It all began with Aimo's Cipollotto

In On va déguster l’Italie, by critic François-Régis Gaudry, Marchi celebrates Italian cuisine through 10 emblematic dishes

10-02-2021
After the war, Giacomo Bergese, aka Nino (Saluz

After the war, Giacomo Bergese, aka Nino (Saluzzo, 1st January 1904 – Genoa, 1st January 1977), also known as The chef of kings, and the king of chefs, opened La Santa in Genoa. He left it only because of tiredness. In the last years of his life, he found the time to design the cuisine at San Domenico in Imola, leaving as his heritage the Egg in raviolo, one of the ten dishes that marked the history of Italian cuisine from the 60s onwards 

François-Régis Gaudry, born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon on the 19th of August 1975, is a French journalist, writer and food critic. He hosts a radio programme called On va deguster on Sundays on France Inter and Très Très Bon su Paris Première. In the autumn of 2020 he published On va déguster l’Italie for Marabout

It's an invitation you can't say no to, so much I admire François-Régis Gaudry: “Would you like to write a page on the 10 best chefs, or even just five or six, the most deserving ones, who have marked the cuisine of Italy from Marchesi onwards for some specific reason, and with an emblematic dish, or a special technique, or an ingredient that granted them a place in the history of Italian contemporary gastronomy?”.

This was back in October 2019, and I immediately said yes. It took longer to choose them, because summing up half a century of Italian cuisine in a handful of chefs is a real challenge, like climbing up the Himalayas. 

It's hard both because our history is so rich, and because you must also avoid as much as possible picking those who are popular now, but perhaps don't have what it takes, don't have the depth to last in time. And this is why I've indicated a posterity index for each dish.

As the title of page 178 and 179 of this extraordinary encyclopaedia says - an authentic act of love for Italy, and twice strong as it comes from a Frenchman – I selected and celebrated 10 plats signatures, 10 grands chefs. Knowing well they can all boast, just think of Gualtiero Marchesi, many more than one signature dish. One thing is certain: to get to ten awards, I had to leave out the less prolific chefs, when the recipe might have been equally good or important. In the same way as we have actors or singers who have basically done just one great role or song, there are restaurants where the inspiration only passed once. These are my choices. A list that ends with pizza.

 

1 SPAGHETTO AL CIPOLLOTTO, 1965 at Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan

Everyone knows it as Aimo's Cipollotto and everyone believes it's not older than 30. It's a mistake: Aimo Moroni first made it in 1965 when his Tuscan trattoria was on a dirt road in the outskirts of Milan. Forget about stars and awards. The soul is based on a stewed shallot and some chilli pepper to give it vigour. The secret touch is the Parmigiano with a voluble idea of raw tomato. For years it's been served with spaghetti, and since at least a decade it's been made with spaghettoni which have a more vigorous bite.

ABOUT HIM
Aimo Moroni arrived from Tuscany in Milan at the age of 12, in 1946. He knew poverty and hunger. He owes his fame to his faith in Italian raw materials which he does not hurt with long cooking procedures and infamous sautéed vegetables.

Posterity index 5

 

2 EGG IN RAVIOLO, 1978 at San Domenico in Imola (Bologna)

You can find filled pasta all around the world, all related to each other. The Egg in raviolo can be taken as an example of Italian interpretations with a surprise effect, with that egg yolk placed in the middle of a very classic filling of spinach and ricotta which appear like a rabbit out of a magician's hat when you dive your fork in the ravioli. Seasoned with melted butter and Parmigiano, it's not ashamed of its richness which reaches its apex by adding some precious white truffle.

ABOUT HIM 
Described by Nino Bergese, 1904/1977, as “the chef of kings, and the king of chefs”, called to define the cuisine at San Domenico in Imola, the Egg owes its fame to Valentino Marcattilii because Bergese did not fully believe in it.

Posterity index 5

 

3 RAVIOLO APERTO, 1982 Gualtiero Marchesi in Milan

Gualtiero Marchesi's signature dishes are in fact two, but his Open Raviolo has the extra provocation, compared to Rice, gold and saffron. In fact it's a single-portion lasagna with scallops and ginger, but had this been the name, it would have been easily confused. By calling it Open Raviolo, Marchesi made it stand out. Here is a first square of green egg pasta on which the scallops are placed, soaked in ginger juice, adding another square of pasta, rotated by 90°, that encloses a leaf of parsley.

ABOUT HIM
Gualtiero Marchesi, 1930-2017, his parents ran a hotel. At 48 he opened a restaurant in Milan, Gualtiero Marchesi, which was to transform Italian cuisine. Strange but true, he loved dining in trattorias.

Posterity index 5

 

4 CHICKPEA CREAM WITH PRAWNS, 1985 at Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo (Livorno)

Over time Fulvio Pierangelini's Chickpea cream with prawns has become so famous that for everyone it was just his Cream. Born by chance – two wine producers came on a closing day and the pantry was half empty -, it shows a higher standard in the long tradition of soups with cereals, legumes, pasta and fish. In the end it is “only” a suave cream of chickpeas on which he places some steamed prawns. But the secret is turning that cream into a cloud of pure flavour, using a hand blender. You need an uncommon sensitivity in using the hand blender. Never too much, never too little.

