Jump to content


participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by fortedei

  1. Thank you, this is a bright idea. As I hate reservations, I usually show up at a place, wave my hands, declare my faith to the eternal values of human kind: olives, wine, and bread, and ask for something to eat. Will this work in "La Pineta" or do I need to reserve? Thanks again. ← The eight times we've been there, the place has been totally full and a number of times Luciano has just turned away people showing up with no reservation.
  2. I've always felt that at Scacciapensiaerri they were just going through the motions. It is a very tired place. Would probably spend the hour travelling to Viareggio and eat at Romano or better yet have a second meal at La Pineta (which I'm quite sure you'll want to do because there is so much to try on the menu).
  3. Another great lunch. The New York Times article hasn't gone to Luciano's head. In fact, we brought him the hard copy (thanks to a great friend who, with his wife... a great cook, joined us) which he hadn't seen (and later was going to show to the Antinoris). He did mention that some people had called from Chicago to book a table, and he laughed. Seppie nere that melted in your mouth. Polpo as tender as can be. Pappa the way pappa should taste. Triglie that were exquisite. An arrosto that had, among other things, a piece of monkfish that my friend said was by far the best that he has ever had. And on and on. And to drink...a 2001 Montevertine for 100 euros... too pricey? What if it were a magnum! 300 euros all in. Again, no modern Italian haute cuisine (for that one has to go to Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo, not that far away). Stay away from this place if you want Adria or La Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigallia (with green bread). This place... well, just a little shack on the beach.
  4. Oh, well. It was good while it lasted. Now the only time to go will be out of season... very out of season. It’s in the New York Times Travel magazine this weekend , with a picture of Luciano Zazzeri on the beach by the side of "the shack." When you see the photo, you'll see I wasn't exaggerating about "the shack." Even though the author of the article knows very little about food (gambas?; tartufo?), and it is very difficult to find, every American (well, not every American; there will still be those who prefer the lard ice cream at Gambero Rosso) going to southern Tuscany this summer will try to go to La Pineta. The foodies from New York will be all over it now that the New York Times reported that Alain Ducasse, who co-owns (among, of course, many other things) L'Andana, a hotel farther south near Castiglione della Pescaia, stopped by recently and had a meal (and the clear implication was that he loved it). Just came back from our favorite seafood place in Liguria. Have had perhaps a dozen meals there over the last seven years. Each one outstanding. Thank you MZ and JZ for telling us about it. A true maestro who doesn't bat an eye that the Gambero Rosso dropped him for whatever reason (hasn't stopped the other two guides from continuing to extol him). Again, one recognizes everything on the plate... pasta that is pasta, seafood that is seafood... all exquisitely, exquisitely prepared and of the most pristine ingredients. True Ligurian flavors. No fusion anything. Spaghetti with anchovies (tossed with the pasta as a sauce and extra grilled anchovies around the plate); rigatoni with tonno e piselli. Incredible flavor in both cases. Then orata alla ligure (olives, capers, pinoli, marjoram and thyme) and San Pietro with Tropea onions. For dessert an apple baked with candied orange and lemon peel, a chocolate cake with chocolate sauce, and a pound cake with citrus. Right on the lungomare in a non descript town, in a restaurant setting that could be out of California. Beautiful simplicity. This is a guy who thinks Adria is a misspelling of a sea bordering on the Italian coast Not a shred of "modern Italian haute cuisine." I think this one goes only to athinaeos who seems to really appreciate restaurants of this type. From the New York Times: "Dinner is at La Pineta. This is an event. When you say you are going to Maremma, everyone …says the same thing: … eat at La Pineta. …they say it rather sheepishly, … inevitably they always add: you'll never find it. In my bag are three hand-drawn maps by three people. All …different. It's true. It is impossible to find La Pineta. But persist because… eventually you get there. You drive for miles on sandy beach roads, … then suddenly out of nowhere, you see a kind of shack on the edge of the water. This can't be it, you think, but you open the door, and the shack becomes a room full of light and lovely wood furniture and wonderful smells. And Luciano Zazzeri, a local fisherman whose father and uncle opened the place in 1964, grasps your hand and seats you at a table overlooking the darkened surf.
  5. You are correct. I used the word "roughly" to describe the Maremma. I thought roughly would accurately describe the territory. It clearly doesn't. As you said correctly, the Maremma does extend south of Grosseto to the D'Argento. I'm sure you "never went as far north as grosetto", because there is no city of grosetto. I'm curious what time of year you had this great casual meal? Not much going on in southern Tuscany much of the year and it's unusual for Americans to get down there.
  6. You'll be staggering for a good half hour on the road from Collelungo to Castellina. That's how long it'll take you by foot.
