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Everything posted by fortedei

  1. You can add bread with no salt to that list. Perfection is a rarity in this world. No serious scholar of Mozart or Shakespeare (or Italian cuisine) would argue that every note, every word (or every recipe) is flawless. There's room for improvement, and when people stop acknowledging that, instead believing that everything has already reached its Platonic ideal and can never progress, they stop improving. ← I don't understand your comment "You can add bread with no salt to that list." Could you explain it?
  2. But we're talking about restaurants. This topic opened with the question, "Is there any reason to cook totally traditional dishes, if you want to be a cut above a trattoria? Can a restaurant attain and/or maintain 'stars' cooking completely traditional, regional foods?" So that's very much a question about tourism marketing. I mean, the average person in Spain isn't eating El Bulli food at home. The whole culinary avant garde is utterly irrelevant to the average Spanish mother cooking food for a family. Nonetheless, from the perspective of the restaurant industry in Spain, it's very important. It's Spain's big culinary selling point to the world right now. Whereas, Italy's big selling point is "We cook the same food our grandparents cooked, we hate change, our food is simple and old-fashioned, if you walk ten feet your're in a different region, hooray for Slow Food . . ." ← We’re missing the point here. The idea of cutting edge in restaurants in Italy is a non starter. I can’t speak for the restaurant situation in Spain, but in Italy we are talking about 10 perhaps 20 restaurants that can carry out cutting edge techniques and/or food combinations. Several restaurants have tried and failed badly (i.e. Fulmine in Trescore Cremasco) or haven’t tried ( Ambasciata in Quistello).A very small number of Italians have any interest in even the few places which can carry it out. My neighbors, aside from the locals, in the town where I live in Italy are mainly wealthy people from Milan, Bologna, Brescia, Turin, Bergamo, Modena, Florence, etc. These are people who have the money as well as the desire to entertain in restaurants, for both business and social situations. They have absolutely no interest, except perhaps (and that is a very big perhaps) when entertaining stranieri, of going to a cutting edge restaurant. That is simply not their idea of enjoyment. They want to go out and eat food that they can recognize and enjoy, and they want to have a good time. They are not going to restaurants to worship a chef and his/her food creations. They are going to enjoy themselves with family and friends in a restaurant that hopefully serves good food and has at least a few bottles of wine that they know. I’m talking about the high end of Italian society in terms of financial resources, the only Italians who would even think of going to expensive cutting edge restaurants… and they don’t do it and have no interest in doing it. They might do it when they go to New York or London or Spain, but they are not frequenting those types of restaurants in Italy and never will. Those cutting edge restaurants in Italy are going to be dependent to a large extent on non Italians.
  3. Personally, I think that the entire point of cooking is to make the most delicious thing to eat that you possibly can. I guess I can understand people wanting to make something "new" and "different", but if what they come up with is less delicious than the dish they're trying to improve, it seems pointless to me. I'd prefer to see a chef devote countless energy and hours to acquire the most delicious melons and the best prosciutto possible, than spend time trying to freeze dry the prosciutto and turn the melon into foam. I've had the pleasure of eating in many small, traditional trattorie in some of the very off-the-beaten-path little towns in Italy, but I also remember driving quite a distance in the late 1980's the to have a meal at San Domenico in Imola, which was one of the very first "inventive" restaurants, and crying with disappointment at every course, wishing that for my one dinner in the Emilia-Romagna region I had gone to a great, traditional restaurant. Yes, I understand that chefs who grew up cooking the dishes that their mothers and grandmothers cooked every day want to cook something different. But I don't think I've yet had the meal that was an improvement on what Grandma could cook. For me, it's a great crime that the traditional cooking of so many regions and heritages is dying out. I'm afraid that when we're done with foam and molecules, there will be nobody left who knows how to make tortellini in brodo, or lasagne Bolognese. And that will be a culinary disaster. ← Bravo. What oft was thought, but n'er said so well.
