My spicy tour of Italy

Eataly Firenze’s chef Enrico Panero presents his “very hot” five steps at Identità Milano

22-01-2015
Enrico Panero together with Massimo Bottura. The y

Enrico Panero together with Massimo Bottura. The young chef from Piedmont at restaurant Da Vinci inside Eataly Firenze will be among the protagonists of Identità Piccanti, within Identità Milano

Identità Piccanti, Spicy Identità, not an easy theme to develop if the intention is to express an interesting concept, one that could intrigue restaurant professionals. This is especially true in Italy, a country where the approach to this theme follows an established script, in which this aromatic note comes always in the shape of a supporting scent, capable, at most, of giving a shake to the dominating flavour of a dish. When, on the contrary, it shows its power, it often ends up in the category of “unpolished” cuisine, if not second-rate: a closed circuit from which one cannot exit, and in which, most of all, spiciness doesn’t look good.

This is not the case in other countries that also have an ancient and refined culinary tradition. I’m referring to Japan, where I worked for two years, starting from 2011 (at Eataly in Tokyo). Over there, cooking, something extremely elegant, includes essential aromas, few ingredients that do not undergo long cooking processes and express totally recognisable characters. Spiciness, therefore, has many chances to stand out. In fact it can even be the main note in a dish, without the latter losing its balance because of this. A good lesson, that is.

Panero together with Daniela Cicioni and Andrea Provenzani at the latest Cous Cous Fest in San Vito Lo Capo
Panero together with Daniela Cicioni and Andrea Provenzani at the latest Cous Cous Fest in San Vito Lo Capo

For many years I’ve had a classic, Italian-style approach to this world. I’m now changing my attitude a little. It all started with my participation in the latest Cous Cous Fest in San Vito Lo Capo, where I presented what was then named as Pannycous. "Panny" is the nickname my friends gave me; matched with “cous” creates this new word in assonance with “panic”, that is to say it recalls the strong emotion I would like people to feel when eating this dish.

Put simply, it’s a savoury cannolo entirely made with couscous. This comes in the shape of a fried and crispy wafer and at the same time it is used in the creamy filling too, made by cooking semolina with pappa al pomodoro, though the latter is inspired by the traditional recipe from Trapani, and thus slightly hot. The result is a new and interesting take on one of the most emblematic Italian dishes abroad, namely cannolo, that continues to perfectly represent its Sicilian character, with its shape and substance.

Pannycous, Panero’s first creative step in the world of hot food. He will present the next steps at Identità Milano...
Pannycous, Panero’s first creative step in the world of hot food. He will present the next steps at Identità Milano...
The idea became a success so I decided to develop it. How? By building a more general concept of cuisine around it, which I have thus summed up: “Italy at your fingertips”. Spiciness is an essential component. This project thrills me, because it is placed between street food and classic restaurants: traditional dishes are served in a new, fast, practical way, which is at the same time respectful of the classic recipe. The external wafer, indeed, can be adapted each time to its filling. For instance, it becomes puffed rice in the case of risotto alla milanese, closed on the sides by seared marrow and filled with creamed rice.

I thus studied an itinerary, from North to South, in five steps, through the very many regional traditions, finding those that stand out thanks to their use of spicy ingredients. There will thus be space for chilli peppers, pepper, horseradish and whatever may be necessary to highlight Italian excellences. And cutlery won’t be necessary to taste all of this... The goal is to make you travel across the peninsula, while remaining seated.


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