The Cerea brothers and their talent for celebrating the past while constantly renewing themselves

Magic in Brusaporto with a unique Catalana, one of the great dishes that Chicco and Bobo inherited from dad Vittorio

16-09-2020

An important rule to enjoy a good life and keep painful disappointments at bay is never to return after years to a place where you have already had a good time, sometimes being even happy, unless you’re truly sure of what you will find after such a long time. I’m referring, as in 90% of the cases of my daily pleasures, to restaurants and tasty pampering places. Some establishments have aged because they lacked ambition, some because they haven’t been able to make a good generational change, some because, with a mentally-tired chef, they kept presenting the same recipes from the previous season, and thus withered with their old clients.

But most importantly, one should remember that sometimes we particularly liked a place because of the company, not because of a dish, a dessert, a wine. There are friends and lovers with whom we could have a good time even in the most dusty and unlikely trattoria in the countryside. And the opposite applies too, there are those who would manage to spoil everything. It’s a balance made of the smallest details, nuances, and it’s not always easy to separate the different elements, especially when you don’t have time because you’re focused on something very different.

For sure the Cerea family is doing better and better. They know how to live the present to the fullest, and are all constantly focused on the future. 

It all began with Vittorio and Mrs Bruna in 1966 in Bergamo, and continued, with the new century, in nearby Brusaporto where some important structural improvements are coming up after twenty years with the stars shining brighter and brighter. I first dined at da Vittorio in the autumn of 1975. I was a sports columnist for Corriere della Sera at the time and the Editor in chief, Mario Gherarducci, every Sunday would hand me a football match in the B league, especially teams from Lombardy, which were many, starting from Atalanta and continuing with Varese, Brescia, Cremonese, Como, Monza…

In half a century a lot has changed, except some delicacies that were created by Vittorio, starting from the famous paccheri al pomodoroor the majestic cotoletta doppia orecchia d’elefante. And then in the hearts of every member of the Cerea family there’s always the family minestrone and sometimes one can also find the catalana di crostaceiin the menu, or else you have to book it in advance.

A unique dish, that has nothing to do with Spain nor is it Catalan, it was inspired by the beautiful lobsters of Alghero, which as of the 14th century was a Catalan enclave in Sardinia. The Cereas, now with sons Chicco and Bobo, sublimate it and go much further than the lobster, placing in a large casserole tin all sorts of crustaceans, slightly cooked in boiling water, and paired with tomatoes (beefsteak, costoluto siciliano, yellow date tomatoes confit), shallot, celery, basil and olives, candied lemon and lettuce. The sea: blue lobster, lobster, king crabs, scampi and king prawns; prawns, scallops and finally moscardini. And all around, six sauces: mayonnaise, pesto, tuna sauce, salsa aurora, citronette and tomato and olive tapenade.

If there’s something left at the bottom of the pan, it’s only because before the catalana we had some twelve vegetable-based dishes. Not pinzimonio, but many side dishes, cooked, rich and seasoned. It’s a summer encore of a dish based on the winter vegetable garden that had literally charmed us thanks to the range of products and recipes. They gradually served Aubergines candied with honey and mustard; Trombetta courgettes with yogurt and dill; beetroot tartare; Baby spinach, pine nuts and raisins; Tomato salad with taleggio and celery; Radicchietto da taglio, egg barzotto and shallot; Potato cooked in three ways; Cauliflowers au gratin with almonds and oranges; Peperonata; Tomato gazpacho with courgette flowers, ricotta and mint; Porcini cooked with thyme and parsley; Ovoli salad.

The main wine didn’t follow any specific logic if not the desire to taste Rosso Euphoria, a 2017 unfiltered Pinot Noir from Siciliano in Castiglione di Sicilia (Catania), e-mail sicilianoetna@gmail.com. It’s true what they say on the back label: «These grape varieties ooze euphoria and a magic fire starts through a song». All this has left me with a strong desire to find out more about the entire project.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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