  4. Ah, but the great trattorie still exist. My first brush with what a trattoria could be was in the early 70s, with the late great Cantarelli in Busseto. Beppe Cantarelli set the standard for all others to follow and those who have some sense of perspective with regard to food history in Italy, freely acknowledge that. He was the first one, after the very long post war recovery, to elevate trattoria food to its proper place. I returned again and again (as money and time would allow), and each time it seemed to get better and better. We’re fortunate in Italy to see that tradition continue today. I’ve written (as have others here) about some of them: Da Amerigo in Savigno; my old friend Miriam at La Buca in Zibello; Osteria della Villetta near Brescia; Antica Trattoria dei Mosto and La Brinca, both in Ne’ near Chiavari; Rubbiara in Nonantola; and one of the last of the great Florentine trattorie Vecchia Bettola. And the list could go on, including one we went to for the first time yesterday. In the middle of nowhere, although it turns out that nowhere is probably about 30-40 minutes from ? . But it feels like nowhere. The place is attractive, in a simple and traditional way - the dining room didn't feel old and dated, but simple and “trattoria-like”, pleasant lighting, perhaps room for 50-60 coperti in two dining rooms; comfortable. Some brief notes… in my mind, the best wine list in Italy, except for Pinchiorri where I’m sure the same bottle is sold at probably twice the price as it is in this trattoria? The best wine list in Italy in a trattoria in the middle of nowhere; how is that possible? Don’t know, but it puts the one at Gambero Rosso to shame as it does to all the other big name restaurants with lists. More than a hundred and fifty Barolos, same with Barbarescos, Barberas perhaps 60; incredible selection of Tuscans, from Friulli, from Alto- Adige, the south; everywhere in Italy ( took a quick glance at the section on French whites and I was staggered). An entire list of champagne and spumanti; pages and pages of whites from all regions in Italy. Pages and pages of dessert wines. All the right years. All the names of course, but the fun was to see how many relatively unknown producers she had on the list and all the wines were reasonable priced. Yes, she, for La Signora was passionate (incredible so!), opinionated and extraordinarily knowledgeable about the wine. Now for the food; in one word… incredible (and fortunately no fruit on each plate, no foam, no frozen anything, no liquid nitrogen used, no Mason jars used; no surf and turf). Just a great seasonal trattoria menu, with a few daily specials each in antipasti, primi and secondi, all dishes beautifully, but simply, plated We started with a taste of culaccia, which is the cut of meat that makes culatello, but because it is too dry to make culatello in this area, they cure it like prosciutto and you get something called culaccia; another primi of sformato of potato with a light sauce made from a local cheese which we had never heard of. The sformato was light and delicate, and the culaccia was delicious. Then we had one of the day’s specials - tortelli di patate with a sauce of mushrooms and tomato - and ravioli di zucca as they make them here. Thin delicate pasta for both. They serve the potato tortelli two ways - one with just butter and cheese, and one with a sauce of mushrooms with a touch of tomato. We had it with the sauce, but La Signora had us taste it first with just the butter and cheese, so that we could get the delicacy of that, and then with the sauce, which was delicious. The ravioli di zucca are made with spinach pasta and served with a vegetable sauce which cuts the sweetness. A completely different dish from the usual, and wonderful. Both pasta dishes showed a master in the kitchen and were as good as any we have had, EVER, and our dear friend Bruna Santini at Dal Pescatore is our standard for stuffed pasta excellence (that is, the pasta itself). Then my wife and I had guanciale of veal, stewed in red wine and served with a light and soft polenta. Intense in flavor, light in texture. We finished with the two desserts of the day - sorbetto di fichi, and a taste of the various torte that they make - a little pound cake, a light torta di mandorle, and a torte of plums and one of apricots. We talked at length about wine, and what has happened in recent years, and Mondovino and Parker, and many other things. Papa is still in the kitchen and he’s 80 years old. Classic trattoria. The name? Let’s see how many takers we have who can guess it. Eventually, I’ll give it up if there is enough real interest. It’s classic and great. Swiss Chef, you'd really like it.