  7. Salivating minds and enquiring mouths kindly ask that you provide more detail. ← Antipasto:fagottini of radicchio rosso with ricotta and anchovy. Primi: spaghetti with polpo novello, capperi and cherry tomatoes; tagliolini with crostacei and radicchio. Secondi:arrosto misto: seppie, gamberone royal, scampi, razza, coda di rospo; and tonno con rosmarino. Dessert: semifreddo al pistachio
  8. Another great lunch, ala spiaggia, at La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona. Again, those who want "modern Italian haute cuisine", stay away. you won't like this type of cooking. Big headline today in the local paper in Bibbona... "Russian buys 25% of Ornellia." Ludovico Antinori must be having a fit... first Fescobaldi gets control of it (via Mondavi; see film Mondovino) and now they get (I bet) a good part of their investment back and still control it.
  9. For those of you who prefer Fulvio Pierangelini’s (the exalted, and two star Michelin chef, and according to the Gambero Rosso, both the best chef and owner of the best restaurant in all of Italy...Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo!) conception of food (fried eggs with lard; crusted eggs with lard ice-cream and stripes of candied lard; lard and ricotta ravioli with lard zabaglione and balsamic vinegar; rosemary and thyme cream with lard , gold, cocoa, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper chocolate roulades), go to his restaurant Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo, enjoy it, and read this post no further. You simply will not like this restaurant. You will not enjoy it, so don’t bother getting agitated by reading this note. Today, at lunch, we went back to La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona (see post for January 6th). Here is what we ate: for an amuse, a little marinated fresh anchovy topped with mildest of slivered onions and a little olive oil (mopped up with very good crusty bread). Then for an antipasto, pappa al pomodoro con le cozze - what an excellent idea on an old Tuscan staple, especially when you have great bread, great olive oil, wonderful tomatoes, good fish broth and spectacular (yes, spectacular) cozze. For the primi, spaghetti with bianchetti (little just-born versions of local fish - tiny white babies (uh oh, the bianchetti police will be after us), mild fresh garlic and sage - very delicate and outstanding; also gnocchetti al nero di seppie with seppioline and carciofi fritti - strong flavors, but the gnochetti as black, and as light as could be, and also outstanding. A fritto, very light and crisp and not oily; also spezzatino di tonno with cherry tomatoes, fagiolini and mild spring onions. The tuna was not quickly grilled, but was still rare on the inside (how does Luciano Zazzeri do it?). A brilliant dish. Rather than our usual sangiovese, we drank a Paleo 2001, from Bolgheri, which is 100% cabernet franc. Dessert was a flan di cioccolato. Outstanding meal but we really missed having that lard ice cream that we might have gotten 20 km. from Pineta at Gambero Rosso. The restaurant was almost full, and people were really enjoying themselves. The beach was still deserted, and the adjoining bagno closed; you sit there with the windows open and only the sand and sea in front of you. The place has a wonderful feeling - the diners are happy, and so is the staff. The area in the hills is gorgeous. On the way back, stopped at the farm stands on the road leading to the Autostrada, and got lots of asparagus and gorgeous strawberries (and local pecorino and olive oil from a store in Bolgheri).
  10. Intriguing story. So much so, that I went on and asked a few of my friends and contacts working in the Italian gastronomic scene about what they though. All of them told me that to their knowledge Cedroni is 100% Marchigiano; no one had ever heard anything about Portugal before. I am somewhat puzzled. ← Well. perhaps their knowledge is correct. Perhaps not. Have they ever spoken with Cedroni? Why is his Christian name Moreno? Perhaps as docsconz says in the next post, perhaps he was pulling my leg. I doubt it. Have either of you ever eaten there? If so, what did you think?
  11. I have to admit that, while I have never eaten at La Madonnina del Pescatore, I do find some of Cedroni's creations somewhat puzzling, at least on paper, and I cannot imagine how they would work at all. A friend that visits him at least twice a year, and is clearly a fan of his cooking, strongly insists that if you haven't tried them you should not judge: since you have, I will add your opinion to my suspicions. On the other hand there are a few dishes of his that sound very intriguing. I don't get what you mean with Cedroni being Portuguese: as far as I knew he is from Senigallia and has spent most of his life there. ← Don't understand about what you don't get about Cedroni being Portuguese? It is quite simple. Cedroni is from Portugal. I don't believe the info you have is correct. Cedroni is not from Sengallia and has not spent most of his life there. ← Interesting, if true, in that Portugal is even more culinarily conservative than Italy. Do you have any references or links to confirm your assertion? ← Your post and Albiston's are interesting. We went to Cedroni's place because a good friend of ours (who, in our mind, has the best skills of any chef in Italy... notice I didn't say the best chef, nor the best restaurant... we say that this guy has the technical skills of a Frenchman, he was trained in France for a period of time, but the soul of an Italian; what a combination, but I digress, but do you want to take guesses as to whom I refer) who is a very good friend Cedroni. So, on the night we went to his restaurant, we were treated like royalty. We talked during the service, both with him and his wife (both extremely charming) and then talked at length after the service was over (he showed us his new building projects and it was clear he wanted to go to another level). It was during this conversation that he told us that he was Portuguese and told us the differences he saw between cooking in Portugal and cooking in Italy. His wife is Italian. Perhaps he was joking around with us, ala the green bread in the bread basket, but he made no pretense that he was Italian. Moreno, his Christian name, is not an Italian name. Now I'm curious as to what the real story is.
