Sweet spaghetti and a new season at Charleston with Corso

Santino Corso and his pinwheel-cassata: since three months ago heĺs the chef at the historic 50-years-old restaurant in Palermo

01-11-2017

Spaghetto con la Strummula, a creative (and very good) dessert that won the Gara di Gusto. It was presented by Santino Corso, the new chef at Charleston in Palermo

In the photo, you can see a dessert… made with pasta, Spaghetto con la Strummula. Chef Santino Corso, born in Palermo in 1988, presented it in a competition between young Sicilian chefs that took place on Mount Etna. It looks beautiful and interesting, but it’s also very good. So good it fully convinced the jury and won the first prize in the Gara di Gusto, the challenge enhancing the talents of Central and Southern Italy (in this case, the Sicilian finals). We became so interested we dedicated it a story, the one you’re reading. With a dutiful premise.

Agatino Bruno, Peppe Torrisi, Joseph Micieli, Gabriele Di Vincenzo​, Santino Corso

Agatino Bruno, Peppe Torrisi, Joseph Micieli, Gabriele Di Vincenzo​, Santino Corso

Fabrizio Carrera, director at Cronache di Gusto, made an intelligent choice by setting the theme of the competition as “spaghetti” on the eve of the World Pasta Day (see also: World Pasta Day, in Sao Paulo a great celebration for spaghetti & co.). Five new talents from the island competed in the contest. The overall results were brilliant: no banal ideas, no far-fetched attempts.

Smoked spaghetti with seafood by Agatino Bruno

Smoked spaghetti with seafood by Agatino Bruno

For instance, Agatino Bruno, sous chef at Zash in Riposto, Catania, presented some interesting Smoked spaghetti with seafood: a new-old interpretation of a great seafood classic in which the fish stock is replaced by dashi with smoky notes, and the usual fish and crustaceans are replaced by something new. Like mauru for instance, a seaweed with long, callous threads, which until a few decades ago grew naturally on the lava coasts of Catania (people ate it raw, or with a touch of lemon and salt, or stir-fried) and is now rare. Plus patelle, occhi di bue, wild clams and sponge with squid ink.

Lo Spaghetto… un giro per la Sicilia by Peppe Turrisi

Lo Spaghetto… un giro per la Sicilia by Peppe Turrisi

Lo Spaghetto… un giro per la Sicilia by Peppe Torrisi, chef at Talé in Piedimonte Etneo was also intriguing: the pasta is seasoned with a mix of three types of tomato (piccadilly, datterino, giallo di Scicli) cooked in different ways, the first is confit, the third as pulp, while he uses the water of the second. The spaghetti nest is enclosed in a crown of cheese made with donkey milk and almonds from Avola. Plus many more flavours from Sicily to make each mouthful different: anchovies from Sciacca, candied oranges, masculini da magghia, lime caviar (it grows naturally in Talé’s gardens)…

Spaghetti garlic, oil, chilli pepper, prawns and cosaruciaru beans from Scicli by Joseph Micieli

Spaghetti garlic, oil, chilli pepper, prawns and cosaruciaru beans from Scicli by Joseph Micieli

Spaghetti with cream of wild mustard, prawn, bottarga, dry tomato, lemon and sorrel by Gabriele Di Vincenzo

Spaghetti with cream of wild mustard, prawn, bottarga, dry tomato, lemon and sorrel by Gabriele Di Vincenzo

The other dishes were also good: Spaghetti, garlic, oil, chilli pepper, prawns and cosaruciaru bean from Scicli, a mix of surf and turf by chef Joseph Micieli of restaurant Scjabica in Punta Secca, Ragusa. And Spaghetti with cream of wild mustard, prawn, bottarga, dry tomato, lemon and sorrel by Gabriele Di Vincenzo, chef at Mandranova in Palma di Montechiaro, Agrigento.

Spaghetto con la Strummula

Spaghetto con la Strummula

But it was Corso’s idea that won. A dessert made with pasta, a new take on cassata in the shape of a strummula, i.e. a pinwheel: it first surprised, then it charmed. It’s a sphere made with fresh spaghetti (water, flour and salt) and pistachio, cooked in water, cloves, star anise and sugar. They’re shaped as a sphere using white chocolate with pistachio, after chilling them and baking them. They enclose a filling of sweet ricotta whipped with a syphon, which in turn hides a chocolate praline with the juice of early Ribera oranges in a play of sweet matryoshkas. The idea is completed with a cherry aromatised with maraschino and a chocolate crumble that recreates the earth on which real pinwheels end their vortex.

Santino Corso gets the award

Santino Corso gets the award

«I live in Bagheria – says the chef – I was in a café in town and there were some fresh cassatine on one side, and some paintings with strummule on the other. That’s how I got the idea» and it’s already in the menu at Charleston, the historic restaurant in Palermo where Corso has been chef for just three months.

Charleston in Palermo

Charleston in Palermo

Indeed one can speak of a new chapter for the restaurant that made history in Palermo’s fine dining scene, now celebrating 50 years of successes (these are a little dated, while more recently there have been some issues). Now they’re looking for a new phase: Mariella Glorioso, a determined woman, the daughter of Nino Glorioso who founded the restaurant with Angelo Ingrao on the 21st October 1967 is the current patron; the first chef was Rosario Guddo, followed by a young man then in the team, Antonino Tantillo, who led the kitchen until 2008 while Carlo Hassan led the dining room. The first Michelin star arrived in 1973, the following year the second one placed Charleston in “gourmet heaven” in the words of Edoardo Raspelli on Corriere della Sera at the time, who stressed how this was “the only restaurant in the south with the highest achievement in Italy”, in fact the only one of this league south of Florence. The success was very long, almost 25 years, followed by harder times. Like with Savini in Milan, for instance, but now with a different outlook.

To celebrate Charleston’s 50th anniversary, before the official party on the 13th of November, when they’ll also present a book on their first 50 years of existence, they’ve organised some special events with great guest chefs. In the photo, the one from the 29th of June, with Enrico Bartolini, first from the left. With him, outgoing chef, Angelo Gervasi, and the new chef, Santino Corso

To celebrate Charleston’s 50th anniversary, before the official party on the 13th of November, when they’ll also present a book on their first 50 years of existence, they’ve organised some special events with great guest chefs. In the photo, the one from the 29th of June, with Enrico Bartolini, first from the left. With him, outgoing chef, Angelo Gervasi, and the new chef, Santino Corso

Santino Corso is indeed a young man on whom you can bet for the future. He’s got all it takes: «Already in my second year at catering school, I would work too, at Scuderia in Palermo, a prestigious restaurant at the time». He spent eight years there, before moving to Charleston (for three years, when Angelo Gervasi, was chef after Tantillo) and then he moved to England, and worked in the kitchen of prominent restaurants, as in the case of Michel Roux Jr, where he was junior sous chef. «I’m happy to be back – says Corso – We want to do brilliant things», starting from the next menu, «which will change in a few days’ time», the first in a new adventure that wants to re-establish Charleston as a fine dining temple, in a Palermo finally capable of growing well: we’ll soon speak of another nice story of renewed dynamism, that of patron Franco Virga and chef Gioacchino Gaglio.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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