Ladner and yesterday’s pasta

A standing ovation for the grilled lasagne by the chef of Del Posto, in Milan for Expo

10-05-2015
Yesterday’s 100 Layer Lasagne alla Piastra & Tom

Yesterday’s 100 Layer Lasagne alla Piastra & Tomatoes from Vesuvius is the name Mark Ladner, chef at Del Posto in New York, 4 stars according to the New York Times, gave to his extraordinary first course presented at the end of the week in the restaurant that the James Beard Foundation and the US pavilion at Expo have opened in Piazza della Scala in Milan

The United States have a beautiful pavilion inside Expo, full of lights, technology and images, as well as a vertical garden and vegetable one, both authentic. They named it American Food 2.0. The food offer is from slightly hidden food trucks, where you can have an excellent Maine lobster sandwich, while the shrimp one is nothing memorable. I’ll be back to try the rest.

As for the restaurant in stars and stripes you need to get to the city centre: Piazza della Scala. This will be the showcase for a cuisine with a hundred facets. The three partners of the USA Pavilion, the Department of State, the James Beard Foundation and the International Culinary Center, have rented out until the end of October the fifth floor of the Seven Stars Galleria, that is to say an endless, brand new suite. The doors are on the right side of the entrance to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. On Friday night there was the first guest chef, Mark Ladner of Del Posto in New York, who arrived in Italy with Brooks Headley, who has the double role of pastry-chef and drummer in some punk bands.

Mark Ladner, chef at Del Posto in New York playing an away game in Milan for Expo 2015

Mark Ladner, chef at Del Posto in New York playing an away game in Milan for Expo 2015

The master of ceremonies was food critic Mitchell Davis, collaborating with the James Beard Foundation for 23 years now. After a preview for the press of which I recall the Smoked BBQ Ribs above all, bravely served as an aperitif, that is to say with everyone standing and holding a glass, the dinner with Mark took place yesterday. The menu was Italian as he cooks Italian food “without having any experience in an Italian restaurant, not in Italy nor in the States. I studied it. That’s it”.

Mark is however the person who every October makes Identità New York precious. Almost 2 metres tall, Clark Kent looking glasses, he has a subtle ironic smile which he alternates with long silences: he looks like a cartoon character. You have to love him. His dishes speak for him: yesterday a good Veal in tuna sauce (“I based myself on a recipe from the Ambasciata di Quistello”), fantastic lasagne, an excellent Rossini-style meat, beef outside and veal inside, fat liver on the side, not on top, and a dessert made with meringue and yogurt ice cream.

I praised him for his Yesterday’s 100 Layer Lasagne alla Piastra literally grilled “so that the béchamel is caramelised, creating a dark, well cooked veil, and each portion is crispy just like what usually happens only on the four corners of a baking tin”. A genius.

There’s more. On top of the Vesuvian piennolo tomatoes cooked on a very low heat for at least five hours, on top of the Bolognese sauce and the finely rolled out veils of fresh egg pasta, I was charmed by the idea of preparing lasagne and then putting them in the fridge to be served the following day. I would ban those who bring you a dish and when you’ve finished it say “you should see how good it would have been tomorrow”. Well, then serve it 24 hours later.

This is exactly what Ladner does. The cold temperature makes everything compact, time does the rest. When it’s time, portions are cut out, into bars, and each bar is grilled and served with the layers shown vertically, not horizontally. This serves to highlight the work done and attracts the guest’s attention. “New York is Italy’s 21st region. My cooking is Italian-American in New York’s way. After all, it is a comfort for me that the best Italian chefs do not serve traditional dishes but are open to techniques and products from all the world”. An airtight argument.

As Mark has already left today because Del Posto awaits him, there’s the brunch prepared by chef Evan Hanczor of Egg in Brooklyn, who is also in the programme on Tuesday and Wednesday. For more info, visit their website.


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