  12. I have to admit that, while I have never eaten at La Madonnina del Pescatore, I do find some of Cedroni's creations somewhat puzzling, at least on paper, and I cannot imagine how they would work at all. A friend that visits him at least twice a year, and is clearly a fan of his cooking, strongly insists that if you haven't tried them you should not judge: since you have, I will add your opinion to my suspicions. On the other hand there are a few dishes of his that sound very intriguing. I don't get what you mean with Cedroni being Portuguese: as far as I knew he is from Senigallia and has spent most of his life there. ← Don't understand about what you don't get about Cedroni being Portuguese? It is quite simple. Cedroni is from Portugal. I don't believe the info you have is correct. Cedroni is not from Sengallia and has not spent most of his life there.
  13. Good guess re Marchesi and that would have been the correct answer 15 years ago, but not the person I had in mind today. I ate at Le Clevie ( Carlo Cracco's former restaurant right outside of Alba)three times. Why did I prefer the cooking he did there as opposed to what he is doing in Milan? Perhaps it is because I don't like to play with my food; I did that a long time ago when I was a baby. I've only been to Cedroni's place once, a couple of years ago. He wasn't fully into his laboratory food yet and his cooking showed a mediocre amount of skill. What really turned me off was the green bread; seems to get me every time. What was this, Saint Patrick's day in Senigallia? Cedroni is not italian; he is Portuguese. Perhaps that is why he's confused about that famous Italian dessert "bounty di seppia” a chocolate covered cuttlefish-coconut ganache praline."
  14. Sounds good to me. I had the pleasure of taking a course with Kuhn's mentor at Harvard, the late Professor I.Bernard. Cohen. The only problem as I see it is that the documentation behind the paradigms disappears as the practitioners review it. LOL.
  15. I think we can pretty much bet on that: when there's a nascent movement, be it artistic, scientific or culinary, you do tend to have a lot of pretenders to success, but only a few will succeed. Yet I hardly agree with the reasons you give. I'd be interested to know why you think that is the case, apart the fact that you are quite clear about the way you feel about it. Personally I feel that you underestimate the rising interest for haute cuisine I have been noticing in Italy. Those that are interested in haute cuisine definitely will go for the modern take, the problem might be more on how many of these there actually are. I wonder who you are really speaking about. The chefs that took part to identità golose or copycats? Let's be honest, Italy lacks a serious culinary school, though that might be slowly changing. Yet, if you look at their CVs of many of the best young chefs, you will notice that they often had years of experience in the kitchens of top Italian or foreign chefs, not just a few stages here and there. I doubt they are as clueless as you paint them. If you look at their copycats, you're clearly right, and I agree that there is a large number of these. The fact that chefs often lack the economic knowledge to know how to make a restaurant economically successful is no big mystery to my eyes, that's why restaurants that manage to live long (and prosper ) often rely on a partner with a good grip of the business side of things. Some of the restaurants of this new wave will definitely have to prove they can stand time, but others have been around for over ten years: wouldn't you agree that the latter chefs have proved they can indeed run a restaurant? I have extracted this section from the whole paragraph about nuova cucina, because it highlights your prejudices. You cut the positive sides short and spend a lot of effort on highlighting the shortcomings of nouvelle cuisine or nuova cucina. So let me play your game in reverse : Novelle cuisine might have produced some abominations but it radically changed haute cuisine. Not only lightening the dishes, but giving a greater importance to the aesthetic of the plate, changing the way the courses of the meal are organized and introducing methods that are taken for granted today (just think of juices and infusions instead of starchy sauces). Might I also remind you that a few of those chefs that were around in Italy in the 80s and early 90s have all but disappeared: people like Iaccarino, Vissani, Pierangelini, not to mention Marchesi, are still there running their restaurants with quite a lot of success. Did they evolve from nuova cucina? Sure, but not, contrary to what you stated, in the direction of regional food. Come on, that's a superficial comment. I never heard anyone claim that haute cuisine is or ever will be a mass phenomenon. The last time I looked Mac Donalds was the most succesfull franchise in the world, not Ducasse's restaurants. Haute cuisine is inevitably addressed to a customer base which is made up by food lovers/gourmets/foodies (call them what you prefer, the essence does not change) and those who use fine dining as a status symbol. You repeat this point later in your post when you mention Beck and Alajmo, yet this consideration adds or subtracts little to the eventual success or failure of these new chefs. Their future depends on those clients that would be interested in their cuisine or at least curious about it anyway. Most of those that love trattorie don't and will not visit such places. Having had this kind of discussion quite often I have know from experience that only a minority of my fellow Italians base their choice on the actual style of cuisine of the haute cuisine restaurants: most have no idea of what these restaurants serve), but rather dislike these establishments because the portions are small and the prices are high. I have no problem accepting the fact that you find the new avant-garde unappealing, it is a matter of taste after all. What I do have a problem with is the way you are