Tomato pulp, buffalo milk mozzarella and basil, served at the beginning of the new summer menu at Cracco in Galleria, Milano, debuting on Tuesday 5th of July (photo Zanatta)
At last, tourists are swarming in Milan’s “lounge” and on the first floor Cracco in Galleria is ready for an intense summer, like the one of 2019.
We tasted a preview of some of the dishes in the menu launched on the 5th of July and were struck by the strong identity shown by the restaurant. Actually, our thoughts go back to the beginning of the saga, when Carlo Cracco shared name, duties and honours with Peck, in the first location in Via Victor Hugo. People would go there to find out what would be the new invention of the chef from Vicenza and Matteo Baronetto, in that cellar that attracted foodies from all over Europe.
It was only 2001 and the following twenty years expressed more things in terms of techniques in fine dining than we had in the whole previous century. Even though, as Carlo Cracco brilliantly observed, «the Spain of Ferran Adrià has revolutionised cooking, but not the restaurant industry».
Now even those times seem ripe, but in the meantime it’s been a treat to dine there without thinking, for once, of the endless nuances of sustainability, of personnel crises, of exploiting commis, of urgent reforms that should redesign the cook of the future.
We’re here only to reflect and enjoy the many facets of the food. A cuisine which, today, as in the past, resembles no other but in a different way compared to the past, because it mirrors the ideas of another one-of-a-kind man.
Luca Sacchi and Carlo Cracco, at work together since 2006. Sacchi started as pastry commis and he’s now chef (photo Brambilla/Serrani)
Silvia Cuneo, 23 and Gianluca Sanso, 25, wine manager. The dining room staff is very young and competent
The tasting menu is 200 euros. There are many options for the wine pairing: Attraversando l'Italia (15 glasses, 130 euros), Francia vs Italia (5 glasses, 180 euros). There’s also I Grandi Miti (3500 euros for 6 glasses), which currently includes Alteni di Brassica Gaja 2006, Montrachet Grand Cru Jacques Prieur 2004, Clos de la Roche Humbert Lignier 2012, Chateau Lynch-Bages 1986, Barolo Riserva Borgogno 1947 e Chetaeu d'Yquem 1981
The first glass
The tasting begins: butter with marinated egg yolk (a drug tempting you for a good portion of the meal) and the traditional chips of crispy rice. Not in the photo, the breadsticks
Caramelised Russian Salad
A timeless emblem in the menu. Carlo Cracco has recently revealed some details. Luca Sacchi adds: «This salad represents the origin we don’t want to abandon because it’s a crucial foundation of our creative process. Pure manual technique and a sweet and sour start, an important model for the history of our tradition»
Pulp of tomato, buffalo milk mozzarella and basil
There’s tomato in two shapes: fresh juice and candied/concentrated. The mozzarella is a foam and the basil is in the crispy edge. There are also capers, dried anchovies, oregano. A concentrate of Italian essence
Timorasso Morasso, Cascina Montagnola from Donatella Giannotti. 12 months in stainless steel tanks, contact with the fine lees and finally one year in bottle. An offshoot of Burgundy in the hills of Tortona.
It’s a good example of how the wine list has changed with the pandemic: Gianluca Sanso is working on lowering the margins, especially with Italian wines, often with small wineries
Marinated trout, potatoes and rosemary
A dish that plays with trout and potato, a popular pairing in Italy, both marinated so that you can almost mix them up in terms of flavour and appearance. The service is twofold: to the right there’s a marinated American potato fermented in miso, some boiled potato, mint, rosemary and marinated trout from Garda and powdered rosemary; to the left, a raviolo of fresh pasta filled with trout roe and a thick broth of roasted potatoes and trout carcasses. «The broth recalls the Sunday meals of our childhood, with garlic, oil and rosemary sizzling at the bottom of the backing tin», says Sacchi
Prawns, pistachios and beetroot
Lukewarm purple prawn from Sanremo (another signature ingredient for Cracco) with pistachios and flakes of pistachio paste (made with the microplane) and beetroots cooked in alkermes, coffee and orange. The latter triptych is inspired by Paolo Brunelli’s Gelato dei poeti in Senigallia. And it’s also an evolution of broth of beetroot, coffee and orange, another classic of the restaurant. It’s the only dish from the spring menu (not to be included during the summer menu)
Röttgen, Riesling from Mosel Riserva 2013 from Heymann-Löwenstein: depth, minerality, and not-exceeding hydrocarbons. It seems still young, it has a very long ageing potential
Sauce from the vegetable garden and its scarpetta
Is there any rite that is more anthropologically typical of Italy than scarpetta (the act of scooping the sauce with bread)? The important note of this dish is the jus to the left, entirely vegetal. «It was born from a request made by Cracco», says Sacchi. A nice challenge, accepted and won. The jus is made by toasting the scraps of vegetables from the kitchen in the oven, «Celeriac, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes left to simmer softly, then strained and completed with water of black truffle and Marsala and a knob of smoked butter». The vegetables mostly come from Cracco’s farm Vistamare, in Santarcangelo in Romagna. The bread for the scarpetta is black because it’s grilled. There’s no cutlery here «you must get your hands dirty», the cook recommends. No waste, vegetal sensitivity, para-carnivore pleasure
Istade, Rosato Isola dei Nuraghi, Saraja. Another lesser-known treasure, this time from Sardinia. Fresh, with aromas of peach
Like a Borscht
A dish presented at Identità Milano 2022 (read here). A huge, historical-gastronomic work on the concept of Borscht: it’s basically a dough of beetroot gnocchi (also in the shape of a fermented gnocchi) served lukewarm with sour cream. You won’t find the spoon because the tasting has a finale...
