The story and the cuisine of the Abbruzzinos

The Young Family award from Identitą, the restaurant’s restyling... and a memorable dinner

17-11-2016

Last Monday they received the "Young Family" award at the presentation of the Guida Identità Golose 2017. While being praised, the Abbruzzinos look ahead: and after a memorable dinner (see the photo gallery) they closed the restaurant so as to a open a completely renovated one shortly before Christmas... (photo Brambilla-Serrani)

Photogallery

Luca, Rosetta and Antonio Abbruzzino at the presentation of the Guida Identità Golose 2017 (photo by Brambilla-Serrani)
Mackerel, mozzarella and cucumber: Marinated mackerel, barbequed mozzarella, mackerel broth with katsuobushi made with its bones. The photos of the dishes are by Tanio Liotta
Tuna, tomato and fresa: the cream is made with bread and 'nduia, the tuna is inside the reconstructed tomato
Delicate fried baby calamari and prawns. There’s no lemon, but bergamot

We’ve lately written about some of the most significant generational passages: Moroni (here and here), Rizzo (here), Cerea (here and here), Colleoni (here), Franceschini (here)… None of these, however, resembles that of the Abbruzzinos, which is unique. This is one of the reasons why they got the Young Family of the year award from our Guida Identità Golose 2017: because their story is truly very different from the others, much shorter than the above mentioned ones. [For the record, they follow Santini, winners in 2011, Colleoni, 2012, Tinari, 2013, Spadone, 2014, the above mentioned Rizzo, 2015, and Uliassi, last year’s victors).

«In Italy people often find it hard to pass the baton to the younger generations: there’s always a good reason to postpone – said Paolo Marchi from the stage – They’re inexperienced, they say». So they remain in the shadow, they don’t handle responsibility and are condemned to endure their supposed inexperience. Yet mum and dad Rosetta and Antonio, the faces of two passionate, real people, chose to step aside when they could have lingered some more. By doing so, not only did they confirm their genuine character, they also proved their intelligence.

The kitchen staff with mum Rosetta (photo by Tanio Liotta)

The kitchen staff with mum Rosetta (photo by Tanio Liotta)

For eight years now the Abbruzzinos have been running their restaurant in Catanzaro Lido, half this time with dad Antonio in the kitchen. The quick change of responsibility, in 2012, was propitiated by something even mum Rosetta, a lovely dining room woman, found clear: young Luca, born in 1989, 23 at the time, not only had (and has) a crystal clear talent, but he was also precocious and anxious to do more. Yet he also had the serious attitude of the good son with his head on the shoulders, someone who deserves trust, we add. «Given his kindness – his father added in this article by Gabriele Zanatta – I thought he’d prefer to stay in the dining room. But he’s so passionate about cooking that I stepped aside, leaving him my place».

He’s always shown this passion and he gradually built his technical skills too (thanks to Gennaro Esposito, Enrico Crippa, Mauro Uliassi, Pier Giorgio Parini) which he added to his personal sensitivity, capable of going beyond any territorial boundaries: «Food is everything. The rest has no importance».

So food has the very main role: and the chef is thus free to experiment without neglecting local produce but making use of its excellence (in terms of freshness, seasonality) with an open mind. He calls it “Local Fine Dining”, that is to say local products are blended with wider fine dining logic removing preclusions: bergamot is followed by fermented blackberries, and acidity – on which grandmothers were hardly keen – often appears in totally contemporary recipes. He explains: «I believe valorising the territory is about unearthing and working with its real pearls, not with traditional recipes. It would be an unpardonable limit»

Paola Valeria Jovinelli, fondatrice de L'Arte del Convivio, premia gli Abbruzzino tra Paolo Marchi e Lisa Casali

Paola Valeria Jovinelli, fondatrice de L'Arte del Convivio, premia gli Abbruzzino tra Paolo Marchi e Lisa Casali

This attitude not to be imprisoned by what surrounds him is also mirrored in the restaurant itself, which is being fully renovated, so it’s currently closed. They aim to open before Christmas. The changes are in line with Luca’s choices, that is to say looking ahead: no more fireplace, cement instead of stone walls, a testimony of a break with the past. And then wooden floors, lights shining directly on the table. Calabria is all around, but at the Abbruzzinos’ restaurant it is only in the dish.

And the food! The cooking is free of preconceptions. He might use local catch in a recipe (say mackerel), but with an oriental approach to marinating, and then add mozzarella which, following the same parallel, takes the place of tofu, and soak all this with a broth made with the same mackerel, but using a sort of katsuobushi made with dried and salted fishbone.

Manzo 65 giorni con salsa di anemoni di mare [65 days beef with sea anemone sauce]

Manzo 65 giorni con salsa di anemoni di mare [65 days beef with sea anemone sauce]

Finding so much awareness and soundness in terms of flavours is rare in a young man of 27. But then when you ask him what is his product of the future, on what he’s researching, he doesn’t reply with some weird seaweed, or exotic plant, or a Presidium for few. Instead he says: «A rib-steak eye». And then, despite being so young, he already has a classic, delicious and made with the above mentioned meat: the impossible to match Manzo 65 giorni with sea anemone sauce, «there’s the essence of Calabria in here». Not being from Calabria, what I do find is the essence of flavour.

In the photo gallery, all the dishes tasted during a recent dinner, shortly before the renovations began. Photos by Tanio Liotta.


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Photogallery

Luca, Rosetta and Antonio Abbruzzino at the presentation of the Guida Identità Golose 2017 (photo by Brambilla-Serrani)
Mackerel, mozzarella and cucumber: Marinated mackerel, barbequed mozzarella, mackerel broth with katsuobushi made with its bones. The photos of the dishes are by Tanio Liotta
Tuna, tomato and fresa: the cream is made with bread and 'nduia, the tuna is inside the reconstructed tomato
Delicate fried baby calamari and prawns. There’s no lemon, but bergamot
Beef 65 days with sea anemone sauce, the 65 days refer to the maturing of this meat which comes from San Giorgio Morgeto: in the words of Luca Abbruzzino this is «the essence of Calabria». There’s acidity, melting texture and aroma, amplified by the wild fennel flowers
A cold pasta: Linguine, mussels (in cream), carrots and fresh almonds
A super-delicious classic: Perché no... fusilloni, nduja, pecorino and sea urchins. In Abbruzzino’s dishes surf and turf often go hand in hand
Amberjack, smoked milk, onion, bay leaves and bottarga
Round grilled cucumber with herbs (sea fennel, sorrel, wild fennel flowers, river borage), a base of seaweeds and burnt vegetables
Barbecued sausage and parmigiana, a childhood memory for the chef, recalling sausage in tomato sauce. In this case the cured meat is made noble, using pork fillet, while the fat is given by lard. It is barbecued and seasoned with spices. The parmigiana is made with aubergines preserved in vinegar
The desserts are by Matteo Morello, born in 1992 but working in Catanzaro Lido with the Abbruzzinos for five years now after working with the Alajmos too. Here the pre-dessert, Buffalo milk yogurt, gooseberry preserved in vinegar, fermented blackberries
Bread, oil and sugar, a traditional snack in Calabria in a completely new take (the bread is partly ice cream and partly caramelised, the oil is the cream and then there’s the salted caramel)