ABOUT HIM
Fulvio Pierangelini
 is a Roman chef who life brought first to San Vincenzo, then for a while to Rome, and then to Sicily.

Posterity Index 4

 

5 FIVE AGES OF PARMIGIANO REGGIANO, 1995 at Osteria Francescana in Modena

Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures and temperatures, this is the name, since 2015, of this masterpiece by Massimo Bottura, an interpretation of his homeland that is never equal to itself. The first version was in 1995 with Three textures and temperatures of Parmigiano Reggiano, followed by four and finally five. Always keeping in mind the concept of terroir as interpreted by Alain Ducasse. We have pieces aged 24, 30, 36, 40 and 50 months. They give life to a demi-soufflé, a hot sauce, a syphoned mousse, and then a wafer (starting from the rind) and finally broth.

ABOUT HIM
Massimo Bottura
, born in 1962, he's become globally famous by reinventing Italian cuisine, feeding on his constant immaterial visions.

Posterity Index 5

 

6 CYBER EGG, 1997 at Combal in Almese (Torino)

In November 1997, to fight boredom, Davide Scabin promised himself to improve the perfection of an egg, starting from the shell, “without being a hen”. The solution arrived by wrapping in clingfilm an egg-holder and placing 10 grams of caviar in it, plus an egg yolk, some shallot, a touch of black pepper and 5 drops of vodka. Closing by hand, creating a bubble of air, it was served with a razor blade to make a hole in the “shell”. This was then replaced by a scalpel. And he also changed the initial name, SIDA, too provocative.

ABOUT HIM
Davide Scabin, from Piedmont, debuted in 1994 in Almese with his Combal, and then moved to Rivoli withCombal.zero in 2000.

Posterity Index 4

 

7 CAPPUCCINO WITH SQUID INK, 1998 at Calandre in Rubano (Padua)

There are at least six versions of Massimiliano Alajmo's Cappuccino with potatoes and squid, one per restaurant what with Rubano, Venice and Paris (here it's presented as Cappuccino alla bolognese). Served in transparent glasses shaped like a squid, it's a play of black and white that recalls the popular drink while it hints at tiramisu on the palate. The cream of potato evokes mascarpone, while the squid acts as coffee. A constant play that recalls childhood, renews with every tasting the desire to give some nobleness to ingredients that were unfortunately considered poor.

ABOUT HIM
Massimiliano Alajmo
, born in Veneto in 1974 to a family of restaurateurs and cooks, received his second Michelin star in 1996 and the third in 2002 when he was only 28 anni. He's the youngest chef ever to get this award. 

Posterity Index 5

 

8 INSALATA 21… 31… 41… 51… 2008 at Piazza Duomo in Alba (Cuneo)

All the cookbooks of the world ooze salad recipes not necessarily made with vegetables from the kitchen garden, and that's why many aren't exciting. The one made by Enrico Crippa is a rare exception because it comes from the most vegetal of Italian omnivore chefs. Near Alba he can rely on a greenhouse and a vegetable garden with some 400 species that he sublimates in a recipe that changes from one day to the other. It's called Salad 21… 31… 41… 51… because the ingredients picked, seasoned and served change constantly, it's impossible to taste the same dish twice.

ABOUT HIM 

Enrico Crippa, since 2005 at Piazza Duomo owned by the Ceretto family in Alba in the Langhe, he's originally from Lecco, in Lombardy, and one of the most acclaimed among Gualtiero Marchesi's pupils.

Posterity Index 4

 

9 CACIO E PEPE IN BLADDER, 2016 at Lido 84 in Gardone Riviera (Brescia)

Cacio e pepe is one of the four emblematic pasta dishes in Rome. Since 2016 however the best version is to be found on Lake Garda thanks to Riccardo Camanini, who imagined it following a completely different road. He doesn't cook the pasta in water, but in the dried bladder of a pig, in which he pours all the ingredients with a funnel: pasta, boiling water, black pepper, salt, oil and pecorino. Once tied with string, the bladder is placed in a large pot, constantly pouring water on it and mixed to create the typical cream of Cacio e pepe pasta. It takes twice the time to cook: 100 grams in 32 minutes!

ABOUT HIM
Riccardo Camanini, born in Bergamo in 1973, reached success late. Having opened Lido 84 in 2014, he sped up every step, giving a new take on classics.

Posterity Index 3

 

10 MARGHERITA SBAGLIATA, 2016 at Pepe in grani in Caiazzo (Caserta)

Pizza is a synonym of Italy. We don't owe it to other countries or people. It's pizza all over the world. This is why it must be handled with care. Born in Naples, today it's a galaxy of dough and toppings. The most famous – and most spoilt by mediocre versions – is pizza Margherita: tomato, mozzarella and basil. Franco Pepe has managed to give a new take without leaving out or adding anything. The bread is baked in the oven only adding the cheese. The tomato and basil are added at the end, in the shape of raw, pure sauces. An explosion of aromas. The red and green brushes are the author's signature. Copied endless times.

ABOUT HIM
Franco Pepe
, born in Caiazzo, Caserta, he restored the family home in the historic centre of Caiazzo turning it into three pizzerias. The latest recalls of Japanese restaurant counters.

Posterity Index 3

Translated by Slawka G. Scarso 


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