My perfect 2016 menu

Carlo Passera: dish by dish, chef by chef, the best dishes tasted over a year of excursions across the peninsula

30-12-2016

A collage of many of the chefs (though not all of them) visited in 2016 and fully deserving a mention in this piece on the best dishes of the year

Photogallery

On the right, Sponge of salted pistachio from Niko Romito (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Bread, butter and anchovies from Joji Tokuyoshi (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Andrea Ribaldone’s chicken appetizers
Squilla mantis, tomato water and dry verbena from Gianluca Gorini (photo by Tanio Liotta)

This is a game born from a question Identità Golose asked in the past few days to 101 food writers who had to state the best dish they tasted in 2016. A gruelling task for someone who have travelled and tasted extensively: the result was a piece (here), signed by Gabriele Zanatta, representing the summa of the best, according to the most knowledgeable food writers around. I was undeservingly one of them and like my colleagues I had to come to terms with the memory of endless stimuli, with finding it hard to give just one dish, no more. In the end the choice was Salomonic: French bean salad by Mauro Colagreco, that is to say an idea turning 10 years old in 2017, from a great non Italian chef who works outside of Italy, if only by a few metres’ distance.

There were many alternative candidates, though: so many they could form a sort of “perfect menu for 2016” entirely based on my personal experiences and on my even more personal and imperfect taste buds.As with any game, there had to be a few rules. The first and most important: every chef could have more than a dish “shortlisted”, but only one at the top. Rule number two: only Italian chefs working in Italy. Third: follow some sort of harmony in the process. Fourth and last, dedicated mostly to readers and chefs: don’t be annoyed, as my memory and stomach are limited, and I have truly tasted endless delicacies over this year. I believe I have chosen the best, in the end, but humans are fallible, and journalists even more so.

French bean salad by Mauro Colagreco, the author’s favourite dish in 2016 (photo by Tanio Liotta)

French bean salad by Mauro Colagreco, the author’s favourite dish in 2016 (photo by Tanio Liotta)

APPETIZERS – As with any deserving tasting, we’ll list more dishes. Of course at the top there has to be the extraordinary Sponge of salted pistachio by Niko Romito. There were other super delicious preparations (Calamari, pink pepper and lettuce, Watermelon and tomato, Liquorice granita, white vinegar, chocolate and balsamic vinegarHere’s the complete story of this menu), but this was the chosen dish, case closed. Then Bread, butter and anchovies by Joji Tokuyoshi in Milan (here’s the piece) and the fabulous chicken appetizers by Andrea Ribaldone in Alessandria (who in fact will soon leave).

STARTERS – The dinner at Gianluca Gorini’s Le Giare in Montiano was always of the highest standards, and I’ll write about it in the future: having to name just a dish, let’s say Squilla mantis, tomato water and dried verbena. At Italo Bassi’s Confusion in Verona, instead, I had lunch, which was perhaps the best of the entire year: the Red prawn Yin Yang, quinoa with ginger and avocado and leche de tigre with mango is still marked in memory. The seafood trio ends with the voluptuous Prawn, strawberry seed oil and Campari by Riccardo Camanini, at Lido 84 in Gardone Riviera, read here (there would be other laurels, but the rule is only one). Norbert Niederkofler’s Orto di lumache at St. Hubertus in val Badia, read here, is instead a delicious and earthy dish. Finally, a less known place, of which we wrote here: La Cucina della Lodola, where chef Carlo Porcu served a fabulous Fassona tartare with porcini acqua cotta. It’s hard to surprise with such an exploited dish, but he managed.

The best service in 2016 according to the author was at Il Pagliaccio directed by Matteo Zappile. In the photo, left to right, Carl Velasquez, Gianni Trani, Matteo Zappile, Luca Belleggia, Giovanni Allemanini (photo Aromicreativi)

The best service in 2016 according to the author was at Il Pagliaccio directed by Matteo Zappile. In the photo, left to right, Carl Velasquez, Gianni Trani, Matteo Zappile, Luca Belleggia, Giovanni Allemanini (photo Aromicreativi)