... on the residue of Borscht they pour a broth of beef and pork (in this case, none other than Massimo Spigaroli’s culatello...), which you can once again scoop with some broken steamed pan brioche with cumin seeds.
On the side, there’s space for an easy-to-share complaint: «It’s horrible how we’ve gotten used to the terrible news coming from Ukraine»
Sicilian ginger beer St. George, the base for a small cocktail served right afterwards, Drink Green, with green tomato, cucumber, celery, the green part of shallot, ginger and mint. Vegetal freshness and restored palate
Sauce of stockfish in the style of Vicenza, grilled sole and dark cocoa
Evolution of a dish of scallops and soncino from a few years ago, it’s a filet of sole from the Adriatic sea with a sauce of stockfish in the style of Vicenza and on top of brittle made with butter of sole and cocoa. It’s finished with rocket oil and rocket. Pleasure, pleasure, pleasure
Gentile snail pasta and mussels alla marinara
Of all of Cracco‘s twenty years – in his two locations in Milan – perhaps his most important heritage is with pasta, fresh or dry, as we often recalled on this website. This recipe follows the same approach, and is the result of simple yet brilliant intuitions. The snails from Gentile («a true and rich pasta like the land where they are made», explains Sacchi) enclose a filing of mussels alla marinara, that is to say «the seafood without the shells with an aromatic sauce of parsley and extra virgin olive oil, evaporated white wine, a touch or red… and an intruder». Red and black plums cooked with onion, garlic, parsley and then finished with a touch of white pepper, nutmeg, basil, chilli pepper and water from the mussels… a superb dish, with round acidity and a meaty texture
Gevrey Chambertin Les Seuvrées 2016 from the famous Robert Groffier: it’s his premier cru, in a village near Charmes Chambertin. «A Pinot Noir marked by a splendid balance of spices and fruits», finely explains Sanso. A fabulous pairing with the following dish
Braised oxtail, cherries, chervil and cumin
Usually, the bridge between savoury and sweet dishes comes with the pre-dessert. In this case it’s a main course blending sweet and savoury notes in the same dish, anticipating the growing sweetness of the finale. The oxtail alla vaccinara is served with cherries instead of raisins and the cocoa is in the dough, similar to a puff pastry, but steamed, like with a soft cookie. Inside there’s coriander and cumin which recall Persian and north African stews, with the meat often enclosed in soft and sweet dough. A Middle Eastern breeze in Galleria
Almond, sorbet of Nocino, shallot and caviar
“Milk” of pressed fresh almonds and sorbet («almost a granita») of Nocino liqueur: two nuts that recall each other and support each other in their sensorial and chromatic assonance. Then a touch of slightly bitter shallot, some fresh cream and the lightly sapid note of Royal Siberian Caviar, Malassol method. It’s an assemblage of complimentary elements, of temperatures and contrasts. It's the evolution of a dish that was born as a tribute to Bob Noto
Strawberry, wild strawberry and fragolino
«From the farm owned by Cracco in Santarcangelo came a lot of strawberries»: their pulp is mixed with wild strawberries, red shiso, a sorbet strawberries and angostura (very strong), strawberry sugar and homemade fragolino. Fruity freshness after the opulence. A dessert that disappears with the season (to be followed by Roasted peach and mango with pepper and liquorice, a name itself attractive)
Light cream with salted capers with lime and lemon
An upside-down panna cotta (but creamier) with the aromas of capers in the shape of spices and, on top, a concentrated gelatine of lemon. Once again, a dessert non-dessert. The happy ending for a pastry chef happy to have become a chef
Gabriele Zanatta’s opinion: on establishments, chefs and trends in Italy and the world
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes.
Carlo Cracco and Luca Sacchi opened the second day in the Auditorium at Identità Milano 2023 with their lecture (photo by Brambilla / Serrani)
Riccardo Camanini with the menu from Lido 84 made with artisanal paper produced following the ancient process recovered by Toscolano Paper in Toscolano Maderno (Brescia). Photos from Nicolò Brunelli