Luigi Taglienti: granny’s wisdom will be my new avant-garde

«Retracing the flavours of the past, making them completely current»: the chef at Lume presents his challenge-menu

10-02-2018

Luigi Taglienti portrayed by Tanio Liotta in his kitchen at Lume, in Milan

Photogallery

Water, oil, lemon and liquorice: purity. «I use it to clean the palate before the tasting. Water is energy, liquorice is synergic strength, lemon is my emblem, oil [chilled at -40°C] is my homeland»
Italy is also about bread. Taglienti makes it himself, with a 200-year-old mother yeast. On the small plate, at least two delicious types: whole wheat bread, to the right, and schiacciata with herbs and courgette flowers and dehydrated citrus fruits
A dish that, within this new tasting menu, represents something different, that is to say a hint to what the chef has done so far: Bianco e nero di seppia was born in 2009: «The input was a dish of spaghetti with squid ink I had on the beach in Sicily». Under the squid, pressed as if it were pasta, eight types of citrus fruits and panna cotta with sea urchins. Extracts, fonds and jus are increasingly essential in the cuisine of Taglienti. Through them, he channels the essence of flavour: «We always have 12 sauces in the kitchen: fonds of every possible meat, 6 juices from every citrus fruit, plus extracts». The photo shows a previous dinner we had. The author is Tanio Liotta
«I asked myself, why not serve saltimbocca alla romana?». Here it is: raw Piedmontese meat, culatello, butter emulsified with a little flour, thus adding a classic saltimbocca element, then an extract of sage and white wine – the sage is previously micro-fermented close to the stove. «In France cuisine is only about fine dining. In Italy, cuisine comprises everything». Taglienti uses the word vision for this dish

There’s a new trend gradually appearing in Italian fine dining. It’s the rediscovery of the “classic” Italian culinary heritage, a sort of anthological heritage – an adjective we also used when writing about Niko Romito’s goals in his new restaurants, part of the Bulgari Hotel chain. It seems some of our best chefs – the most alert ones – have realised that after French grandeur, Spanish techniques and Nordic lessons, as well as the use of Asian spices and South American contrasts in flavours, it’s time to find a synthesis, at last. And one that has Italy as its place of origin. So they’ve understood that the Italian originality in contemporary fine dining – and its contribution – can only be found by reducing the rift that has appeared over the years between fine dining, with all the above mentioned influences and more, and the most typical and emblematic product of our cuisine: trattorias. That is to say, dishes presented by a host and strongly connected with the food that mothers and grandmothers have been making across the country.

Massimo Bottura, The crispy part of lasagna (photo Brambilla-Serrani)

Massimo BotturaThe crispy part of lasagna (photo Brambilla-Serrani)

Matteo Baronetto, two versions of finanziera, the way it was, the way it is according to him, at Del Cambio in Torino

Matteo Baronetto, two versions of finanziera, the way it was, the way it is according to him, at Del Cambio in Torino

Take some masterpieces by Massimo Bottura, who is a pioneer in re-elaborating Italian fine dining: Compression of pasta and beans («We took the family recipe and revolutionised it») is from 2002, The crispy part of lasagna from ten years later; behind them both is the idea that you can be current even when looking back, and giving new lymph to homemade or osteria-made cooking. We’ve already mentioned Romito. But there’s also Matteo Baronetto, for instance.

And now Luigi Taglienti, at his Lume in Milan is taking a further step: he’s saying that the new avant-garde lies in this very approach. So much so, he’s created a new tasting menu which he’s just presented.

«Today I know for sure that I want to stay in Italy, go nowhere else, so as to innovate my cuisine adding constant new energy, unearthing the ancient wisdom bestowed by mothers, grandmothers, farmers, fishermen. This thanks to a land and a knowledge that applied to products and ancient techniques today represent the most authentic possible innovation».

