How to use all
On 2 November 1999, Giancarlo Zigante and his dog Diana found a tuber weighing 1,310 grams in the Motovun forest near the village of Livade. Since then, not a night has passed when Giancarlo hasn’t thought of this moment that turned his life upside down. If nothing else, it enters his mind for a brief moment before he falls asleep.
Record-breaking white truffle
How to become the king of truffles
To be perfectly honest, this record-breaking white truffle was never sold by Giancarlo so that he could later boast that he made millions with it. Not only that, this truffle was even sliced and served at a dinner for a hundred guests, where he proudly proclaimed that his record-breaking truffle was immortalized in the Guinness World Records book. The bronze mould of the record-breaking truffle at the entrance to Giancarlo’s restaurant Zigante in the village of Livade also stands in memory of this once-in-a-lifetime find. The legendary Michael Palin of the Monty Python comedy troupe dubbed the replica truffle “inflated brain” during the filming of the “New Europe” travel documentary.
How to use all the potential
How to build something
Unlike many who unfortunately never achieved anything, I always knew how to make something out of nothing! Even when people talk about that truffle that everyone is associating me with today, they talk as if it had fallen from the sky into my lap. No one even considered for a moment that everything that followed the discovery of that truffle required at least a bit of imagination and resourcefulness, says Giancarlo Zigante, the most prominent truffle producer in Istria.
And Giancarlo really wasn’t lacking for ideas, in fact there were so many of them that soon after his name became synonymous with Istrian truffles! It is therefore no wonder that he still dreams of his greatest find every night. Giancarlo will also never forget Diana, his trusted German shorthaired pointer, to which he gave all the bread he had with him that day in the Motovun forest as a reward for her impeccable sense of smell. He has also never forgotten about Bik, the English pointer, Buff, the English longhaired pointer, Tarzan, Jana, Zara and Žiki, the German shorthaired pointers, and many others. Giancarlo still remembers the name of every dog he has hunted truffles with in the last forty-two years!
Self-confidence is key
Believe in yourself
“Of course, I couldn’t forget the record-breaking truffle even if I wanted to, as a lot of things have changed since then. To be honest, though, going to the forest that day seemed little different to any other previous trips as well as later ones. We stumbled upon that truffle by pure chance – in a place we have already walked a hundred times! It had also happened to me that I went to the forest to get truffles for three days straight and didn’t find more than 150 grams in total. The fourth day I didn’t want to go, but I went in the end. I stopped here and there for a while and found absolutely nothing. At seven in the morning, the dogs jumped out of the car and I immediately found a 250 gram truffle. I hadn’t stopped until late in the afternoon. I found four kilograms of truffles that day! I also remember one day in 1982, when I found more than six kilograms of truffles from one in the morning until noon”,
says Giancarlo Zigante, the largest truffle exporter to the USA. Finding the huge truffle was the breaking point that allowed him to pursue his lifelong dreams. There were many dreams and they all led to the creation something that would conquer the world. Something that would be the work of his own hands!
Truffles are “in his blood”
“I’ve had business with truffles before, but somehow I wanted to do everything at once – look for truffles, make tools and a start my own factory. Truffles have always been in my blood.”
Everything started to revolve
“Over time, all of the other activities have slowed down and all that was left was truffles. For someone who has been spending most of his time in the woods during the truffle-hunting season for the last twenty years, this was the most logical decision”, says Giancarlo Zigante. Then, a few years later, he found the enormous truffle. He followed up his discovery with astute business decisions that placed him on the pedestal as the uncrowned truffle king.
Reaching for the stars
He opened his first truffle shop in Livade and soon after that he opened a restaurant in the very same village, which became a pillar of Istrian gastronomy.
Zigante Tartufi Store
By opening the store, I finally wanted to offer fresh truffles to everyone. I expanded my offer with Istrian oils and wines. Some Istrian winemakers did not even understand what that was about. And when I realized that people who want to eat truffles don’t really have an opportunity to do so, I decided to open a restaurant where a guest will be able to see the truffle first-hand that will be later served by the waiter. Then I realized that the restaurant is needed outside the truffle season as well and that good truffles should always be accompanied by good wine – my restaurant therefore always includes the best offer of Istrian wines. Our chefs and impeccable service are already at the level of what we want to achieve – a Michelin star! This is my dream and the dream of my children, and we will strive to do and invest everything necessary to achieve this status, says Giancarlo Zigante.
Unlike many others who are constantly shortening the festival times, I decided to take a completely different approach. We celebrate truffles much longer than that. I didn’t invest as much as I did in the infrastructure in Livade just to leave the potential of the place untapped and to organize some kind of travelling caravans who stop in a different place every time. No, it was my intention for Livade to become the Mecca of truffles – and it has become just that, says Giancarlo Zigante.
The saying that he is a magnet for truffles was becoming more true by the day. As an answer to new requirements set by year-long production, a new production facility has been established in Plovanija, where tons of truffles are processed annually. But instead of stopping and enjoying the fruits of his success, he started two more success stories simultaneously – olive oil and wine.
Never stop dreaming
Along with the truffle story, my enthusiasm for olive oil and wine grew, especially when I opened a restaurant in Livade. I realized that something else was missing, and started first with olive oil and then with wines. This was actually rather difficult to achieve; I had to find and buy the land because I didn’t have any of my own. I started looking for land twelve or thirteen years ago. I bought land to plant olive trees, but I started planting the first vines only a few years ago. The wine cellar is located in Kostanjica, where I bought some beautiful land, for which I spent a lot of money. I don’t regret a single penny, because I am very happy to know that they belong to me now. All that’s up to me now is to produce wines of the highest quality! I currently own a total of about fifteen thousand vines and one thousand six hundred olive trees, explains Giancarlo Zigante.
He replaced his previous dream of owning a machine with which he would conquer the world with a dream of producing the best olive oil in the world in his olive grove. Soon his dreams came true. Flos Olei declared his extra virgin olive oil obtained from Istrian Bjelica to be the best organically produced olive oil.
Giancarlo Zigante already announced his next goal when he said: “These are truly excellent results in olive growing, I want to repeat them with wines”.
And he promises never to produce wine with truffles! Although it happened to him a few years ago that he kept a barrel of wine which he made for his own “enjoyment” from purchased grapes, and a truffle chamber in the same cellar. The wine got completely overwhelmed by the smell of truffles! Giancarlo took his new endeavour very seriously. Instead of being in his restaurant, he would spend more and more time in the vineyard with mud on his boots and dirt on his hands. He does not want to leave anything to chance, he tries to supervise everything and lead other workers by his example.
To sum it all up
I don’t plan on retiring yet, I feel like I’m twenty years old! But I’m impatient and I don’t like it when I have other things to do while the vineyard is waiting for me! My goal is to create a wonderful cellar with quality wines that I will be able to offer to top restaurants and the best shops. I am not interested in large quantities, I only care about the very best quality, concludes Giancarlo Zigante.