the history
We can say that Restaurant La Primula, with its various forms and its various names, has gone through a whole century, closing the past - until the Great War -, living the present - until the end of the millennium - and opening the future - until now-. How much water has passed under the bridges of the Tagliamento River! Two disastrous wars suffered on its territory; the tragedy of Vajont; a devastating earthquake; but Restaurant La Primula was always there, adapting to the circumstances. Horses, carriages, animals in the fields to toil with men. They started then, it was 1883. Today we got over the electronics, the third republic and perhaps even the 2.0 agriculture. The spirit of time (the nineteenth century “Zeitgeist”) even changed worldwide, it has become more certified, more cynical.
But not here, not in this land so similar to its inhabitants: land that knows how to make products, perfumes, flavours, excellences only if lovingly but laboriously excavated, extracted. Hard work, physical and intellectual in the ancestral knowledge that nothing is given for free and that everything must be earned. When everyone had moustaches and a suit just for the wedding and the funeral, the children were dying like flies in the stables. Then came penicillin and looked like a miracle! A secular saint like Sabin discovered the vaccination against poliomyelitis and saved millions of children without earning a buck. What a tremendous and wonderful era. And La Primula was always present, clever, smart, proud, with its vices and its virtues, like we all are, because the history of our time, the history of La Primula, is also ours, because we are our history.
the town
At the end of the nineteenth century the town of San Quirino had about 2,750 inhabitants, in 1921 it came to have a maximum of 4482, and remained more or less stable at around 3800 in the '80s. Now it has about 4226 inhabitants. A housing settlement in the Roman era is attested by numerous findings in the hamlet of Sedrano, but it is only in the Dark Ages that appears a document, showing a property of the Abbey of Sesto in the locality of San Foca (762). Then it is said that the Templars would pass by San Quirino in 1219 and so remained on the coat of arms. The Knights of Malta purchased the buildings of the Templars in 1312. The fact remains that throughout the Middle Ages and even in the Renaissance, the town was a stopping place for pilgrims going to the Balkans and for the identification of the fords of the Cellina and Tagliamento River.
the local
The restaurant itself, worthy of the name, dates back to 1952 when it was christened "La Primula" by the young Roberto, just sixteen. Before and for over seventy years it had been a sort of grocer's shop, Frasca, Osteria, where the pilgrims of old have been replaced with the stone quarrymen of the Cellina river. Subsistence economy, in a distant and forgotten part of Italy, where during the Second World War people had returned to barter. But from the fifties onwards it has been a continuous rise with quick and sometimes even hazardous pace.
the local
This term was totally inappropriate in the whole Italy until the fifties. There was talk of eating good or bad and the good was often confused with the much; the regional cuisine dominated, with its great values and strengths but also with enormous flaws. With few and appropriate exceptions, there was overcooked pasta to the north, preposterous risotto to the south, always greasy and excessive flavour. The modern kitchen is born in Italy with Gualtiero Marchesi and those few enlightened, who soon made treasure of his experiences. As a wise restorer who cleaned up the big picture of our kitchen of all the superfluous, the toxic, the indigestible that was covering it. So did Roberto Canton, who was lucky to be able to count on the passion of his son Andrea.
the stages
When the Osteria was born at the end of Via San Rocco, at the end of the country, near the church dedicated to the saint Franco Piacentino, we do not exactly know. Since the registration of the birth of Osvaldo Canton, appears that such Angelo, already in 1873, was managing a place of restoration. Probably an Osteria where something to eat was also served. The Unification of Italy was just beginning and the poverty inherited from the Austro Hungarian Empire was rather increased; living conditions and also social, economic and cultural conditions, put Friuli in the last places of the regional rankings of the young nation. Land of emigrants, in later stages even up to the 50s of the last century, land of rocks and mountain, land of poor people who certainly ate little and badly, and to console himself drank home-made wines, simply made. So in the modest Osteria, Angelo first and then Osvaldo for about forty years, until after the Great War, continues to serve polenta and herring or tripe and stockfish during the winter and polenta, beans and cooked herbs during the summer. “Vin de ciasa” (house wine), perhaps Merlot or Cabernet. You ate like at home, with the women serving what was there, prepared and cooked according to the traditions taught by their grandmothers, without frills.
