Zanatta’s 2016 in 9 photos

Our author’s year includes a 7-course tasting menu, a children’s menu and a huge breakfast

31-12-2016

Photogallery

Italian-style pan braised quail breast and leg, chanterelle mushrooms, stewed spinach and spicy sauce with wild fennel by Luigi Taglienti at restaurant Lume in Milan, a Michelin star received a few weeks ago.

At a time when menus are turning relentlessly vegetarian, the chef from Savona is brave enough to place a quail in the middle of the table, right from the entrée. This choice (which is in fact the same as Davide Scabin’s up&down menu) is very appreciated firstly because in a tasting menu meat or game always arrive at the end of an endless journey. This prevents appreciating the main course which should be instead, by definition, the main part of the meal, not a weight to bear.
 

Taglienti’s quail unites classic rigour (caille is one of the emblems of French fine dining, from the early nouvelle cuisine to our days) and Italian skill ("it’s Italian-style" in that the chef has adopted the habit of cooking meat tied with a string, in the same pot, with all the aromas). And it prepares the palate for the great game to return with the main course (here’s a recent piece on the topic). Good, good, excellent.
These Spaghetti with sea urchins were cooked by Luca Fantin, chef from Treviso working at Bulgari in Tokyo, in the Milanese restaurant of the same maison. The dinner followed the presentation of his book, published by Assouline.

While Fantin uses 90% Japanese ingredients, the remaining 10% of Italian raw materials include pasta (Felicetti). Except one must come to terms with Japanese taste: «Seven years ago, when I had just opened the restaurant, guests sent back 80% of the spaghetti: ‘too raw’, the Japanese would say. But they were only al dente. I realised I could not impose myself onto them. At the same time, I didn’t want to use only fresh pasta in the menu, which is closer to their taste as it’s softer on the palate».

His stubbornness gave life to some very successful expedients. As with these spaghetti: overcooked by 3 minutes, they undergo a quick shock in icy water (at 4°C). The lower service temperature doesn’t affect the creaminess of the pasta nor its succulence. 
Risotto with peppers, anchovies, cream and coffee from Errico Recanati at Andreina in Loreto (Ancona). The dish is served as separate elements, requiring the guest himself to cream the risotto. Putting the game aside, this first course perfectly sums up fattiness (cream), sweetness (pepper), bitterness (coffee) and umami (anchovies). It’s signed by a very capable chef, happy to sweat in the shade.
Cod marinated in orange flower honey, thyme and sage, with capers, cauliflower and cream of almonds and pumpkin. This was cooked, and finished at the table, by Corrado Assenza of Caffé Sicilia in Noto (Ragusa) at restaurant Sturehof in Stockholm, on the occasion of the Week of Italian cuisine in the world, one month ago. 

It’s the great north (cod) falling asleep, going adrift and waking up in a colourful Eden of Mediterranean and Sicilian aromas and flavours. Yet another proof that defining Assenza as a pastry-chef, though the greatest one in Italy, is reducing. 

What was last year’s most memorable dish? I’m the victim of the same question I asked 101 foodies from Italy and beyond. Except that, just like Carlo Passera a couple of days ago, as collaborators of Identità we can have multiple answers and spout off words and images without fearing that someone might then cut these down. *a mischievous laugh follows*.

It’s now my turn: in the super-survey published last week I joined the praise for the very memorable Roasted chicken for two by Daniel Humm at Nomad in New York, which is basically a complete meal. Having had a little extra time to arrange photos and thoughts from 2016, here’s a 7-course menu.

No chef would ever conceive such a tasting menu: there’s a meat entrée, two seafood first courses, two mains (also with fish) and two buttery desserts. There’s an unbalanced ratio of proteins and carbohydrates, the total weight of the courses is excessive and the sum of calories is something that exceeds even my mother’s New Year’s Eve meal for three generations (and she’s from Apulia).

There’s no lingering on “interesting” sourness or bitterness, no appreciation for vegetables that aspire to take on the main role in the meal. It’s just a selection of dishes that made me exclaim «God, this is delicious». Dishes in which personal taste prevailed over any other following thought. 


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Gabriele Zanatta’s opinion: on establishments, chefs and trends in Italy and the world


Photogallery

Italian-style pan braised quail breast and leg, chanterelle mushrooms, stewed spinach and spicy sauce with wild fennel by Luigi Taglienti at restaurant Lume in Milan, a Michelin star received a few weeks ago.

At a time when menus are turning relentlessly vegetarian, the chef from Savona is brave enough to place a quail in the middle of the table, right from the entrée. This choice (which is in fact the same as Davide Scabin’s up&down menu) is very appreciated firstly because in a tasting menu meat or game always arrive at the end of an endless journey. This prevents appreciating the main course which should be instead, by definition, the main part of the meal, not a weight to bear.
 