  5. I'll start it off. Below are descritions of two dishes recently mentioned by Tupac. Aside from the fact that he ate both dishes in Italy, and both were prepared by an Italian chef, what did these dishes have to do with Le Marche? "The Scampo zen soon followed. In the center was one gloriously fresh raw scampo (a type of larger shrimp) on a skewer, covered with sake foam. Raked around the plate were zen garden designs of dehydrated raspberry and green tea powders, and in the corners, a wonderfully refreshing dice of cucumber and pineapple with grated lime zest." "Still not done, I now had Sogliola, cus cus, quinoa fritta e cocomero. Two stark white lightly cooked (steamed?) piece of sole fish, topped with fried quinoa, and resting on a bed of couscous with about the same size grain as the quinoa. (Does it make me strange that James Brown was shrieking "I got soul, and I'm super bad" in my head as I ate this?). Mixed through the couscous were delicious summery-sweet chunks of watermelon."
  6. Hathor, Sorry to disagree with your reply. Scampi has absolutely nothing to do with the size of a shrimp because it is not a shrimp. From Venice to San Remo, from North to South, scampi is scampi and shrimp is shrimp. Scampi is from the lobster family. In French, it is similar to langoustine. Gamberi is very similar to the French crevette, which are shrimp. They are both crustaceans, but that is it... not similar in taste or texture.
  7. Very interesting thoughts. In view of these thoughts, what would you think of a restaurant such as Uliassi which was reviewed by Tupac on August 29 in the thread of Eating In The Boot. Forget about some of his basic mistakes about food in this review and most of the others (Tupac, a scampo is a larger type of shrimp only in America, as in shrimp scampi). He has written a number of good long reviews about a certain type of restaurant... ones with up and coming star chefs doing cutting edge preparations (and using too much fruit in dishes; shades of The Inn At Little Washington), not at all traditional to the territory in which they reside. Are these appealing to you and if so why? Or, on the other hand, is it this type of restaurant that is, to paraphrase you, less satisfying for the soul. Could you give a few examples of restaurants/trattorias, outside of Piemonte that are to your taste. Grazie.
  8. Would you tell us what foods he is shipping and the names of some of the best restaurants he is shipping to in France and Italy?
  9. Is the 7 PM seating (and you have to be out before 9, just incredible!!!) just for the tourists? Here is a guy, Dario, who used to be "the real thing" (at least when we were going to his shop). Now, he's become just another pop food guy. What a shame.
  10. Don't quite understand your comments. Are you saying that dentice, with mocha and ricci is something you like... which is fine? Or, are you saying... well if that's what someone likes, it's okay... and it started in Senagalila? Just curious. Here we are, back to the current version of nuova cucina. That lasted a few years and quickly went away because it wasn't Italian and Italian chefs didn't have the skill to carry it out so that it was edible (and made sense). However, because for most chefs who have one Michelin star (whatever that means), one of the only ways to get another is to do something "daring", we now have restaurants all over Italy,which were perfectly good regional places, doing things that make them look foolish, because it is not Italian and/or the chefs do not have the skill to carry out what they are attempting to do. It is really pathetic to see this being done in the name of "cutting edge." One certainly expects French chefs to do it (because so many of them are foolish), but at least they have the skills to attempt it. May I suggest that you look into the history of Italian cuisine in the 70s and 80s and see what happened when chefs got in over their heads. You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been.
  11. A first-rate combination dish followed that offered imperial dentice, seaweed, apple, and a slice of dried fig hammered flat, all doused at the table by a mocha sauce flavoured with sea-urchins (poured at the table from a classic, small espresso macchinetta). Ah, yes, contemporary Italian cuisine at its best... or worst. Give me some more of that mocha sauce flavored by sea urchins... and make sure that apple comes from the Trentino. Where do people dream up these combinations? Is this all Adria's influence? What a crock(no pun intended). I've never been here but the dishes sound particularly unappealing. Am happy to hear though, that he has a technical mastery. When you couple this with Don Alfonso, where we have been (and thought it was the single most overated restaurant in Italy, next to Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo), the peninsular is starting to take on the trappings of a massive rip-off, similar to Senegalia. Time to head back to La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona and Conchiglia D'Oro in Varigotti so that I can eat fish without mocha sauce.
