Antonia Klugmann in a portrait by Tanio Liotta right outside the kitchen at L'Argine, in Friuli
I wouldn’t know where else to find in Italy a cuisine as harmonious and neat as the one of Antonia Klugmann. It is such because in Vencò the inside matches the outside, the quiet sunniness of an early afternoon in September, flooded with light, introduces inside the restaurant the natural element that is all around, uninterrupted. It embraces it and makes it its own through the glassed walls; exterior and interior become one in a way – the wood, the light pastel colours, the plants... – and the same goes for the culinary offer, which is also a (faithful, successful) interpretation of what’s outside. This almost magical ensemble perfectly adheres to an idea of style, food, life; it’s a hymn to harmony that goes up from the banks of Judrio over there, refracts between earth and sky, overflows a bit everywhere, jumps between the plants to reach the vegetable garden that chases the restaurant even metaphorically, like when they tell us that «the figs were so beautiful! Antonia could not resist using them in a dish». You taste this improvised dish, imposed by the orchard and find it almost thorny in its endearing simplicity. A different word would be necessary to describe the mix, its delicateness that fills the palate, teases it and above all tells a story, an idea, a technique without technique – but who cares – and a concept: Antonia is immersed in nature (Fresh fig, tomato sauce, oregano, marjoram, bay leaves).
Ravioli with tomato
Boiled pork belly with rosemary
And then we could list the rest of the menu, and we’re still only at the starters. Let’s go on: Tomato Ravioli? They dance in your mouth. Even two recipes that you think might be a little sad, "well, here comes the comfort food break", that is to say Cannelloni and Boiled pork belly, are totally unexpected. The former tends to the bitterness of the nettles, because nature can be bitter too; the latter is a fondant symphony of the protein, which seems to have absorbed in its identity a balanced aroma of rosemary, and then there’s the sweet and sour radicchio, the roasted radicchio and the liquorice that will make you say Boiled pork belly is a misleading name, almost a minimalist provocation.
So, did you get that we quite liked our lunch at L'Argine ?
And here is the menu dish by dish, with photos from Tanio Liotta.
Fresh fig, tomato sauce, oregano, marjoram, bay leaves (powdered and with its water). The fig is cooked for three hours in the oven and then finished with its sauce
Mullet confit: mullet from the fish market in Marano Lagunare (Udine), where L’Argine buys its supplies. It’s cooked confit and served with marinated chanterelle mushrooms and erba vitalba which is also marinated and slightly bitter. On top, there’s black truffle from Judrio. The fish is cooked in oil aromatised with the same truffle. Wonderfully pure flavours
Mussels: mussels from Trieste paired with two sauces, one with chards and one with lupini clams. Then powdered wild fennel and helichrysum. The leaves are of chards and saltbush
Sea urchins and fish: the sea urchins come from the north Adriatic Sea, picked one by one by a deep-sea diver. They are paired with Sicilian mullet bottarga, bitter peach toffee, rue, fermented black garlic, candied orange
Spring Panzanella in the North-East: the name of the dish takes us to another season but the flavour, the delicateness and the elegance bring us back to the table. «It’s our take on panzanella. On the base of the dish there’s some sourdough bread, then herbs from the garden (borage, wild garlic, chives, mint...), and on top fresh cumin from the fields. It’s all soaked with gold kiwi water, instead of tomatoes»
Cannelloni filled with cow’s milk ricotta and chicory, glazed with nettles and fake nettles. Above, a nettle leaf
Roasted and smoked lentils, red pepper glaze and clover (both the leaves and the chlorophyll)
Ravioli with tomato: ravioli filled with roasted tomato, tomato water, yogurt, artemisia and elderberry
Our version of pisarei: the typical pasta from Piacenza served lukewarm with hazelnut sauce, chilli pepper sauce, oregano and sage
Boiled pork belly with rosemary, sweet and sour radicchio, roasted radicchio and liquorice
Fiordilatte and honey gelato, broth of dandelion, herbs from Vencò with candied lemon zest
Pear with oat milk: gelo siciliano with oat milk, semi-dehydrated and glazed pear, gelatine of aromatic infusion, syrup of muscovado sugar
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
An outdoor trip or a journey to the other side of the planet?
One thing is for sure: the destination is delicious, by Carlo Passera
journalist born in 1974, for many years he has covered politics, mostly, and food in his free time. Today he does exactly the opposite and this makes him very happy. As soon as he can, he dives into travels and good food. Identità Golose's editor in chief
Antonia Klugmann: as always, her lecture at Identità Milano 2023 yesterday was very interesting. All photos are by Brambilla-Serrani
Antonia Klugmann with Gabriele Zanatta, who presented her lesson
(Photos form Brambilla/Serrani)
Alessandro Bergamo (Cracco in Galleria, Milan) and Antonia Klugmann (L'Argine a Vencò, Dolegna del Collio - Gorizia), respectively young chef and mentor of the third edition of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy. They came second, the best result ever for an Italian team