In the composition of the family, in the male stock of Bassa Friulana, will appear the thread of women: the grandmother from Poffabro, in Val Colvera, and the mother from Carnia. The local, located at the beginning of the road that from the “grave” (gravelly soil along the banks of the river) leads to the provincial road, was attended by gravel diggers and especially by the teamsters carrying aggregates. This position generates a clientele who joins the townspeople and allows the family to survive to the vicissitudes of the World War, to the miseries of the post-war period, the "Spanish" epidemic, the rise of Fascism. Attached to the earth and with the "disease of the stone", the grandfather Osvaldo first and dad Emilio then, bought with the savings of the Osteria a few fields and a small house. Roberto was born in 1936 by mother Giannina, municipal midwife. The Colonial Wars begin and the Second World War is coming. The dark period of Roberto, and not only for him, is about to begin.
le fasi
The misery is so great and the small Roberto goes to school carrying a bundle, like all children, to warm the cold classrooms. In 1943 the Allied bombing began. Mother Giannina sends her son by her grandmother in Forni. In the Carnian country, Roberto attended the second grade school, and he received his Holy Communion in the day when the Germans burned Forni di Sotto, 7 km downstream of the country. The post-war period is full of expectations and hopes. People want to forget the horrors of the war and, even if with little, want to have fun. It is coming what later will be called the economic boom. The first people's dreams come true with Vespa and Lambretta, and will triumph with the legendary "600".
Roberto became interested in the activity in 1950 and in 1952 suggested the name of the local that was still missing: he called it “La Primula”. He will discover later from an old photo that in the 800th it was called "Osteria alle Nazioni". He will remember it in due course. The fun aspect is what interests, the kitchen goes alone, in the hands of mothers, aunts, service women, offering traditional food. The television, the espresso coffee machine, the jukebox, the dance floor, all great novelties in San Quirino, to have fun, to summon people and even to eat. The prudence and healthy pragmatism of Miglio (nickname of Emilio) make him keep the grocery store, that will remain open with direct management until 1970. Roberto paws, he wants to do more, even debts for necessary investments. The rest of the family, constitutionally conservative, is against him, but Roberto does not care and goes ahead. The facts will give him reason.
Roberto prepares the
"Nerone coffee"
The actual restaurant, with a modern attitude, was inaugurated in 1964. It is the time of wonder, of the effect, of the large quantities. The big rooms like, great appetizers in plain sight, full tray of cold cuts served in abundance, full plates, nothing placed on the plate in the kitchen, but tureens and plateaux. Grill on the Friulian fireplace for ribs, sausages, big steaks, cooked and served directly from the Boss, specially dressed up. Waiters and waitresses dressed with “sciapins” and traditional costumes. The kitchen of good quality is always in the hands of women, to which the wife Lidia and the sister Daniela were added.

Large themed dinners, not even gourmet, the zodiac or the good memories, the various brotherhoods of gourmands gourmets, following the fashion and style of the time. And Roberto triumphs, but he looks away and makes his children study abroad and by the restaurants that were springing up at that time. He realizes that something is changing and follows the insights of Andrea.
Roberto in the 70s was one of the best sommelier of Friuli.

Since he was deaf, he had developed, for compensation, a fine sense of smell and taste and had realized the importance of wine in restaurants. His scheme was logical and well set: his brother Paolo winegrower, the first-born Sandro sommelier, Andrea in the kitchen. He, of course, the Boss. Only Andrea will meet his expectations, the others will prefer to take different paths. Those who decided in the history of Canton, determined family and somewhat arrogant enough to be the only in the country with no nickname, the turning point that led to the success, the Michelin star, the high ratings in various gourmet guides, were Marchesi and Veronelli, the real creators of Italian cuisine.
the kitchen
What Roberto had only guessed, Andrea develops and puts into practice, or rather on the table. The attention that was previously reserved outside, to the dining room, the stage, the show, now is turned inward, to the kitchen as quality of raw materials, timely and constant execution of the dishes that leave the kitchen already prepared like real paintings of famous painters. A language, a philosophy, a poetics of real revolution for those years in Italy, and almost a heresy in the conservative Friuli. Andrea begins a common thread that he will never abandon: simplicity, respect for the land and the seasons, rigor and professionalism. In his time Roberto followed or rather sensed the trends, followed the fashions, adapted himself. Andrea is completely different.
His cuisine is the result of a precise and meticulous design, which depicts the territory, the tradition, the quality and authenticity of raw materials, the evolved technique to cook. The dish is made in an almost manic form and all senses must participate in the tasting of the masterpiece that will always be good, never ordinary, beautiful. Success came early, mostly by guests arriving from outside than by people from the town.