FIRST COURSES – In this case there were very many candidates, so I chose more options, one can always take smaller tastings... At the top in the dry pasta section there’s, ex equo, Spelt subioti, currants, Cretan oregano, juice of French beans and grated salmon trout from Oliver Piras at Aga and Minestra di mare mischiata potente from Marianna Vitale at Sud, thus North and South, with Pastificio Felicetti and Pastificio dei Campi. Fresh pasta: Enrico Bartolini’s: Ravioli with toasted peanuts, sea urchins and jus of free-range chicken at Mudec were memorable, read here. Then there was the pasta-non-pasta: Mezze maniche with prosciutto stock, fried cake and reduced balsamic vinegar from Terry Giacomello at Inkiostro in Parma, read here. I love risotto and I was dithering until the end between Neapolitan risotto with aromas of stuffed pepper from Nino Di Costanzo at Danì Maison in Ischia and Orzotto ai margini del bosco by Alessandro Dal Degan at La Tana in Asiago. In the end, laurels for both, as they’re basically different and geographically distant. Gnocchi: above all, Fried rice gnocchi with mixed mushrooms, scallops and purple potatoes from Keisuke Koga at Gong in Milan, who, in fact, struck also with his entrée of Hamachi in cupola di fumo (an amberjack from the Pacific Ocean served with watercress and smoked on the spot under a glass dome).

MAIN COURSES – There were many first courses, there will be (slightly) less mains. Fish: Snapper, smoked milk, onion, bay leaves and bottarga by Luca Abbruzzino in Calabria (we wrote about it here). As for meat, the gold medal goes to Pigeon, raguse sea snails in porchetta, celeriac sauce and aromatic mixed leaves by Moreno Cedroni at La Madonnina del Pescatore in Senigallia. It wins over the Wild hare with spheres of barbecued oil, polenta, cannolo with smoked yogurt mousse and cream of plums by Corrado Fasolato at Spinechile in Schio, read here, and the Roasted veal “al cucchiaio” with polenta and truffled cream by Ugo Alciati at Guido Ristorante in Serralunga d'Alba. A very special mention goes to the Chicken in two "cultures" with peppers and teriyaki by Francesco Apreda at Imago inside hotel Hassler in Rome (here’s the description).

Matteo Mevio, an extraordinary guy and an excellent pizzaiolo at Marghe. He tragically passed away a few months ago. Identità Golose pays him a tribute with an affectionate thought

Matteo Mevio, an extraordinary guy and an excellent pizzaiolo at Marghe. He tragically passed away a few months ago. Identità Golose pays him a tribute with an affectionate thought

DESSERTS – We name two: Pear, dill, cucumber granita, tarragon ice cream from Marco Ambrosino at 28 Posti (read here) in Milan, and Arcimboldo by Franco Aliberti at La Preséf in Mantello, in Valtellina (read here).

BREAD AND SERVICE - Corrado Fasolato did not get to the top with his hare, but he triumphs thanks to his magnificent, luxurious breadbasket. As for the service, there’s nothing as perfect as the one directed by Matteo Zappile at Anthony Genovese’s Il Pagliaccio, who was also close to the podium with his Red prawn, bergamot, camomile, oats and mortadella (read here).

SPECIAL MENTION: TRATTORIA – We’re speaking of fine dining but Giuseppe Gatto, patron chef at Da Lucrezia in Trebisacce fully deserves a mention with his astonishing dish Raschiatelli con gli spungilli, that is to say gnocchetti seasoned with chilli pepper, cherry tomatoes, parsley and most of all murex (read here).

PIZZA – We ate many delicious pizzas, starting from those from Franco Pepe and Renato Bosco. But finally, to close this menu, this piece and this year, I mention the pizza at Marghe in Milan, which I tasted several times in 2016. It’s truly very good and it was made by the poor Matteo Mevio, a kind and passionate young man who passed away much, much too soon.


Sections

Carlo Mangio

An outdoor trip or a journey to the other side of the planet?
One thing is for sure: the destination is delicious, by Carlo Passera


Photogallery

On the right, Sponge of salted pistachio from Niko Romito (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Bread, butter and anchovies from Joji Tokuyoshi (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Andrea Ribaldone’s chicken appetizers
Squilla mantis, tomato water and dry verbena from Gianluca Gorini (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Red prawn Yin Yang, quinoa with ginger and avocado and leche de tigre with mango by Italo Bassi (photo by Aromicreativi)
Prawn, strawberry seed oil and Campari by Riccardo Camanini (photo by Brambilla-Serrani)
Orto di lumache by Norbert Niederkofler (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Fassona tartare with porcini acqua cotta by Carlo Porcu (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Spelt subioti, currants, Cretan oregano, juice of green beans and grated salmon trout from Oliver Piras (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Minestra di mare mischiata potente by Marianna Vitale (photo by Carlo Passera)
Ravioli with toasted peanuts, sea urchins and free-range chicken jus by Enrico Bartolini (photo by Tanio Liotta)
Mezze maniche with prosciutto stock, fried cake and reduced balsamic vinegar by Terry Giacomello (photo by Tanio Liotta)