dismissing the whole thing. I wonder how many of these "new" restaurants have you tried, i.e. if your opinion on their cooking is based from direct experience or your idea of it. My impression is that you are grouping all these new chefs under the ego-fulfilling creative type. If so you might want to reconsider: some of these new chefs fall indeed in this category, which does not make them less interesting to me, yet others manage to reinterpret regional cooking in a novel yet respectful way: Gennaro Esposito's Parmigiana di pesce bandiera, for example, is a creative dish, yet one deeply Neapolitan and respectful of tradition. BTW, would you mind telling us who the best known Italian chef is? In Italy or abroad? Vissani? I'm quite curious. I beg to differ. This might be the case with places like Enoteca Pinchiorri or Al Sorriso, whith their three Michelin stars and the like. But go to places like Il Duomo in Ragusa, Uliassi in Senigallia or Pierangelini's Gambero Rosso: I am confident you would find quite the opposite. The truth is that famous restaurants that are near to main tourist attractions (the classical Firenze-Venezia-Roma triangle) definitely rely on foreigners for their main income, yet those places that are off the beaten track are visited mainly by Italians. We can definitely agree on that, only let's not forget that taste is subjective. I'd definitely choose Pierangelini over Pineta any time, and I'm sure you'd do the opposite. That doesn't decrease the respect I have for your opinion... it is just far away from mine. ← I’m pleased that we agree to disagree. Just a few comments in answer to your questions… I don’t have a “grudge” with modern Italian haute cusine… I just think for the most part it’s a lot of foolishness. I guess we don’t know the same types of Italians. Those I know, who are interested in food, have little desire to eat “modern Italian haute cusine. “Incrusted eggs with lard ice-cream and stripes of candied lard; lard and ricotta ravioli with lard zabaglione and balsamic vinegar, just doesn’t do it for them on a Saturday evening or Sunday lunch with friends or family. The CVs might be impressive on paper. The proof of the pudding is on the plate. Other than a handful of chefs, who are those that have been around for ten years? I’m not disputing that there will be room for some, it is that I believe that it will be very few, because so few Italians who enjoy alta cucina and have the money to eat it, will be frequenting restaurants serving “modern Italian haute cusine.” Didn’t understand the paragraph beginning with “I have extracted…” I have in fact tried a number of the restaurants, so my comments are not based on “my idea of it.” You say “BTW, would you mind telling us who the best known Italian chef is? In Italy or abroad? Vissani? I'm quite curious.” Obviously I was speaking of Italy (Batali is a joke anyway). Why don’t the readers weigh in with whom they think (arguably) the best known Italian chef is and in a few weeks I’ll tell you whom I had in mind. Note that I didn’t say best chef, I said best known. With regard to your last paragraph: for me, Uliassi has changed tremendously in the last 5-10 years. It remains to be seen how long the locals remain when he serves (as the GR put it this year), filetti di triglia con zuppa di melone avocado foie gras e spiedino d’ allodole. Personally, I like my triglie “straight up.” When I went to my fish store (Volpe, one of the best I’ve ever seen in Italy i.e. a vast selection of pristine fish and shellfish; they do a large wholesale as well as retail business and although very expensive, the quality and selection are unbelievable) in Viareggio this morning and looked at the sparnocchi still dancing in the box around and the occhione barely out of the water, I couldn’t help thinking what kind of foam I was going to serve with the sparnocchi and how I could weave guanciale croccante into the dish with occhione. LOL. As we say in Forte… chacun a son gout.
  16. With regard to the topic of modern haute cuisine and Identita Golose: In my mind, very, very few, if any, of these “new young Italian” chefs, will stand the test of time in their present incarnation. There are three reasons why I believe this to be so. First, the Italian public, those few who can afford to go to the restaurants which will serve this “modern haute cuisine”, will, if you’ll pardon the pun, not stomach this type of food. Secondly, many of these chefs really don’t know the fundamentals of food, are ill prepared or clueless with regard to technique, and are just copying something “of the moment.” Lastly, many of these chefs have no idea how to run a restaurant and have had scant experience in seeing what it takes to do so…doing short stages in many restaurants to get “lines on your resume” so that a few journalists can anoint you as the hot new talent, counts for nothing on a Thursday night in late November with the nebbia rolling in, and the only table filled is a deuce. This is a bit like the nuova cucina of the 80s and early 90s in Italy. A certain type of chef wanted to break out of the old parameters and embrace the new. Whether it was using that very Italian fruit, kiwi, in far too many dishes, particularly savory ones (the most blatant example, but far from the only one), or the fact that most of these “chefs” just didn’t have the technical expertise to carry out complicated preparations, nuova cucina was relatively short lived. They tried and they failed, both in the preparations and in their restaurants. Those restaurants which managed to survive soon reverted to what they knew best, regional food, based on very good ingredients. France, of course, had much the same thing with nouvelle cuisine in the 70s; the results were perhaps a bit better, but not by much. While some things remained, lightening of dishes for example, the simply awful combinations, which made absolutely no sense from a conceptual standpoint (and even worse from a taste standpoint) disappeared. Today, in the food area, the