Girotonno is back, and Lebanon triumphs

The last edition in Carloforte was in 2019. Four countries competing, with Richard Abou Zaki winning at the end against Colombian Jose Narbona, followed by Italy and Japan. The chef from Retroscena has unsettled and then conquered everyone, with a double

09-06-2022
by Paolo Marchi

Lebanon! Richard Abou Zaki won the 18th edition of Girotonno in Carloforte, on the part Sardinian part Genovese island of San Pietro, in front of the south-western tip of Sardinia. After three years, the event celebrating red tuna, the running tuna, was back. As in the past, it attracted the attention of everyone, visitors and locals, during the long weekend of the Festa della Repubblica.

Four chefs from four different countries, competed until the final round shortlist that had the chef and patron of Retroscena in Porto San Giorgio (Fermo) – together with Pierpaolo Ferracuti – win with 9.37 points in front of Spanish with a Colombian grandmother Jose Narbona Rodriguez, , chef at MiTu in Milan, with 9.09, Sardinians Davide Atzeni and Mauro Ladu, respectively in the kitchen of Coxinendi in Sanluri in Medio Campidano and at Abbamele Osteria in Mamoiada (Nuoro), who came third with 8.98 and Roberto Okabe, the Japanese-Brazilian patron of the Fingers restaurants scattered in Italy, who was 4th with 8.88.

Two juries, a technical one, with a dozen professionals including TV presenter Roberto Giacobbo, who was really fun and sparkling, and mayor Salvatore Puggioni, and a popular jury of one hundred or so food lovers. They all had the same range of votes, from 7 to 10, but the former group weighed for 60% of the total.

The two versions of the winning dish by Richard Abou Zaki, Tuna, hummus of tomato smoked with cedar wood and broth of distilled Mediterranean bruschetta with Lebanese spices

The two versions of the winning dish by Richard Abou Zaki, Tuna, hummus of tomato smoked with cedar wood and broth of distilled Mediterranean bruschetta with Lebanese spices

First round on Thursday, with Colombia shining over Japan, and Lebanon over Italy. Jose Narbona presented Tuna ceviche, coconut, onions and mango, an excellent dish but also very spicy, which affected the jury. Okabe presented a rose with petals made of tuna, whose seasoning bore a social message, given the dish was called A flower for peace, which wasn’t just a reference to the war in Ukraine, but also to everyone’s inner serenity.

Jose Narbona (Colombia):  Tuna ceviche, coconut, onions and mango, second place and special award from the jury

Jose Narbona (Colombia):  Tuna ceviche, coconut, onions and mango, second place and special award from the jury

Lebanon and Italy took more demanding roads, with opposite outcomes. Abou Zaki shook everyone with a “meatball” of Tuna, hummus of tomatoes smoked with cedar wood and broth of distilled Mediterranean bruschetta with Lebanese spices. The aroma arrived before the dishes were served and then of course the traditionalists, who couldn’t wait to chew it as if it were a sea steak were unimpressed.

The journey of tuna in the dish from the Italian team, 3rd place

The journey of tuna in the dish from the Italian team, 3rd place

The Italians instead got lost in their trip to from Carloforte to the centre of Sardinia with three different interpretations, a tartare, a marinated slice with a reduction of sheep, and tuna belly with caramel of vinegar and puffed pork. Too much, so much so that it only found and overall brightness on the last night. With around 120 people to serve in difficult conditions, including the temperature of the air and of the kitchen, it would have been wiser to pick just one recipe. Less space for mistakes

A flower for peace, the name of Roberto Okabe’s dish in Carloforte representing Japan

A flower for peace, the name of Roberto Okabe’s dish in Carloforte representing Japan

On the second night Lebanon competed against Japan and Colombia against Italy. They changed something, especially Abou Zaki, who this time instead of an “arancina” served a proper slice of meat so that people would have no doubt he was using tuna. The practical consequence? He got all tens from the technical jury. A unanimous vote even though, in the rankings after two rounds he didn’t get from the third to the first place, which still belonged to Colombia. The difference was minimal: 9.15 against 9.10. And on Saturday night, the direct match between the two.

Jose Narbona and Mauro Ladu

Jose Narbona and Mauro Ladu

Jose Narbona, in search of the right degree of spiciness sought a compromise while Abou Zaki confirmed the choice made the day before, again with almost every vote a 10 except 2 nines, one from myself because of something less in the hummus and broth. As for the public, it was so numerous and their votes so high for both chefs that from the stage we couldn’t quite get who prevailed of the two. In the end, we had to vote for the competition between Italy and Japan.

Embers at the celebration on Saturday 4th of June at the Tonnara di Isola Piana, on the northern tip of the island of San Pietro

Embers at the celebration on Saturday 4th of June at the Tonnara di Isola Piana, on the northern tip of the island of San Pietro

At last they both did a good performance. And then there was the counting and the summing until everyone cheered Richard, who was as tense as ever. And Jose got the award from the jury for having presented tuna with the wisdom and flavours of his homeland, which in Italy still need to be discovered. It’s not enough to stress its explosive character, it needs to be studied and understood because it’s much different from our own.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso