they don't like, a way to find a way to get them to eat green beans, pulses, carrots, which they don't usually like. I blindfolded them and fed them (I used to talk to the parents to find out about any intolerances, I didn't want to burden the children), for example, chickpea cream au gratin. My children don't ask what's for lunch. They sit at the table, see what's there and eat. And sometimes they make requests.

How do we recapture the flavours of childhood?

I want to go back. I want tomatoes to taste like tomatoes. Citrus fruits to citrus fruits, without added flavourings. I want to eat watermelon with black seeds, the kind you spit out. Fruit no longer tastes like anything. Meat... animals are fed fodder. They make laws and health controls, and we can't use fresh eggs. The problem is no longer that children haven't seen a chicken, but that a chicken hasn't seen an egg. And that is extremely dangerous, because they are in the light all day long, inside mechanical production lines.

When I was a kid my father would send me to a beach bar and they would give me a cardboard cone with a dozen eggs inside. None of them were broken. They were real eggs. In evolution, there is a limit to everything. To use plastic bags and plastic bags on a daily basis, and to talk to me about environmentalism, is a contradiction in terms. Yesterday my children went to the chicken coop and made a wonderful omelette - such a humble dish! If I want to kill someone, it's easier to do it with eggnog than with an egg.

Is too much flattery a turn-off?

No. I like it, it makes me happy and charges my batteries. But everything in the right measure. If I'm told "this dish is spectacular... "No, my wife is spectacular. (laughs). Spectacular or sensational is what my friend Enrique Rodríguez does, the best cardiologist surgeon in Spain, who opens your chest, takes out your heart and inserts a valve. If he makes a mistake, the patient goes to the next world. This is serious. If I make a mistake on a dish, I repeat it. Eating, cooking, washing a dish, like everything you do, is very serious. But I don't do anything extraordinary. You have to be a good person, full stop.

Another important sense is tact - are you condescending to other people's plates?

Of course, man. I try everything. I'm very, very, very understanding. Demanding yes, but not because I'm a cook.

If I squeeze you, what comes out?

Me? Blood. I am a person of blood, passionate and generous!

What information does a person give you when you observe the way they eat?

Everything and all the information I want to know. The way he sits, the way he eats, the way he holds his cutlery, the way he chooses his dishes. Even if he chooses the most expensive wine on the wine list just for show. At the table you discover yourself. The theory I have is that any idiot knows about gastronomy or wine, when in the end it only comes down to "I like it or I don't like it". The table reveals everything to you. Also a noble, simple and educated person.

It is very curious that several people who today exercise a creative profession have previously worked in banking... In the kitchen there is a lot of numbers, proportions and profit and loss accounts.

Life is a number. The minutes of this conversation, the date of birth, the car's number plate, everything is numbers. Ferrán Adriá's latest book does not talk about cooking, but about how to manage a restaurant. There are fantastic chefs who have closed their restaurants because of bad management. And other mediocre ones who continue to operate. It is fundamental.

Bored as a mushroom doesn't suit you...

No, no, no. I hate this word. Sometimes children say it to me and I say, "What? I don't know what it means.

Why is truffle the ingredient in your dish?

Firstly, because I like it so much. Fried egg with truffle is the ideal dish. It has given me the possibility to make my own space in gastronomy. Spain is the biggest producer of the best black truffle and someone has to say so. For me it's not just flavour, it's edible aromas. It's like me: you either love it or you hate it. And then there is a lot of swindling, a lot of substitutes and chemicals: there is no truffle culture, they don't know how to grate it or preserve it. What we buy in glass jars doesn't taste like anything. I don't even use truffle oils in my car. The truffle has given me a lot.

How you are going to twin your cuisine with wine in the proposal Vivanco.

Truffled Ossobuco with Barolo risotto is made with wine. I cook with alcohol, which evaporates and leaves the nuances. The truth is that I love wine. My grandfather had a wine cellar and when I was a child I wouldn't sit at the table until there was a bottle, although I didn't drink it. My children don't taste it, but they smell it. A good glass of wine, as well as being healthy, is good. And two, even better. And like everything else, excess is bad.

What qualities should a professional have to be part of your team?

Attitude. Just attitude. You have to come to work to enjoy yourself, with a smile on your face. If you like what you do, you don't work any day. I go to Don Giovanni to enjoy myself.

In Italy I have often heard the saying "si mangia bene e si paga poco...".

You have to pay the right amount. I jokingly say that in Don Giovanni you don't leave hungry, thirsty or even with money. There are humble products, pasta that costs 80 cents a kilo and another that costs 3 euros. There is mozzarella for 4 and 10 euros. You can't expect to pay the same for tagliatelle bolognese as for tagliatelle with truffle.

What does happiness mean to you?

To live every day. Waking up and seeing my children, my wife, my family, my friends and going to work. I don't understand it any other way.

What are we toasting to?

Because tomorrow is a better day than today, so that every day is a moment to enjoy. As my mother used to say, you have to live them as if they were all your birthday. To be happy you have to look for the moment.

Andrea Tumbarello Pasta


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