Local Food Economy

Cibomatto: “Our roots are deep in the soil”

By Elisa Bozzarelli

Today’s story is by Elisa Bozzarello and Mariateresa Lo Iacono from sustainable food project, Cibomatto, whose Cafe5 is hosted in a little container facing the Bristol-Bath cycle path in Greenbank. Read about the five principles of the Cibomatto manifesto, and how to get involved in their upcoming dinner events at Bridge Farm.

Mari from cibomatto with gelato brick
Mari with gelato brick

The adventure of Cibomatto Bristol started 4 years ago when Mariateresa Lo Iacono (Mari) and I met in Bristol. Funnily enough, before moving to the UK we had both lived in Milan, Italy, for more than 10 years where we crossed our paths a couple of times but never really got to know one another.  

We both come from rural areas of the North of Italy and our roots are deep in the soil. Our ancestors were farmers or growers and even if our parents followed other paths, and in the first part of our lives we studied and worked in very different sectors, we never forgot how to find the best ingredients, how to cook them and how to put people around a table.  

Mari comes from Piemonte, the main region of rice production in Italy – her grandad invented a successful patent for a machine to peel off the rice hulls from the grains. I come from Emilia-Romagna, grew up in one of the first organic farms in the country, and I got used to rolling the pasta machine for my grandmother since childhood. Mari graduated in law and I worked as a graphic designer in Milano for many years. We came to Bristol looking for a new start and we ended up getting closer to our families heritage than we were in our last years in Milan.  

Cibomatto started selling homemade pasta online, and doing some markets and pop-ups. We then opened a little community cafe in Greenbank, called Cafe5, and started collaborating with many different realities connected to food in Bristol.  

For Cibomatto the act of cooking, including finding the right ingredients, is a practice that connects where we come from to where we are now and, importantly, builds bridges to our new home in the UK, and specifically in Bristol. As immigrants we experienced what it means to miss the flavours, the smells and the texture of the food of your place. Trying to find a way to replace ingredients and reproduce our favourite recipes, we started to know producers and growers across and around Bristol, and this connected us to this city more than ever! Bristol is home to many different cultures, traditions and religions, and this diversity is an opportunity to grow together more freely and more connected to one another, sharing experiences, knowledge and joy.

Starting our journey in the food industry in Bristol we had the opportunity to help and been helped from many different amazing organisations. We collaborated with the Coexist Community Kitchen, we volunteered in the kitchen for the Refugee Woman of Bristol, we started an experimental crop of cardoon at Elm Tree Farm, which is now at third harvest. We supported Field Bakery‘s Bread Club from the very beginning of their journey to introduce the use of diverse regional grains for future resilience. These collaborations have made us more aware of the social reality in Bristol and the power of food in making a positive change.

Our community Cafe5 is hosted in a little container facing the Bristol-Bath cycle path in Greenbank. Cafe5 is a shared space between us and another food business Catacolours, who serve South American food. From the beginning we collaborated with the owner of the container, who had been wanting to open a community café for a long time. The place gave us an incredible opportunity to connect to people and realise how important it is for us to not just sell our food but also make a positive change for the community we serve. This is summarised in the five principles of our Cibomatto manifesto:  

  1. Grow together: We get as many ingredients as possible from farmers and growers around Bristol and the South West. We like to meet our suppliers, exchange ideas and grow together.
  2. No excess no waste: Italian cuisine likes simplicity. Most recipes use few ingredients, creatively combined. Our portions are never excessive so that no food gets wasted and, when your meal is over, you still have a glimpse of desire.
  3. Good food for everyone: We try to keep our prices affordable and choose recipes that allow us to do so without compromising the quality. Our food tradition is mostly “cucina povera” (“frugal cuisine” – the peasants’ tradition)
  4. Exchange recipes not products: We love to share the dishes of our tradition but we want to do that in a sustainable way. This is why we start from Italian recipes, but adjust them to use local ingredients whenever possible.  
  5. Food follows season: Our menu changes over the year depending on fruit and vegs’ availability. We like to cook with seasonal ingredients because it keeps us connected to nature’s cycles and the passing of seasons.

Our philosophy in running Cafe5, the dinner events, pop-ups and workshops also grew over time. The happiness of the people coming at the café looking for food but also good time became very important to us, and we started to work to make the place an inclusive space where people can really feel welcome. In the three days of the week where we run the café we started to organise gigs from local musicians and offered our space for performative acts, like theatre and poetry. We host a poetry open mic for women and non-binary people every first Sunday of the month, in collaboration with Leilah King, a local poet and performer. Our aim is to use food as a way to create an inclusive space where we can communicate and share the pleasure of being together.

The best seasons at Cafe5 are spring and summer. During the winter season we are more focused on organising special events in different locations, the next couple of dinner events will be at the Bridge Farm on the 11 February and 25th February. Be in touch at info@cibomattobristol.co.uk or follow us on Instagram at @cibomattobristol if you want to know more!

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