Taglienti and his cards, literally, in the game of new Italian cuisine

Taglienti and his cards, literally, in the game of new Italian cuisine

Taglienti believes the cards Italy can and must play in order to represent the new culinary avant-garde must be searched in the chest of our past, or in the old recipe book of our late aunt, lost up in the attic. So it’s not about representing historic recipes, from Apicio onwards (as in the case of Riccardo Camanini, another Italian culinary and contemporary maître à penser. See: Camanini and the origins of Italian cuisine). It’s a different, equally ambitious challenge, that gives you goose pimples: a new take on saltimbocca alla romana, capunet, frittura di pesce, torta salata, tocco genovese… Offering a current and convincing version.

The chef serves his idea of Traditional Lasagne Bolognese

The chef serves his idea of Traditional Lasagne Bolognese

It’s a brave effort, because this new take of course has to face both the intrinsic culinary quality of the traditional version, and the culinary memories of each one of us. In other words: it’s difficult to match the lasagne made by someone’s mum. Not because they were good, but because they were made by mum, marked in the emotional and cultural inheritance of each one of us. They’re almost iconic, that is.

«[My work is about] approaching new techniques by finding their origins in our history, broadening our view and getting back what belonged to us in the first place, our shared heritage, finally making space for the flavours typical of our palate and tradition, through the right process of evolution. I love retracing the features of what’s known, while respecting it, in an austere but essential way, simple yet never banal; unknown flavours that can evoke the past».

Taglienti at Gastromasa

Taglienti at Gastromasa

Taglienti is both shy and brave. He walks straight down his road, without paying attention to obstacles. So he decided to add this new menu, which we described above, to the two tasting menus already offered at Lume (the creative and the classic one, dedicated to Milan). He first mentioned it at Gastromasa, the fine dining congress that took place in Istanbul, Turkey, in December. We were there in the audience: «I’m taking back the heritage that was once passed down in families, and today we tend to forget. It has fallen into disuse – he said, while cooking an extraordinary Quail – Italian style – So I’m returning to what’s typically Italian, like casserole tins. I’m taking back our past, the ancient techniques of my great-grandmother. I’m taking back soffritto, vegetables sautéed with oil and a garlic clove, chopped capers, dry tomatoes, slow cooking», which are in fact the steps to take before roasting the above mentioned quail.

 

This said, Taglienti has now chosen lemon as his emblem. Because it’s basically the Italian timeless version of those contemporary acidities that are now so à la page, whether they’re based on Nordic fermentations, South American lime or Japanese yuzu. Lemons are local, and both modern and contemporary. The chef says: there are many flavours we risk loosing. The primordial aromas of Italian cuisine, which is now too influenced by the outside world, so much so its identity is diluted. We want to react by making them current.

«Through the use of acidity and lemon, which is now my emblem, I’ve recreated olfactory and emotional nuances while making tradition contemporary, adding alternating tactile and taste notes that add liveliness, speed, strength and freshness to my dishes. I’m discovering a new concept which I want to support in every way, on which I’ve been unknowingly working for some time, but is now finally clear to me. A shared language, the memory of the flavours of my region and of all of Italy, in terms of knowledge and memorable flavours. It’s not just about cooking: it’s a whole heritage that must be unearthed, knowing I have an ethical, cultural and social duty of illuminating what is now forgotten, and therefore stressing that cooking and gastronomy are part of culture, with their heritage of history, tradition, tradition, and their strong impact on society».

It’s a laborious task, as one can imagine, because it is based on undefined references, sometimes drawn from simple feelings: «Memories, scents, flavours. From north to south». With a constant reference to the fil rouge of Italian cuisines: which in fact, rather than in our so variable dishes and product, can be found in that founding culinary institution that is called trattoria.

The outcome is in our photo gallery. It is sometimes undoubtedly fertile, and sometimes worth discussing. Indeed Taglienti has a tranchant style (as the word tagliente, cutting, suggests), that is to say rigorous, never keen on pleasing per se, never open to compromises. He doesn’t like a tie, he’s like the Zeman of cooking. He either wins or looses. You can love him or hate him: especially when speaking of the above-mentioned project.