Taglienti’s quail unites classic rigour (caille is one of the emblems of French fine dining, from the early nouvelle cuisine to our days) and Italian skill ("it’s Italian-style" in that the chef has adopted the habit of cooking meat tied with a string, in the same pot, with all the aromas). And it prepares the palate for the great game to return with the main course (here’s a recent piece on the topic). Good, good, excellent.
These Spaghetti with sea urchins were cooked by Luca Fantin, chef from Treviso working at Bulgari in Tokyo, in the Milanese restaurant of the same maison. The dinner followed the presentation of his book, published by Assouline.

While Fantin uses 90% Japanese ingredients, the remaining 10% of Italian raw materials include pasta (Felicetti). Except one must come to terms with Japanese taste: «Seven years ago, when I had just opened the restaurant, guests sent back 80% of the spaghetti: ‘too raw’, the Japanese would say. But they were only al dente. I realised I could not impose myself onto them. At the same time, I didn’t want to use only fresh pasta in the menu, which is closer to their taste as it’s softer on the palate».

His stubbornness gave life to some very successful expedients. As with these spaghetti: overcooked by 3 minutes, they undergo a quick shock in icy water (at 4°C). The lower service temperature doesn’t affect the creaminess of the pasta nor its succulence. 
Risotto with peppers, anchovies, cream and coffee from Errico Recanati at Andreina in Loreto (Ancona). The dish is served as separate elements, requiring the guest himself to cream the risotto. Putting the game aside, this first course perfectly sums up fattiness (cream), sweetness (pepper), bitterness (coffee) and umami (anchovies). It’s signed by a very capable chef, happy to sweat in the shade.
Cod marinated in orange flower honey, thyme and sage, with capers, cauliflower and cream of almonds and pumpkin. This was cooked, and finished at the table, by Corrado Assenza of Caffé Sicilia in Noto (Ragusa) at restaurant Sturehof in Stockholm, on the occasion of the Week of Italian cuisine in the world, one month ago. 

It’s the great north (cod) falling asleep, going adrift and waking up in a colourful Eden of Mediterranean and Sicilian aromas and flavours. Yet another proof that defining Assenza as a pastry-chef, though the greatest one in Italy, is reducing. 
Grilled dotto head: you might find it at Lido 84 in Gardone Riviera (Brescia). Riccardo Camanini is lucky enough to know two fishermen from the gulf of Oristano who fish in deep water, with palamite. When lucky, they send him some huge dotto (same family as the grouper).

The head of the fish – quite fatty and rich of meat in the cheek, under the palate and in the interstitial spaces of the brain – is slowly grilled and served as a whole piece. Beside, there’s a plate covered with anchovy colatura, extra virgin olive oil, dehydrated liver from the same fish, some grated lemon zest and horseradish. Dipping a piece of dotto into it is an archaic gesture that makes you feel at peace with the world.
Monte Bianco from Luca De Santi, pastry chef at Ratanà in Milan. There’s a super-traditional component of chantilly cream and marron glacés, very rich. But there’s also a salty (the chestnuts are tossed in the pan with butter, hazelnuts and salt) and sour component (the lemon, which is in the meringue, crumbled on top, and candied with salt). 

It’s the less typically De Santi’s dessert among the many desserts-non-desserts this young man from Vicenza presents at Cesare Battisti’s restaurant. My favourite dish, given that as a child I would spend all my pocket money to get hold of a slice of this Junoesque dessert.
 
Torta di rose by Matias Perdomo at restaurant Contraste in Milan. The famous tarte recalling a bouquet of roses (the copyright belongs to French Alain Passard) is becoming more and more popular in Italy too (Camanini makes it as well). Super-buttery (as it should be) the Uruguayan chef serves it with a ball of vanilla ice cream. Some traditions truly seem impossible to make even more perfect.
 
2016 will become memorable for a perfect lunch at Mauro Uliassi in Senigallia (Ancona). Perfect also given the attention paid to younger guests, who are too often ignored in restaurants (even “fine dining” ones). The dish in the photo? Mashed potato and breaded cutlet. The lovely tray, plates and glasses are designed by Felice... Mente. 
Ok, the tasting menu is over. We’re all rolling under the blankets. But this doesn’t mean that the following morning you’ll be satisfied with cappuccino and a pastry, does it? Two breakfasts I’ll remember from my 2016: the one at Casadonna in Castel di Sangro, Abruzzo (here’s the story from a while ago) and the more recent one at La Parolina in Acquapendente (Viterbo).

In Upper Lazio breakfast means room service by default; if you want to have breakfast in the dining room on the floor below you must say so in advance. On the tray (in the photo), there’s plenty of sweet and savoury delicacies: culatello from Spigaroli and Podere Cadassa, cow’s milk cheese (we got a crosta fiorita from Chiodetti), pecorino cheese from Pienza, mini-doughnuts, traditional and with cocoa, muffins, pound cake, naturally leavened croissants, home made sourdough bread with cereal or white flour, orange juice, yogurt, orange marmalade, blackberry, plum or red fruit jam, seasonal fruit, salted butter... On the other side of the window, valleys as far as the eyes can see.