  12. A few years ago, the Gambero Rosso, in addition to listing its thoughts on the best restaurants in Italy, started to list its thoughts on the best trattorie in a section called Tre Gamberi. Over the last few years, we have tried two of them, La Brinca in Ne’ which is south of Chiavari in Liguria and Osteria della Villetta in Palazzolo Sull’Oglio, near Brescia. This past weekend we tried two more, Da Amerigo in Savigno, 30 km. southwest of Bologna and Locanda al Gambero Rosso, near Bagno di Romagna, in the very southern part of Emilia Romagna at the Tuscan border. We have been to La Brinca many times and very much enjoy it, even if we don’t think it is the best trattoria in Ne’ (we think Antica Trattoria dei Mosto is the better of the two on food, and almost, but not quite, comparable on wine). Sergio Circella of La Brinca has a passion for wine and we’ve never seen a better wine list in any trattoria. Osteria della Villetta is a gem and Maurizio Rossi is the consummate owner. A wonderful trattoria with hard to find Bresciani dishes, skillfully prepared. So… it was with much enthusiasm that we looked forward to two more Tre Gamberi. The two trattorie are very different. Da Amerigo is the real deal. It is a classic trattoria serving very skillfully prepared Bolognese dishes. We arrived in Savigno late in the afternoon. Peaking through the window of the trattoria, we see the classic tableau… three elderly woman sitting at a table in the dining room, oblivious to the outside world, intently focused on rolling pasta, filling pasta and shaping pasta, for that night’s dinner. The ingredients used in the dishes are first rate, the flavors are full, the plating is well done, the menu changes frequently and the wine list is well thought out. The owner, Alberto Bettini, his wife Susanna, and the rest of his family are warm and welcoming, the service is casual but professional, courteous and helpful, and most of all the whole meal was “natural” i.e. this is how we’ve done it for a long time, we enjoy doing it this way and we hope you like it. It is a very relaxed place and Susanna runs the dining room very well, helpful but not obtrusive and with a pace in the service that allows you to eat and then sit for a while before the next dishes are served. This is not a “rush rush” place; they want you to really enjoy the evening (on the other hand, there was no half hour wait for the next course). The physical setting is classic trattoria and reminded us of both Villetta and La Buca, very comfortable, but the decor is much the same as it was fifty years ago. As I said, the quality of the ingredients is exceptional, whether it was in the coniglio all’ aceto balsamico (the best example of this classic that I’ve ever had) or the guancia di vitella brasata al barbera. The lasagna al forno was so well prepared, my wife said that the pasta was only a notch (no pun intended) below Bruna Santini’s (our standard for excellence). Cherries from nearby Vignola on a simple baked dessert of light pound cake with a little vanilla custard was fantastic. Whether it was the warm tigelle or the quality of the mortadella, Bettini “gets it.” One other thing: their nocino is fantastic and is available to buy at their dispensa. What a pleasure to have a meal at Da Amerigo. The next evening we were at Locanda al Gambero Rosso. It felt contrived, much to formulaic, too much like a stage set of a trattoria, perhaps feeling a little full of themselves because of all the publicity. The Saragoni family couldn’t have been nicer; in fact, perhaps a little too nice. How many times during a meal do you want to be interrupted to be asked if all is okay? Once, perhaps twice. Giuliana’s husband who hovers about the dining room, moving constantly from table to table… asked us five times. Giuliana, coming out of the kitchen, asked us twice, as did her daughter. Why? Insecurity? Who knows but what an annoyance. So is the fact that one of the sommelier/waiters insisted on filling up the glasses as soon as we took a sip of wine. That was part of the hurried pace of the meal. Finish one dish and a minute later the next one appears. A number of tables turned over during the evening… not ours, because we refuse to be rushed (although we couldn’t control the speed of the service), but it was clear for a number of other tables. The trattoria is off the main square in a charming little town, San Piero in Bagno (near Bagno di Romagna). It is a pleasant place and from all appearances it was going to be a meal on par with Da Amerigo. What a disappointment, particularly with the food. The menu had all the classic dishes from the area… from basotti to manfrigoli, from trippa in bianco to tortelli di patate. The wine list was fine, almost all from Emilia Romagna, but some good choices nonetheless. The skill in the food preparation was lacking as was the quality of some of the ingredients. The tortelli stuffed with potatoes had very good flavor, but the pasta was much too thick, something which should never happen in a trattoria which takes itself seriously. The spinach flan, actually a larger version of ravioli nudi, was heavy and overly sauced. My wife’s piccione was dry and grey (very unappealing). When I saw on the menu agnello in umido, I thought how fortunate I’d be to have a dish you seldom see on a restaurant menu. The agnello was lacking in taste and was mostly fat. I ordered semifreddo of melone. The semifreddo was delicious, but it was plated with what looked to be a puddle of a bad version of crème anglaise and a puddle of chocolate sauce. Crème anglaise and chocolate sauce with semifeddo of melone? Where did that come from? I found out when I decided to order another dessert… lattaiolo. The lattaiolo was absolutely leaden and guess what, was plated exactly the same way as the semifreddo, with the crème anglaise and chocolate suace. We paid the check. Giuliana’s daughter then insisted that we go back to the kitchen to say goodbye to her mother. We did, graciously, although we asked ourselves why it was necessary. We wish them well, but we won’t be back. Two other brief notes on Piemonte. A few weeks ago had another fantastic meal at Da Renzo in Cervere. This was our sixth time there and although there have been some complaints on this site, we've never had less than really good experiences. We also went, for the first time, to Trattoria della Posta in Monforte D'Alba. A little old fashioned, lacking personality, but we thought the menu choices were very good, the dishes well prepared and very flavorful, and the wine list adequate. We'd probably go back at some point.