foodies (what an awful word; why do they insist on calling themselves foodies) and some of the press make a big deal of avant garde chefs (most of them are no more than cooks and I don’t use the word cook in a pejorative sense). The main problem as I see it is that the Italian public in general is not going to care about the modern haute cuisine and/or laboratory food as discussed in this forum. The whole concept (and I know many of you don’t agree) is ephemeral in nature and quite frankly to me, very unappealing (so that you can get some idea of where I’m coming from and of my prejudices: I live in Italy six months a year and first started eating in Italy in the early 70s, going to places like (Beppe) Cantarelli and then a bit later becoming very friendly with Franco Colombani, the group of chefs in Linea Italia and others. Among my closest friends in Italy is arguably the best known Italian chef. I’ve seen the good and the bad, mostly good, over a long period of time and in a great many restaurants). Yes, the foodies and the press make a big deal of “modern haute cuisine,” but it is simply not important to the Italian who can and does eat in, for lack of a better term, restaurants that either are, or aspire to be, well above the norm ( the norm being a simple ristorante or trattoria). Over the long term those places will be patronized mainly by Americans (both foodies and non foodies), a few Italian foodies and certain Italian food journalists, and a few Germans and Swiss. This is already happening today; restaurants of this type with very few Italian customers. To use an analogy, this situation is similar to the academic environment in most American universities today. English and history professors talk mostly among themselves, because they are speaking in words and phrases which the student (and general public) both does not understand nor wishes to hear. Deconstructivism is a wonderful example of that in the sphere of English departments. The public says, we just want to read a good book. The food public says, we just want to eat a well prepared meal with good ingredients and we don’t care about the chef’s ego and, by the way, we don't like what the chef has to offer. Nor does the public want to hear what the New York times reported a few weeks ago about a well known restaurant... "the chef insists that you have this tonight." Those of you who embrace some of these combinations, such as Pierangelini’s: incrusted eggs with lard ice-cream and stripes of candied lard; lard and ricotta ravioli with lard zabaglione and balsamic vinegar; rosemary and thyme cream with lard , gold, cocoa, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper chocolate roulades ( if he plans on serving these, which place would you rather eat at, Pineta or Gambero Rosso?... see post for Jan 6th.; even if he doesn’t start serving this, which place would you rather eat at?), obviously don’t come from the Andre Soltner school of cooking, to wit: there are very, very few new combinations with regard to food… most every combination that works well has already been discovered . Andre was not a troglodyte; he had an incredible sense of taste and of the sensory aspect of food; certainly the best I’ve ever seen and that includes Michel Guerard when he was still in the Paris suburbs. Andre realized he was in the business of providing food which was appealing to a broad range of people (who could pay for it) and of making of making sure that their visits to his restaurant were enjoyable. This is very different from restaurants where the ego of the chef, gets in the way of the enjoyment of the meal by the customer. That is what I think many of you are missing. Sure, you’ll have the Adrias of the world. On a different level, in Italy, there will be a Beck or Alajmo, but the market is very limited, much more so than France for instance. Additionally, we have those who can’t even think in Beck’s or Alajmo’s terms (i.e. cutting edge), but think they can elevate their cucina to the alta level… and start cooking over their heads… and fail miserably (think of Da Caino and or Trattoria del Fulmine in Trescore Cremasco). Two prominent restaurants in the Dolomites have seen the light and have already abandoned their attempts at something new (and which they did not have the expertise to carry out). Why? Because their clientele wanted the regional cooking of the Val Badia (which is a wonderful cuisine) and not some fusion cuisine, whether that fusion is in the ingredients, the preparation or both. The Becks and Alajmos will be very few in number; how many Italians want to have maialino da latte con polvere di caffe e salsa di senape (that’s like dousing soft shelled crabs with a sauce made with hot chile peppers) or granite di scampi con lemongrass e mouse di avocado? Most Italians who have the means to eat out at the more expensive restaurants in Italy (and these are the only Italians who could ever conceivably care about even thinking about this type of food… the rest wouldn’t think of getting near it) will prefer to eat at places where the food is very good AND recognizable. In a few years from now, go to Calandre on a weekday evening in February and see how many people are there? Some of the food nonsense reminds me of what is happening in the wine world in Italy, particularly in Tuscany. Sangiovese, a wonderful grape, is being mixed with copious quantities of cabernet and merlot. You can’t taste the sangiovese; you simply have no idea of either the grape or the terrior. Do you see Italians buying these wines. Not really. Most are exported to the U.S. with the help of The Wine Spectator and Robert Parker. The producers of these wines have an idea… we can be on par with the rest of the wine world. They don’t have a clue. The producers would be better off remembering the Italian aphorism: beve il vino, non le etichette. And so too, would young chefs remember that it is what is on the plate, not what is in the press, that matters. If not, one has to say, the emperor has no clothes.