Taglienti bets on himself, trying to trace an idea (or even just a practice) of New Italian Tradition.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Photogallery

Water, oil, lemon and liquorice: purity. «I use it to clean the palate before the tasting. Water is energy, liquorice is synergic strength, lemon is my emblem, oil [chilled at -40°C] is my homeland»
Italy is also about bread. Taglienti makes it himself, with a 200-year-old mother yeast. On the small plate, at least two delicious types: whole wheat bread, to the right, and schiacciata with herbs and courgette flowers and dehydrated citrus fruits
A dish that, within this new tasting menu, represents something different, that is to say a hint to what the chef has done so far: Bianco e nero di seppia was born in 2009: «The input was a dish of spaghetti with squid ink I had on the beach in Sicily». Under the squid, pressed as if it were pasta, eight types of citrus fruits and panna cotta with sea urchins. Extracts, fonds and jus are increasingly essential in the cuisine of Taglienti. Through them, he channels the essence of flavour: «We always have 12 sauces in the kitchen: fonds of every possible meat, 6 juices from every citrus fruit, plus extracts». The photo shows a previous dinner we had. The author is Tanio Liotta
«I asked myself, why not serve saltimbocca alla romana?». Here it is: raw Piedmontese meat, culatello, butter emulsified with a little flour, thus adding a classic saltimbocca element, then an extract of sage and white wine – the sage is previously micro-fermented close to the stove. «In France cuisine is only about fine dining. In Italy, cuisine comprises everything». Taglienti uses the word vision for this dish
Fat goose liver from Mortara wrapped in steamed cabbage, warm oyster cream and casseoula sauce: the expression of a territory. «This is my idea of casseoula, which we cook in a classic way, and then extract so as to make a sauce». The cabbage recalls caponet or lattuga ripiena alla ligure (served with tocco, a thick meat broth which we’ll mention later too), but has fat liver too. A fantastic dish
Traditional Lasagne Bolognese: (new) avant-garde. A very thin dough, with the ragù simmering for six hours
Frittura di pesce morone al salmoriglio: heritage. «Here’s salmoriglio [not in the photo] an ancient Sicilian and Calabrian seasoning that is more and more forgotten and was one used for chargrilled fish» (olive oil, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, basil, fresh hot green chilli pepper). The batter is made with beer and encloses the fried fish as well as a sauce that is halfway between Provencal anchoiade, with anchovies, and Ligurian tapenade, with olives. Then, also fried in batter, a leaf of basil from the south, «because it’s large, while the basil from Prà in Liguria has small leaves» and then bergamot, Moroccan preserved lemon, olives form Arma di Taggia. Very good
Quintessenza di un tocco genovese: culinary memories. We’ve already mentioned tocco: it’s a sauce based on the very slow cooking of vegetables, tomatoes, mushrooms, bone marrow and then the meat you add so it releases its juices and flavours, and is served separately as a main course. Tocco is a concentrate of aromas that stays in the background. It’s a seasoning, usually, but Taglienti serves it by itself. An elegant blast of flavour
Artichoke cake: evolution. Taglienti adds an idea of tarte tatin to a classic. And a touch of Cynar. A dish halfway between savoury and sweet
Cappuccino of mushrooms with liver pudding: Italian classicism. This sweet is a small masterpiece: liver royale, black cherries, mushroom cappuccino, bay leaves, black pepper and vermouth. Extremely good, complex, and elegant
He also serves the previous dish in a less sweet version, as an entrée. We tasted it during a dinner a few months ago, when we took the following photos, which show the differences with the new road Taglienti has now taken. In this case, Mushrooms and veal liver royale. Tanio Liotta is the author of all the photos
We started with Water, oil, lemon and liquorice, in a slightly different version