  13. I can. Da Ivan is a special place, as is, from my postings, La Buca or Miriam’s. It is totally different from La Buca. La Buca is a real country trattoria. Da Ivan calls itself an Hosteria, but has pretensions to be than that and it basically succeeds. It terms of preparation, Da Ivan is a cut above Miriam’s. It is more refined and though Miriam is a good cook, her preparations are very basic. She sticks close to what has been going on in the trattoria for more than a hundred years. The choice at Da Ivan is a bit more extensive than at La Buca and he has a sous chef who knows how to cook, good restaurant cooking… Miriam has some locals and her dishes are rustic. Miriam makes her own culatelli (hanging in the cellar), as one would expect from a trattoria in Zibello that is over a hundred years old. Ivan buys his. There is nothing in the world like Miriam’s spalla. Ivan’s is a pale imitation. On the other hand, his duck is far superior to Miriam’s, not in terms of taste, but in terms of presentation. His pasta is more refined; the filling in her stuffed pastas is more flavorful. Ivan has a very decided edge in terms of wine; he is passionate and has some great stuff, both local and from the rest of Italy and from France. They are both wonderful places, but very different. We very much prefer Miriam’s, but you can’t go wrong at Ivan’s. Ivan told us his version of Johnny Apple’s visit (and subsequent Times writeup); who knows if it is apocryphal. The day that Apple came, he insisted on drinking some of Ivan’s best bottles, both Italian and French. Although Apple mentions drinking until 1 AM (see link below), and Ivan getting him to stay later, that is not what Ivan had to say to us. He said that Apple insisted on opening fantastic bottles of wine all through the early morning hours and was totally zonked at 4 AM when they carried him out of the town of Roccabianca. Apple insisted that no check be presented. We heard the same thing (about a check) from a close friend, Franco Colombani (whom Apple mentions in the article) sixteen years earlier. Who knows if Johnny Apple traded New York Times coverage for good meals, but that seems to be the scuttlebutt. http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricte...DA90994D9404482
  14. You'll really enjoy Miriam at La Buca. Having known her well for almost 30 years, I think you'll have the time of your life. The food, particularly the culatello and spalla, but also the anitra and capone, are unlike anything else in that area... simply wonderful; basic country food, but with soul. Miriam is a gem. A very, very special person with an unbelievable passion for food and the people who really enjoy it. Different from "your father's trattoria." ← Ah, so you know this place. It came highly recommended as a basic country-food place with commitment to perfection of regional cuisine. My other consideration in the area was Cavallino Bianco, but La Buca seemed a bit more down-home. La Buca will be our first meal on the trip, and I wanted to set a high bar for the friends with whom I am traveling. We like these more-local places that have passion. One of the issues is that my wife is a vegetarian, but she is not dogmatic nor on any crusade. I'm learning Italian, and for La Buca and Giusti in Modena I learned to say: "La mia moglie e' una vegetariana, pero lei e' tranquilla e lei non fa fastidio di carne. Lei e' brava con il brodo di carne o con pezzetti della carne, e lei mangia cio che' noi mangiamo tranne carne -- quindi pasti, verdure certimente, i contorni. The rest of us? E noi? Siamo i carnivore completamente! I hope that makes sense. (And, I hope it's correct! My teacher laughs when I come up with all these "conversations" I want to learn.) Cheers ←
  15. You'll really enjoy Miriam at La Buca. Having known her well for almost 30 years, I think you'll have the time of your life. The food, particularly the culatello and spalla, but also the anitra and capone, are unlike anything else in that area... simply wonderful; basic country food, but with soul. Miriam is a gem. A very, very special person with an unbelievable passion for food and the people who really enjoy it. Different from "your father's trattoria." ←
  16. We're going to Zibello during our November trip. La Buca. Can't wait. Then Bologna (Modena: Giusti), then Piedmont. I just heard that the owner of Giusti's in Modena died this week. Sad. CHeers ← You'll really enjoy Miriam at La Buca. Having known her well for almost 30 years, I think you'll have the time of your life. The food, particularly the culatello and spalla, but also the anitra and capone, are unlike anything else in that area... simply wonderful; basic country food, but with soul. Miriam is a gem. A very, very special person with an unbelievable passion for food and the people who really enjoy it. Different from "your father's trattoria."
