The road to the sea takes you to Lecco

Fabrizio Ferrari, a chef charmed by salted-water fish. Much better than the one caught in the lake

27-03-2013

Fabrizio Ferrari, born in 1980, chef and patron at the Porticciolo 84 in Lecco, portrayed in Copenhagen with René Redzepi during his two weeks’ experience at Noma, in January 2010

Keep calm, at Fabrizio Ferrari’s Porticciolo you won’t find the infamous spaghetti allo scoglio. And even if they were available, they would be excellent, created in a very different way from those which are “poisoning” the Italian coast, all of it, that is. Instead, there’s the Fish of the day cooked in salt, and there are chargrilled crustaceans and fish, using embers made with natural wood, or the Fish of the day cooked al cartoccio, that is to say wrapped, with the traditional potatoes, cherry tomatoes, taggiasche olives and capers. These are the classics that are always in fashion. Even I, last year, happily enjoyed the chargrill mix, only I wouldn’t go from Milan to Lecco only for this kind of cuisine, for it doesn’t have that energy filled with novelty I look for, virtually every time, but alas don’t always find.

The fish cous cous that made Fabrizio Ferrari win the Cous Cous Fest 2012 preview in San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily

The fish cous cous that made Fabrizio Ferrari win the Cous Cous Fest 2012 preview in San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily

Luckily, the Porticciolo encloses two different ways of conceiving seafood cuisine and the traditional one, of course more popular because it is easier to understand, with no mental effort, allows the Ferrari family to afford even the other one, which by itself, in Lecco, would not match the costs of running the restaurant. While the former is enjoyed, the latter charms. The former nourishes and fills you up, the latter can fill you with enthusiasm.

It’s like what happens at Trattoria Zappatori, run by the Milone family in Pinerolo, in the province of Torino, where Christian has given new strength to the family tradition and at the same time has built an annex where he offers only his cuisine – he’s called it Gastronavicella. In Lecco, instead, two styles may be served at the same tables, but the substance is the same.

And anyway, Fabrizio’s talent encloses some pearls which have shined even in my tasting menu, such as the monkfish and the gnocchi with curry – I ordered the latter specifically, as I love curry in all its shapes, starting from a super-classic of the past: curried prawns and pilaf rice. Our choices always swing like a pendulum, among memories, quirky things and the desire of something new. And this could be a review, in a contemporary way, of something already seen, eaten, enjoyed. It’s the dishes that are always the same that tire you.

Fabrizio opened my dinner on Saturday March 16th with a series of delicious amuse bouche such as Hake chips with mayonnaise made with squid water, a “nuvolo di drago” made with rice and powdered grey prawns; Celeriac cracker with butter, yeast extract, flamed salmon and crispy skin; Truffle of frog-fish liver, white chocolate and coconut; Pancake with sour cream, trout roe, mandarin syrup and fried ginger.

Then came the symphony: Warm crab meat with a Worcestershire seasoning, spicy leaves and powdered oysters; Raw amberjack with egg yolk, sumac, oregano; Goatfish with a velvet sauce of corn and vinegar, with turnip sprouts, radish, and pop corn glazed with pimenton; Frog-fish with mushroom water and Parmesan cheese, artichokes, radish and soy sprouts; Grilled mazzancolle prawns with grapefruit juices, a sponge made with Tamari sauce, glazed spring onions and powdered seaweed; Red curry gnocchi with canestrelli, pumpkin, fresh robiola cheese, scallop coral, with the canestrelli cut in the same cylinder shape and the same size (almost 2 cm) of the gnocchi; Steamed ombrina fish, red lentils, black cabbage, chicharrones, tomato “leather”; finally, a dive into the past (more or less) with the Pan-fried lobster with seaweed, ginger juice and salted butter. Two were the desserts: Earl Grey tea with coriander cream, meringue, strawberries and sesame oil, and Chocolate and caramel bar with milk, apple and peanuts.

Then, still not satisfied, we asked for the dessert cart, with the classic chocolate mousse, to be moved next to our table by the fireplace. From that we ordered a slice of cheesecake and one of pear cake …

AL PORTICCIOLO 84
Via Fausto Valsecchi 5
in Lecco
Tel.: +39.0341.498103
E-mail: info@porticciolo84.it
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Average prices: starters 16; raw fish 22; first courses 16; main courses 30; desserts 7
Difficulty coefficient: good, a blend of past and future

2. The end (see part one)


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Restaurants from all the world told in Il Giornale by Paolo Marchi from February 1994 to the winter of 2011. And since the spring, for the readers identitagolose.it