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A Slice of Northern Italy in Midtown

A Slice of Northern Italy in Midtown


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Seoul native Executive Chef Chad Brown cooks fresh and exacting Italian dishes at Davio's

Try this roasted baby beet and goat cheese salad drizzled with a beet vinaigrette.

There's a book about Chef-Restaurateur Steve DiFillippo, the man behind Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse's steady proliferation from Boston southward to Atlanta, Philly, and now NYC. "It had been a longtime goal of mine to open a Davio's Manhattan", says DiFillippo and now it's a reality at 451 Lexington near Grand Central. Di Fillippo's book entitled It's All About the Guest says it all about what to expect here. Davio's Manhattan offers a striking array of seating options for such a relatively compact space. To your left at the entrance is a small outdoor patio.

Head downstairs to the reception and to your right, Davio’s Chef’s Table surrounded by high top tables overlooks an open kitchen showcasing an open-flame pizza oven. And on the 27th floor, a 75-seat outdoor enclosed roof deck awaits. Seoul native Executive Chef Chad Brown cooks up super fresh and exacting Italian dishes. The linguini with Razor & Manila clams decisively wafts briny ocean while greens in salads like their roasted baby beet and goat cheese drizzled with a beet vinaigrette exude just-picked-from- the-garden vibrancy even in the dead of NYC winters. Chef Brown believes, “If you can do it right, it works. What I like best is getting precise with my sharpest knives on prime cuts ranging from our center cut Filet Mignon to Yellow Fin tuna.”

Sommelier Chris Sweet superbly pairs your dish with a selection from from Davio's backlit 425 bottle mother lode displayed on mahogany racks. He also crafts seasonal cocktails based on fresh harvested ingredients like roasted Habanero, and mole bitters in their Nebbia and Chardonnay infused Spring 44 handcrafted vodka with organic white grapes in their First Press. The resulting flavor profiles give you the sense these cocktails were prepared in the kitchen garden instead of at the bar.

You didn't think you were leaving without dessert did you? Refreshing sweets like espresso topped gelato and silky Brule are best accompanied by a glass of Poli Absente, a fine Puglian grappa.


Wines of Northern Italy

I’ve partnered with Enoteca Alessi whose wine and product baskets are perfect for a live virtual wine tasting series!

How it works:
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A great way to treat yourself or share as a holiday gift with others


Thanks to friends having their wedding on the shores of Lake Iseo, we found ourselves in this virtually untouched part of the Italian lakes region.

We didn’t really know what to expect before we got here. We’ve been to other lakes in the region – Lake Como, Lake Maggiore – but this was unlike the others.

Before we left Australia, we even quizzed an old family friend who hails from Genoa, also in northern Italy, on Lake Iseo. He looked at us blankly and told us there wasn’t much there. It shows even locals don’t know much about this little wonder.


Pungent and Prized, However You Slice It (Preferably, Thin)

THE ancient Romans appreciated them. Uncanny pigs and dogs ferret them out at the bases of oak trees in Piedmont, Perigord and Provence. They are truffles. And now New Yorkers have caught the scent.

There are still some clerks in fancy food shops who, asked about white truffles, transfer callers to the candy department, just as there are some restaurant patrons who protest that they do not want chocolate on their pasta. But that kind of gaffe is becoming relatively rare.

Thierry Farges, whose company in TriBeCa, Aux Delices des Bois, sells truffles retail and wholesale, said: ''There is more education when it comes to truffles today. Consumers are more aware of them. There are also more options.''

The options start with fresh white and black truffles, which must be very fresh so the texture is firm, not spongy. Then there are truffle butter, truffle juice, truffle paste, truffle cheese, truffle pasta and especially truffle oil. This year, more restaurants than ever are offering dishes with truffles, both white and black. Trufflemania has taken hold.

The season for the pungently aromatic white truffles from the Piedmont region of northern Italy began in October and is now in full swing. It should last until late next month.

This year at least, the importers and connoisseurs contend that the quality is superb. Thanks to a beneficent mix of wet weather and dryness, the truffles are firm and fragrant. They are typically beige to brown and can be the size of a knobby golf ball but are sometimes as big as a fist. Not only restaurants but also retail shops are doing a big business in truffles.

''It's been ages since we've had a good crop, and they're flying out of here,'' said Steven Jenkins, a partner in Fairway markets on the Upper West Side and in Harlem, where white truffles are priced at a rock-bottom $59 an ounce.