  17. Robert, I think Lorenzo was fooling around with you. There is no regional law about having people who are not staying at a hotel, not being able to eat in a restuarant at the hotel. In fact, in Forte, where I own a house and live, there are a number of hotels that do just that. Perhaps it was a deal gone wrong. Perhaps it was a bad hand at cards (where many Forte restaurants and hotels have changed hands). Perhaps some Russians made a much better deal and the hotel bought Lorenzo out (Russians are buying lots of property in Forte at outrageous, make that outrageous outrageous prices). The hotel that you refer to is having many problems getting finished. It has taken reservations for the summer starting at the beginning of July. As of today, as I rode my bike into town to get a ristretto, I would not want to be staying at that hotel at the beginning of July.
  18. What is "Culatello di Zimora"?
  19. Robert, as usual, is quite correct. I chose to buy the Italian version not comparing the two word for word because it is already 6 months out of date and I figured that with translation time, the English one could be even less timely.Also I'd like to put a plug in for that oft-maligned Michelin; we've eaten at two Bibs that were simply terrific. It was available at Farinelli [sp] in Rome. ← Feltrinelli
  20. I'm a liitle confused. Let's assume the wine (only two bottles for six?) cost 45 E, and I'm probably underestimating somewhat because of the Le Court. That would leave 155 for six people or 26E per person. L'Espresso lists the average price at 40E; GR at 36E. Did some people not eat?
  21. I've spent a fair amount of time in the Valle D'Aosta. By far the best place we've been to is La Clotze, near Courmayeur (loc. Planpincieux). Great menu, executed very well, excellent wine list and truly wonderful hosts. Have been there four times and outstanding each time.
  22. I'm due to go to Italy in a couple of weeks and am curious if anyone knows if Plotkin's book (which I loved and trusted) is available now in France or Italy; and are the 2007 GR and Osterie books out yet. I'll do plan to buy what I can at the Italian book store in Paris tmrw. Thanks. John ← The 2007 GR and Osterie books have been out for several months.
  23. Jonathan, As one Cantabrigian to another, do not go to Da Cesare. Mediocre and "variabile" Go to Da Renzo instead. Slighty different geography and totally different food. Although almost no one else would tell you to go... go to Cascinale in Isola D'asti. I've been going to Piemonte for 25 years and these are now two of the best, and least pretentious and places with the best food and wine in Piemonte. Again, not everyone will agree.
  24. Dried porcini powder! Molto Italiano. Non. Why would anyone think a dish with dried porcini powder was sublime. This reminds me of truffle oil. When one goes to a restaurant that has dishes with truffle oil... leave. This has nothing to do with Italian cooking in Italy.
  25. As with so many other things Tuscan, Giuliano Bugialli was the first to introduce ravioli nudi to cooks in the US. The Fine Art of Italian Cooking, his first book, has the recipe. Depending on the humidity, use a bit less flour, but otherwise the recipe is perfect. We've been making them for almost 30 years without a hitch.
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