An extraordinary Davide Guidara at Therasia in Vulcano: his 100% vegetable menu charmed us

The young chef, at the helm of restaurant I Tenerumi inside the Aeolian resort, plays with minimalism, concentrated aromas, super-umami drawn from green ingredients. With great results

09-07-2021
Davide Guidara relaxing on the grass at his veget

Davide Guidara relaxing on the grass at his vegetarian restaurant I Tenerumi, inside the Therasia Resort in Vulcano, Aeolian islands, Sicily. All the photos are from Tanio Liotta

Let's start from what it's not right. It's easier because there's only one thing: the idea that people must stay barefoot on the grass, with a few tables (five) outdoors and with a marvellous view is, in theory, very fascinating, perfect for pictures, and it gives a different identity, but in practice it's a source of discomfort: the nice poufs that replace chairs and armchairs expose guests to a constant Paolo Villaggio effect [a famous Italian comedian], which is also due to the fact that the low tables don't allow you to place your legs comfortably, so that what was meant to be magic becomes a bit of a nuisance and distracts you from the food (which in fact would deserve the highest attention).

Everything else, however, is absolutely exceptional.

Our Tanio Liotta prepares the space for the photos, on the tables at I Tenerumi. In front of him, a beautiful view

Our Tanio Liotta prepares the space for the photos, on the tables at I Tenerumi. In front of him, a beautiful view

The view, to begin with: we're at the Therasia Resort, on the Aeolian island of Vulcano: Lipari is in front of us, the sun sets on the sea, a breeze brushes the clothes, a luxurious garden all around. It's a heaven. And then there's the food, which amplifies the heavenly effect: only a few weeks ago restaurant I Tenerumi at Therasia (one of the three gourmet restaurants of the structure: one, Il Cappero, is already starred. This other one will be so, if the Michelin guys haven't gone mad and if they fix the tables here) was handed to what we believe is an absolute genius in his generation, Davide Guidara, 27, special features: super-good.

Guidara was called to create a totally vegetal menu. Nothing weird for him since he had already been focusing on vegetables thanks to his passionate research on the new roads of contemporary Mediterranean cuisine. He told us: «The idea was to abandon the dogma of an often-boring vegetal cuisine. People normally think: “You're eating vegetables, are you sick?”. In other words, this kind of offer has always been associated with something not very daring, and bland in terms of flavours». So how can you solve this? «I want to turn this situation upside down: my vegetal cuisine is super-umami, with neat flavours, powerful, even without animal proteins». How so? «I collaborate with the University of Catania. I asked their researchers: where can I find the highest concentration of glutamic acid?», that is to say the amino acid “responsible” for umami, sapidity? «Their answer was very clear. The most umami foods are mostly vegetables: almonds, mushrooms, lupins… This means that studying these interactions allow us to access an endless potential». A practical example? «Lentils cooked on a vegetal jus are always better, tastier than those cooked with a jus of veal. It's unquestionable». To sum it up: «I wanted to bring vegetal cuisine to a stronger, more invasive level compared to what we're used to».

Part of the vegetable gardens at Therasia supply most of the vegetables used by Guidara

Part of the vegetable gardens at Therasia supply most of the vegetables used by Guidara

The chef succeeds in this, and very well. After all, as we mentioned, this is a road he's taken for a long time now, since when he was still working at Sum in Catania. He then researched this further during the pandemic's forced stop, which Guidara, a young man who joins passion and strong determination and curiosity, put to the best use. He studies a lot, as we had already noticed when we first met him, back in 2016, and he was 22. We were startled, so much so that we titled the article Martians in Milazzo.

So, for instance, out of the twelve dishes of the only tasting menu at I Tenerumi (120 euros. There's no menu à la carte) some are the development of dishes we had already savoured two years ago. Like Peperone arrostito, which becomes Peperone arrosto. Of the original version we wrote: “A complex recipe to make [read here]. For us it's a very interesting essence of pepper, which can be improved "as a dish" but is already extraordinary, starting from the texture”. Now it's perfect.

Pepper: before...

Pepper: before...

...and now

...and now

Or else the Cold caponata with aubergines, with sour mayo of aubergines or Aubergines, garlic and mint, another authentic masterpiece, meaty, voluptuous, with a cold-hot contrast.

Aubergine: before...

Aubergine: before...

...and now

...and now

Or Mussels and lentils, which was already exceptional and becomes superb leaving the main role to the spelt and the brackish note of: Lentils and seaweeds. Or Cosaruciaru beans and pistachio miso, a dish by Guidara that was already famous, and which we hadn't liked too much; it has the same name now, but adding an acid component it becomes literally extraordinary.

Lentils:before...

Lentils:before...

...and now

...and now

We could go on at length, instead we end here because this is the concept: the finest quality, pure minimalism, a territory interpreted in an exceptional, contemporary way, with a take that we could sum up as a mix of Niko Romito and Enrico Crippa, of Antonia Klugmann and Gianluca Gorini, with a touch of North and a lot of South, and so basically very personal.

A special mention goes to the pairing, handed to Piero Guarrella, born in 1982 in Pozzallo (the maître is Alberto Delogu from Sassari): you can choose a classic pairing with wine, but in this case it's highly recommended to trust his choice of drinks – kombucha, cordials, cocktails with fermented vegetables… - specifically studied to pair the dishes, «in this case too, I wanted to give a different, tailor-made experience. Why do something “banal” with wines?». Yes, why?

Davide Guidara, to the left, with his sous chef Onofrio Pagnotto, born in 1998 in Vietri di Potenza

Davide Guidara, to the left, with his sous chef Onofrio Pagnotto, born in 1998 in Vietri di Potenza

Final question: Davide, what are the clients' first reactions to this vegetal menu? «We had many sceptical guests who only booked because the place is beautiful, but they were unsure about the style of cuisine. Their reaction was: «We never thought vegetables could express themselves so. I have changed my views on this world». An only partially right analysis. Because it's not the vegetables per se. It's Davide Guidara.

And now to our dinner, with photos from Tanio Liotta.

Translated into English by Slawka G.Scarso

Guidara starts with a series of mezedes, small plates «like in Ancient Greece», the ancestors of tapas (or venetian cicheti). In this case Battagliuna with cucumber and centrifuge juice of their lacto-fermented scraps (battagliuna are also known as caroselli, or barattieri, vegetables popular in Apulia and in Agrigento). Paired with the mezedes there's zammù, a typical drink of Sicily and Greece too, a liquor born by distilling star anise or cumin. In this case a short fermentation of helichrysum, star anise and orange zest, with some prosecco

Guidara starts with a series of mezedes, small plates «like in Ancient Greece», the ancestors of tapas (or venetian cicheti). In this case Battagliuna with cucumber and centrifuge juice of their lacto-fermented scraps (battagliuna are also known as caroselli, or barattieri, vegetables popular in Apulia and in Agrigento). Paired with the mezedes there's zammù, a typical drink of Sicily and Greece too, a liquor born by distilling star anise or cumin. In this case a short fermentation of helichrysum, star anise and orange zest, with some prosecco

Courgette and black garlic mayo and mint

Courgette and black garlic mayo and mint

Watermelon, lemon, oregano

Watermelon, lemon, oregano

Beetroot and red seaweeds

Beetroot and red seaweeds

Chargrilled shallot, salt, oil and lemon

Chargrilled shallot, salt, oil and lemon

Almond ricotta, almond oil and toasted almonds

Almond ricotta, almond oil and toasted almonds

All this with two slices of bread with honey made from Sicilian black bees, walnuts and dark chocolate

All this with two slices of bread with honey made from Sicilian black bees, walnuts and dark chocolate

With the first course, we already reach the stars:  Trunzu cabbage, rocket and lemon. The cabbage is seasoned with a cream of seaweeds and rocket, and its leaves are marinated and grilled

With the first course, we already reach the stars:  Trunzu cabbage, rocket and lemon. The cabbage is seasoned with a cream of seaweeds and rocket, and its leaves are marinated and grilled

This Tomato salad (macerated beefsteak tomatoes, shallot with soy, tomato seeds, date tomatoes cooked in ash, oil of tomato stems, tomato water) is spectacular. A masterful interpretation of the Mediterranean essence, paired with a sort of "cordial" with bananas and mint, very light and rather sweet

This Tomato salad (macerated beefsteak tomatoes, shallot with soy, tomato seeds, date tomatoes cooked in ash, oil of tomato stems, tomato water) is spectacular. A masterful interpretation of the Mediterranean essence, paired with a sort of "cordial" with bananas and mint, very light and rather sweet