  17. I believe it is incorrect to speak of "The common theme I've run across in the limited cookbook literature I have on Lombardia is that there is a definite juxtaposition of the cooking of Milan and then the cooking of the rest of Lombardia." The cooking of the "rest of Lombardia" is highly varied. To give two examples... the cooking from the east side of Lago Maggiore has a lot in common with northwest Piemonte and a lot lot less with the area 20 km. southeast of Mantova, which has a lot in common with Emilia-Romagna. Similarly, the cooking from Chiavenna is very different from Cremona. My point, very simply, is that if this thread is to be worthwhile and accurate, the fewer generalizations, the better ( e.g. "Lombardia embraces risotto as its primo of choice"; that is simply not true). I would also suggest that you don't do a "two fer" of the Trentino- Alto Adige and Friuli. Friuli, more so than almost any other region in Italy, has a cuisine that bears the least resemblance to any of its neighboring regions. The Trentino and Friuli could be at opposite ends of the earth as far as food goes. Let's do it, but let's do it right
  18. Not too late at all. Thanks for the info
  19. No takers in the guessing department. I'm surprised. Marina di Bibbona is a strange town. South of Livorno and Cecina, near Bolgheri, it is overrun in the summer and empty in the winter. Bolgheri is a wonderful little town (hamlet is more like it) which is wonderful in winter. All the wine stores are open and there is a vast selection at reasonable prices, not only of the “Super Tuscans” (which have high prices even here, a stone’s throw from their place of origin), but of all Tuscan wines. The area around Bolgheri is filled with gorgeous hills and vineyards planted with vines and olive trees. Cypresses line the lanes, particularly the long road which passes by Sassicaia and leads to the town. But getting back to Marina di Bibbona. Closed up tight in early January which is when we were there in 05 and 06 and overrun (with campers, the kind you travel in, and campers, the kind that go to campgrounds) in early June of 04 when we went to the restaurant La Pineta for the first time. Don’t let that discourage you from going. The restaurant is a gem. It’s a bit difficult to find, but eventually if you head toward the spiaggia libera, you’ll see a sign. You go on a dirt road between a clearing in the pineta, and after about 600 yards you’re at a beach. You look around and the only structure you see is what looks like a large shack with a corrugated roof. Can this be it? Well, there are certainly a number of cars wedged into the spaces in front. You enter and you’re in an oasis. Simple Tuscan style, with a wood floor and windows which have an incredible view of the sea. If you walk on the beach after lunch (it is a narrow and rocky beach, with very little fine sand; why would anyone want to go to that beach is hard to understand) and look back at the restaurant you’ll see that it is right up against the dunes and the building is divided in half, with a bagno and snack bar on one side (and boarded up in January) and the restaurant on the other. Our take on that is two brothers owned the building, had a fight, and split it up (it sounds good). Luciano Zazzeri is passionate about food and wine. For a number of years he has gotten very good write-ups in Gambero Rosso and L’Espresso and this year, 2006, got his first Michelin star. If any of you have ever been to the wonderful fish restaurant Muraglia Conchiglia D’Oro in Varigotti on the Ligurian coast, La Pineta will remind you of that. An open kitchen, twelve well set tables comfortably set apart (but not too far apart) and a few pieces of art on the walls. The food is not fussy and with Sig. Zazzeri you have the feeling that although he’s seen what others have done in Italy and France (so he is not wearing blinders), he decided, some years ago, to emphasize sound combinations on the plate… combinations that are Tuscan and that will let the ingredients shine. You will not find the slightest whiff of fusion dishes, nor of any exotic spices. What you will find are the types of dishes we had today and on our two previous meals. The ameuse was marinated anchovies with slivers of red onion strewn on top and an extra dose of deep green olive oil over it. The bread is delicious as is what we here in Forte call secchine, a very thin Tuscan flat bread that is highy addictive. For the antipasto my wife and I shared a dish of tonno alla griglia con sale grosso e rosmarino. Simple preparation using great tuna. Five slices, about a half inch thick, of tuna, quickly seared on both sides, but with 90 percent of the slice just barely cooked. Dribble on a bit more of the olive oil, mop it up with the crusty bread and you really don’t need much more to make you happy. There was more. For the premi I had gnochetti al nero di seppie, con seppioline e carciofi fritti. The gnochetti melted in your mouth, the seppioline were tender and flavorful, there we a few pieces of fried artichoke strewn on top and the sauce was wonderful. My wife had ravioli di baccala con salsa di cipolle di Tropea e bottarga; intense flavors and soft pasta. For the secondi, cacciucco- what more be said about a perfect rendition (and gorgeously plated) of a dish that is all too often thrown together in a haphazard manner. I had pesce all’Isolana… roasted sarago (a little bit thicker than orata, and from the same bream family) with roasted carrots, potatoes, zucchini and onions. For dessert, which La Pineta does very well, a flan di ciocolato, with the inner chocolate just slightly oozing out, and a tortino di ciocolato bianco con salsa di arance, light and airy. A bottle of 2000 Cepparello from the extensive list of reds. The total check was 172 Euros. This is basically the same experience we’ve had the other two times we’ve gone. Whether it was the pappa al pomodoro con le cozze in June or the spaghetti al tonno fresco ed erbe last January, all the dishes were well thought out, well executed and delicious. All three times we’ve gone, the restaurant was full (all Italians except for us) even for weekday lunches in January. He must be doing something right. One final note. Walking on the desserted beach, you look back at “the large shack” and you ask yourself… could that be the place I just had that wonderful meal? The answer is yes and La Pineta just keeps getting better and better. Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo. This was originally written to a friend when my wife and I went to Gambero Rosso in early June, three years ago. Contrast Gambero Rosso, (which is one of the best restaurants in Italy according to the Gambero Rosso and L’Espresso and has two Michelin stars) to La Pineta, both restaurants in the Maremma just 20 kilometers from one another. “What can one reasonable expect from a two star Michelin where we had a lunch bill of 275 Euros? Should one expect a nice, perhaps even warm, greeting…perhaps a buon giono or a buona sera? In this case we had a 300 pound maitre d’ in a tux who merely asked our name and escorted us to our table. No greeting… no nothing! Perhaps one could expect that La Signora might be a presence in the dining room, perhaps even make one feel as if it were good to have them come to the restaurant that day. La Signora entered the restaurant at precisely one o’clock, dressed in Bermuda shorts, a fancy tee short, and a sweater thrown over her shoulders, almost as if she were going to the beach on that early June day. She was. There were 15 people at seven different tables (three others came in and sat at another table much later). La Signora took the orders from each table, and exited the dining room at 1:15. Seven tables, fifteen minutes! We saw her go to the beach after she left the restaurant. This left the maitre d’ in charge, a maitre d’ who didn’t care whether he poured our wine into the glass or on the table, and who left the dining room at two o’clock, never to be seen again. At 2 PM you had a situation in the dining room with no Signora, no maitre d’, no chef… no presence in the dining room except for two inept junior waiters. Perhaps one might expect Fulvio Pierangelini to be a bit gracious. Not a chance. When we got up to leave, the last people in the restaurant, my wife nicely asked Pierangelini if we could have a menu (the computer insert which he had in profusion by the register). He refused to give it to her and was unbelievably rude. That was a first for us in a very long history of dining in Italy over the last 35 years. Pierangelini and we have a number of restaurant owner friends in common... he didn’t care. We were better dressed than anyone in the restaurant. We weren’t loud. My wife speaks perfect Italian. In the many times we’ve asked for a menu (and this was not even the menu, merely an insert), never once have we been refused. But then again, perhaps he doesn’t want or need repeat customers who are willing to spend 275 Euros for lunch. Now the food. One dish was extraordinary, two were good, one should never have been served. The ameuse was a very intense terrina di pesce with a basil sauce. It was delicious but looked atrocious; far too much sauce on a plate much too small. Plating in general was very poor and all the plates had flowers on them. For an antipasto, I had the passatina di ceci con crostacei. This should never have been served. I don’t want to say that the gamberi at some point were frozen, but they had no taste and the texture was bordering on soft cardboard. The plate was overwhelmed by the passato of chick peas. My wife had a misto piccolo verdure, which consisted of several marinated vegetables. It had little taste and was served in a bowl. For the primi: Lassagnetta alla marinara. Very thin eggless pasta (really excellent) wrapped around a mixture of seafood (good). The truly outstanding dish was the tortelli di cozze . The intensity of the mussels was not to be believed and the pasta was wonderful. Secondi: My wife had the spigola con prosciutto, which although sounding strange, was okay. I had the maiolino “Cinta Senese.” This was, of course, a takeoff on the French serving all the parts of a duck. Here it was everything from salami to prosciutto to the liver. Ten different parts, served ten different ways. Very creative and served nicely (a platter held four small dishes which could be lifted out and replaced as the course progressed). Very creative, but with very little taste. For dessert: Fresh figs with fig ice cream. So, so. The candied orange peel detracted from the figs. Also, a raviolo arance which was okay. Coffee that could have been from Starbucks. Wine: The best wine list I’ve ever seen in Italy, with the exception, of course, of Pinchiorri (but why would anyone want to eat there?!). I think that is why so many people like the restaurant. They can do vertical tastings of Sassicaia, Solaia, Ornellaia and the “great” Barolos and Barbarescos (which are not so great) and then brag to their friends about what they had. However, even here, Pierangelini has a very bad affectation. For some of the wine, he has no price, only his initials FP. This is supposed to mean that it is wine in his cellar and not for sale. As one of the guides said... what a conceit. If you don’t want to sell it, don’t put it on the list. Other strange things: The inept staff brings out bottled water and then in full view of everyone, pours it into a silver pitcher. Does the water get better when it is transferred, in the dining room, from a plastic bottle to a silver pitcher. Tacky. For 275 Euros, could they give us more than one breadstick apiece? We’ll never go back. Way, way overrated, but he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
  20. The Maremma is that part of the Tuscan coast (and inland for roughly 30 miles) that extends from roughly Cecina' in the north to Grosseto in the south. Away from the coast it is spectacular countryside... just beautiful.