Andrea arrives in the kitchen in 1980, after professional experiences by Gualtiero Marchesi, at the San Domenico Restaurant in Imola and in France. He comes back enthusiastic, with the passion of a young man that leads him to dare. The restaurant is transformed again, this time even in the kitchen: Andrea implements a reinterpretation of the tradition that goes further, asking the customer a conceptual reading that requires new knowledge to be fully appreciated. It is initially difficult to meet local tastes so that “alla Primula se magna poc e se paga tant” (by La Primula you eat little and pay much). Then in 1983 at just 22 years the world of modern catering rewards him by assigning him the coveted Michelin Star. La Primula and a few others are the leader of haute cuisine in Friuli, and following this path other quality restaurants are born, often led by young Chefs. This creates new alliances and friendships, that open the closed world of kitchens to new exchanges and collaborations. From this mindset, associations such as the "Restaurateur Jeunes d'Europe" are born, which Andrea joins in 1990, and today he is an honorary member. The last surprise in 2013 with the entrance of the restaurant among "The Magnificent of the President", by the Italian Academy of Cuisine.
the service
In 1991 Pierangelo Dal Mas and his wife Emanuela Canton left their work in the hospital for passion and love to bring new blood in the family. A haute cuisine requires a high quality wine cellar: this concept was realized more than forty years ago by Robert Canton (sommelier since 1970) who associated to the kitchen a wealth of wine culture then passed on to the son in law Pier and his daughter Emanuela, sommelier in their turn, who following the philosophy that has characterized the family, implemented the selection of wines with a spirit that goes beyond the immediacy of sensation, favouring wine realities in which the success of wine is given by the work and the accurate knowledge of the territory and traditions, where passion and respect for the land are the cornerstones of a company. The wine cellar of Pier, a small jewel of 1,600 labels, now attracts curious buyers and eager to learn and undertake new tastes, where perfectly blended food and wine allow pleasurable sensations, new and unexpected.
To offer customers more choices and opportunities and to expand the catchment area, the Osteria which had been closed in 1980 because considered no more fashionable, was reopened in 1993 and named "Osteria alle Nazioni", as it appeared in an old photo. The primary purpose of the Osteria is to integrate the offer and certainly not to compete with the restaurant. The Osteria is "eating the things of the past but cooked as it should be", using the resources of the territory, maintaining the tradition and allowing only some slight lightening. It is reassuring, familiar, it suggests that you could make it by yourself at home, or almost, served with loving care and proudly by Emanuela and her aunt Daniela. The quality, to be such, must be total, this is the constant goal of all the activity of the enlarged Canton family. Osteria, restaurant for all needs, tastes, and even for every budget. Wine cellar, superb for quality and quantity of the labels (one of the best in Italy). Some very comfortable rooms for a stay of charm.
Can you draw a moral, a conclusion, from this history of La Primula, of Canton family, of San Quirino? Better saga than history, in the style of the northern European literature, Gosta Berling or Buddenbrooks. A little legend, some memories that you don’t know if they are real living facts or because you have been told long ago, a bit of truth, some voices of the people, Vulgate, gossip. A real history of Friuli, of facts, of words, of silences. Worth more doing than saying. Entrepreneurship, courage, but also selfishness. Sacrifices, work, and still work. The territory, Magredi, stones, and the claps (stone in Friulian) that are everywhere. Lying, stacked, aligned, built in beautiful walls of solid and spartan houses, but especially in the arms, legs, heads of these people who have absorbed all from the territory, only apparently ungrateful. Everyone has played their role in the comedy according to a script already written in the DNA of everyone. Even those who have left, were part of the grand plan. How can I do, God, to reach Heaven? Jesus responds: leave everything and come with me. But that one goes away, because it had great possessions. So Paolo takes other roads as then also Sandro will do. You must have a fire inside to achieve great things and always fight. This is the example of this great family, the oldest in Friuli to manage continuously for 140 years a local, and at what levels in the last 40 years. An example for all, for the townspeople, for the area, for the wine and food sector, but also for them. They owe a lot to the town, which has encouraged them to challenge even the Gospel because nobody is a prophet in his own land, the traditions of this rugged and beautiful land, the rustic and strong flavours but also various and delicate.
The great final of this saga will continue, unlike the shows on which at some tip the curtain falls, bears the signature, the name, the hand of Andrea Canton who was able to interpret, collect, distill, harmonize the spirit of places, of things, of natural resources in beautiful dishes that you can also eat and taste better with a clever combination of excellent wines wisely selected and proposed by Pier. The dozens of restaurant guides the countless articles and the traveler reviews on the internet tell better than I the greedy side of this beautiful story. Certainly with a little 'of emphasis but with serene conviction that we think for its 140th anniversary The Primula deserves recognition of PATRIMONIO DEL FRIULI.
La Primula Restaurant confirms
the Michelin Star for the 37th consecutive year.
Thank you very much to all of you, from all of us,
for the esteem and affection you reserve for us every day.
Famiglia Canton oggi
the beating heart of the hotel restaurant "La Primula"
able to make unique your experience
Marco, Andrea, Manuela and Pier
By registering with the service I agree to receive commercial communications.