Roasted pepper: that is to say chargrilled pepper matured for one week in a paste of pepper extract, then pepper glaze with lime, cream of dried peppers and parsley oil. Paired with a sage "cordial"

Roasted pepper: that is to say chargrilled pepper matured for one week in a paste of pepper extract, then pepper glaze with lime, cream of dried peppers and parsley oil. Paired with a sage "cordial"

Cosaruciaru and pistachio. We had already found this pairing of cosaruciaru beans with pistachio miso at Sum in Catania. This one has a touch of extra acidity and it is masterful. It's paired with Champagne Mary, a sort of Bloody Mary with tomato water and fermented garlic, onion, chilli pepper, celery and lemon zest, clarified with milk washing and then made slightly sparkling

Cosaruciaru and pistachio. We had already found this pairing of cosaruciaru beans with pistachio miso at Sum in Catania. This one has a touch of extra acidity and it is masterful. It's paired with Champagne Mary, a sort of Bloody Mary with tomato water and fermented garlic, onion, chilli pepper, celery and lemon zest, clarified with milk washing and then made slightly sparkling

Lettuce and sesame. Another great dish: the lettuce is fermented in buttermilk and seasoned with chargrilled shallot mayonnaise and black sesame

Lettuce and sesame. Another great dish: the lettuce is fermented in buttermilk and seasoned with chargrilled shallot mayonnaise and black sesame

A masterpiece – and it's not the only one tonight: Aubergine, garlic and mint. The aubergine is roasted with yakitori and glazed with a chickpea shoyu. Hot, seasoned with a cold cream of aubergine, garlic and mint. It's paired with moj-kombucha, that is to say peppermint kombucha with a Cuban rum infused in butter and chilli pepper

A masterpiece – and it's not the only one tonight: Aubergine, garlic and mint. The aubergine is roasted with yakitori and glazed with a chickpea shoyu. Hot, seasoned with a cold cream of aubergine, garlic and mint. It's paired with moj-kombucha, that is to say peppermint kombucha with a Cuban rum infused in butter and chilli pepper

One great concept after the other. We adored the bitter component – embraced by the sour and fat ones – of Radicchio, pine nuts and yogurt (the radicchio is left seven days in oil and vinegar, with some salt; and then quenelles of roasted yogurt and mayonnaise of Sicilian pine nuts). The dish is paired with a spiced vermouth "wine", with the addition of soda, served in a glass smoked with rosemary

One great concept after the other. We adored the bitter component – embraced by the sour and fat ones – of Radicchio, pine nuts and yogurt (the radicchio is left seven days in oil and vinegar, with some salt; and then quenelles of roasted yogurt and mayonnaise of Sicilian pine nuts). The dish is paired with a spiced vermouth "wine", with the addition of soda, served in a glass smoked with rosemary

A "normal" dish, hence not really in line with the tasting: Egg yolk, butter and truffle. Excellent ravioli filled with egg yolk and pepper and seasoned with sour butter and black truffle. Excellent, but why? Paired with the "Bloody Mary" from earlier, which in this case however is not sparkling

A "normal" dish, hence not really in line with the tasting: Egg yolk, butter and truffle. Excellent ravioli filled with egg yolk and pepper and seasoned with sour butter and black truffle. Excellent, but why? Paired with the "Bloody Mary" from earlier, which in this case however is not sparkling

This Giarratana and saffron, noodles with tapioca pearls and saffron, broth of giarratana onions and almond oil is fantastic. The broth is very powerful. Matched with mint kombucha

This Giarratana and saffron, noodles with tapioca pearls and saffron, broth of giarratana onions and almond oil is fantastic. The broth is very powerful. Matched with mint kombucha

Carrot and goat: it's a glazed carrot with a miso of chargrilled carrot, finger lime, curdled goat's milk, lactofermented carrot juice. Great sour-savoury elegance

Carrot and goat: it's a glazed carrot with a miso of chargrilled carrot, finger lime, curdled goat's milk, lactofermented carrot juice. Great sour-savoury elegance

Prickly pear, lemon and salt. The desserts are perfectly coherent too (lemon namelaka, lemon and salt, prickly pear leaf sorbet)

Prickly pear, lemon and salt. The desserts are perfectly coherent too (lemon namelaka, lemon and salt, prickly pear leaf sorbet)

Warm brioche with mango sauce 

Warm brioche with mango sauce 

 


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