  21. This well recognized fish restaurant in the heart of the Maremma is situated right at the beach. Looking out the windows toward the water, you see in the distance, the islands of Elba, Capraia and Gorgona. The dining room is very comfortable and everything about the room says “simple Tuscan luxury.” A most pleasant owner who has put his stamp on the food and the service. The fish and shellfish are of the highest quality. The preparation of the dishes, very well thought out and without fad or fancy, allows the ingredients to shine. The service is friendly and polished, but with an easy casualness. The wine list is among the best in Italy and the owner clearly has a real passion for wine as well as food. He is welcoming, energetic and really quite pleased that you’ve come to his restaurant, in a small Tuscan seaside town, and that he can show you his craft. Any thoughts as to which restaurant? A review will be forthcoming in the next few days.
  22. Senape is to mustard as parmigiano-reggiano is to grana. They are both cheese, closely related, both very good in their own way, but with a world of difference in taste. Senape is most often translated as mustard. In fact, it comes from the white seeds of the mustard plant. ← I don't think this is correct. Senape is an Italian word that refers to exactly the same things that the english word "mustard" does. If tou ask for senape in an Italian restaurant, or in an supermarket they will bring you something pretty similar to what you would get in England or France. Made from the same types of seed. Perhaps you meant to say that your prefer Italian mustard to French mustard or English mustard. There are a variety of different but related plants called mustard: brassica nigra, brassica hirta, brassice juncea and brassica alba. A few moments of googling found this useful website about mustard. ← Unfortunately, you and I are not speaking of the same thing. The senape I was referring to is not found in Italian restaurants in Italy. It has nothing to do with the mustard one sees on a table, Italian, French, English or any other kind. I am referring to the senape you get in an apothecary. This is the same "essence" that Divina referred to as well as Steven C (who said the essence was still moto forte, thirty years after his nona bought it). I must have been going to Italian restaurants in Italy for the last thirty-five years with "senepeless" Italian friends, for I've never heard one of them ask for senape. What food does one order and then ask for senape? I'm curious. If you're in Italy, or if not, the next time you are, go into an apothecary and ask for senape. You'll see what is used in mostarda. p.s. The web site you mentioned is not very helpful with regard to the senape used for mostarda. The sections on mustard do not mention Italy at all except for translating white mustard and black mustard into Italian and even then the site doesn't know the correct Italian word for "white." The search function did not return any hits for mostarda which as you know is not like mustard.
  23. I couldn't help but notice the quote from Romano Tomani. Thanks for putting it in. Romano, of course, fits the quote to a tee. He was born to be a chef and have that restaurant. I've seen that some on the Italy and the Italian cuisine forum are not fans of L'Ambasciata and/or of Romano. Each to his own. My wife and I are major fans of both. We went there for the first time in 1980, and as Romano tells everyone, we were his first American customers. Subsequent to that time, we've spent a lot of time in Quistello, once even spending the night in the hotel next door (don't do it). At the time, there was no cortile, and what is now the "inside room" leading to the restrooms, was the only dining area in the restaurant. There was seating for maybe 30 covers. The toilets were on the far side of where the cortile is now; they were Turkish. We used to stay in Salsomaggiore Terme and take day trips to have lunch on the "other", east side, of the Autostrada. At that time there were no good restaurants on the west side except in Parma and Cafrangna. So, we would go for these long rides to Maleo, Nadia and Antonio, La Buca in Zibello, Ceresole in Cremona, Da Valentino in Caorso (now the wonderful barolo wine producer) Goito, Canterelli, even as far as Pierantonio's place, Vecchia Lugana on Garda. My wife had read of Romano in an Italian food magazine, it sounded good and we decided to try it. Love at first sight. We actually went back for lunch the next day (we were a bit younger then and could do two of those meals back to back, as well as two dinners back to back... not anymore). I won't bore anyone, today, with food memories of Quistello (will save that for another time), but did go down in the basement to pull out a menu from the early 80s. reading the menu makes me wish I had been there today for Sunday lunch. These were some of the dishes offered (I can taste them now): Antipasti: sformato di rane su salsa pomodoro insalata di coniglio, olio aceto balsalmico lingua salmistrata calda e salsa verde piedini, nervette e fagioli (piatto caldo) uova fi faraona in slsa di zucchine Minestre: tagliatelle verdi, piselli e menta (it was Spring) tortelli verdi di faraona e ricotta bigoli con pancetta e pepe nero riso con pesce gatto e erbette Secondo: stufato di lumache e verdure arrosto di piccione in aceto e miele coniglo disossato e ripieno di erbette trippa alla Quistellese anguila saporita alla salvia e purea di rape rosse
  24. Over time, perhaps during the next few years, as the topics on the Board warrant it, I should be able to recount some of the experiences. Have fun at La Buca. It is a special place. Salute.
  • Create New...