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04-08-2023

Ducasse, an Italian Ambassador in Paris

The Frenchman has entrusted Cucina Mutualité to a 32-year-old Tuscan talent, Alessandro Lucassino, with the unstated ambition of seeing him grow like another of his pupils, Bottura. However, the place needs a redesign. It’s too much osteria and not enough

The world is full of pizzerias, trattorias and restaurants with Italian cuisine or pseudo cuisine. However, one thing is the flag on the door and another is real quality, a concept that is not easy to define because most seek out the stereotypes that define us and which we often do not care about because we consider it everyday food. Why look for an ugly copy when travelling abroad? It makes no sense, not to me at least. But this means the pleasure of tasting innovative Italian cuisine, the fruit of the chef's knowledge and thoughts, as linear and concrete as possible, is amplified when this happens, as was the case on Friday, 21 July, in Paris.

Alessandro Lucassino, born in 1991 in Follinica, Tuscany, chef at the Cucina Mutualité in Paris since 1 January 2023

Alessandro Lucassino, born in 1991 in Follinica, Tuscany, chef at the Cucina Mutualité in Paris since 1 January 2023

Maison de la Mutualité at 20 Rue Saint-Victor, telephone +33.1.44315454, is the site that houses Cucina Mutualité, an Italian trattoria in the galaxy of Alain Ducasse, open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, but closed for holidays throughout August. Opened five years ago, the worst years for catering due to the pandemic, it had more chefs than certainties until Alessandro Lucassino, a Tuscan from Follonica born in 1991 arrived on the 1st of January, with Alessandro Mascheroni, his sous chef, a 25-year-old from Milan.

Crab served in an urchin shell, tomato, estragon and urchin coral

Crab served in an urchin shell, tomato, estragon and urchin coral

I will never thank enough those who suggested I visit them because I would have met a true talent, to the point of associating him with Bottura for his ability to look at reality sitting on the clouds, once he had learnt the entire grammar by heart. The same happened with the Modenese at Ducasse’s in Monte Carlo, giving even more strength to Lucassino and the path to come.

Flambé sardines and pepper panzanella

Flambé sardines and pepper panzanella

With one important thought: the kitchen, that is to say the space, a large, single room with a basin in the centre and the tables all leaning against the walls, does not reflect the type of cuisine proposed by the Tuscan chef. Everything is the same, even the colourful graphics of the menus,  the music à la Totò Cotugno, the napkin rings, the bar glasses and fake cold cuts hanging in the middle. The dishes however are completely different. From well-executed paccheri and cotolette in a neat parody of the Italian trattoria to a line that takes you straight to the Michelin universe.

But this way it’s all very complicated because the usual customers turn up their noses and do not necessarily come back, others instead taste, ask for clarification and are convinced. Then there are the new ones who, intrigued, book and are won over. But there is still a long way to go for a chef who enrolled at Grosseto’s catering school, leaving it after the first three years because the pace of learning was too slow, better to work, better to practice, some seasonal jobs and then five years in a fish restaurant in Follonica, a lot of practice behind the scenes but also the chance to come into contact with the Trattoria Toscana run by Ducasse at Andana, now led by Bartolini.

Smoked aubergine parmigiana

Smoked aubergine parmigiana

A practical consequence: Alessandro was called to Paris by Monsieur Alain, 'a man who always pushes you harder', three different spaces up to the reality of the Mutualité and a lot of future ahead of him. Were it my house, I would invest in him by adapting the kitchen to the present. As often happens to me, I have enriched the tasting menu with a few extras

Cod in saffron broth

Cod in saffron broth

The start with six cicchetti, technically exemplary but not explosive, such as the crab served in an urchin shell, tomato, estragon and urchin coral; the flamed sardines and panzanella with peppers and the subsequent aubergine Parmigiana (and not the Aubergine alla Parmigiana), in itself a provocation because they are black and striped bon bons, with four different sauces, delicate smoky notes and the spiciness of Tabasco.

Two first courses, ravioli and risotto. Ravioli with ricotta, yellow tomato, grapefruit and chinotto that take you in their play on citrus notes and an excellent Risotto with sea lettuce, Taggiasca olives and hazelnuts, made perfect in a play on hazelnut butter, lemon zest and lime, then Barolo vinegar. The catch of the day off the French coast? Cod in saffron broth. The meat? Saddle of lamb, trombetta courgettes, sea fennel and a mix of spices. Details that in both cases amplified the notes of the two main ingredients, making them even more persistent. Desserts that include a new take on tiramisu but overly creamy, and strawberries in an infusion of lavender and verbena, pollen and a granita to top it all off.

Saddle of lamb, trumpet courgette, sea fennel and a mix of spices

Saddle of lamb, trumpet courgette, sea fennel and a mix of spices

Cucina Mutualité deserves the attention of those who love contemporary Italian cuisine and know that innovations do not only come from within our borders. In this case, honour to Ducasse and praise to Lucassino.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Affari di Gola di Paolo Marchi

A mouth watering page, published every Sunday in Il Giornale from November 1999 to the autumn of 2010. Stories and personalities that continue to live in this website

by

Paolo Marchi

born in Milan in March 1955, at Il Giornale for 31 years dividing himself between sports and food, since 2004 he's the creator and curator of Identità Golose.
blog www.paolomarchi.it
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