Alan Obsatz, the owner of Butterfield Market on the Upper East Side, said he is selling two to three times more truffles than usual. ''We've even had to start carrying truffle shavers for our customers,'' he said.

Retailers also say that truffle oil is selling well. Indeed, truffle oil threatens to become the next balsamic vinegar.

Like balsamic vinegar, a hand-crafted, richly flavored delicacy that has been commercialized and cheapened into a sweet, dark substance of little merit, white truffle oils also vary in quality.

A fine white truffle oil like Urbani brand is a fragrant and highly perishable infusion of white truffles in olive oil, best purchased in small quantites, used before it fades and typically priced at $10 to $15 for about 2 ounces. But many brands are acrid, test-tube mixtures that never saw a piece of white truffle.

Sam Hazen, the chef who just took over the kitchen at Cascabel, an American restaurant in SoHo, is serving a roasted wild-mushroom soup with white truffle oil. He said that these days, everyone is using truffle oil. ''Right now it's seasonal, so you get on the bandwagon,'' he said.''

But is the bandwagon becoming overloaded?

''You can't overdo fresh white truffles, but there is too much truffle oil, too much bad truffle oil,'' said Tony May, the owner of San Domenico, where fresh white truffles are shaved over the food for $4 a gram. ''It's a disgrace.''

At the Sign of the Dove, Andrew dɺmico, the executive chef, said truffle oil has to be used sparingly. 'ɻut there are some weird uses,'' he added, and described a customer who regularly comes into the bar and orders a quesadilla with his drink, asking for white truffle oil on it, instead of sour cream.

''We do what he wants,'' Mr. dɺmico said. ''I try to take care of my customers.''

Rosario Safina, co-owner of Urbani Truffle, a major importer based in Long Island City, Queens, says he is getting orders for truffle oil from restaurants like Bowery Bar and Lemon that never buy fresh truffles.

''I wonder if some of these chefs really know how good truffles should taste,'' he said.

The good ones are intense, slightly garlicky and have a distinctive, almost off-putting smell. And of course, they are expensive.

High-end restaurants like San Domenico, the Four Seasons, Il Nido, Bravo Gianni, Barbetta and Parioli Romanissimo shower paper-thin shavings of white truffle on risotto, fettuccine and other dishes, charging anywhere from $15 to $50 a person.

All-truffle dinners also have an enthusiastic following. Palio, a restaurant in the Equitable Center on Seventh Avenue, just held a sold-out, six-course white truffle dinner to benefit Citymeals-on-Wheels, a charity that helps provide meals for the homebound elderly. Felidia, another restaurant in midtown that uses a pound or two of white truffles a night in season, held two special white truffle dinners, for which it charged $195 a person, and also sold out.

But a taste or a whiff of truffle does not have to break the bank. Cascabel in SoHo is serving seared halibut with white truffles and truffle oil for $28. At Follonico in the Flatiron district, a luncheon appetizer of grilled portobello mushrooms with white truffle oil is $7.50. Some restaurants, including Le Madri, drizzle white truffle oil on pizza.

And the trufflemania is likely to continue once the season for fresh black truffles from France, as well as from Spain and Italy, kicks in by early January.

At Trois Jean, a French bistro on the Upper East Side, a truffle festival has become a year-round feature. Trois Jean has a menu of truffle dishes that segues from white in autumn to black in winter. From June through August, there are summer truffles, somewhere between the two but not as good as either.

''These days, anything that says truffle seems to sell,'' Mr. Safina of Urbani Truffle said. In Italy there is even a white truffle mayonnaise on the market, so I'm sure we haven't seen the end of it.''

Sold by the Ounce, Like Gold

THOSE wishing to buy fresh white truffles now and fresh black ones later can find them at the following shops. Prices can change daily.

AUX DELICES DES BOIS 4 Leonard Street (Hudson Street), $75 an ounce.

BALDUCCI'S 424 Avenue of the Americas (Ninth Street), $65 an ounce.

BUTTERFIELD MARKET 1114 Lexington Avenue (78th Street), $75 an ounce.

DEAN & DELUCA 560 Broadway (Prince Street), $75 an ounce.

FAIRWAY MARKET 2127 Broadway (74th Street) and 2328 12th Avenue (132d Street), $59 an ounce.

GRACE'S MARKETPLACE 1237 Third Avenue (71st Street), $75 an ounce.

URBANI TRUFFLE 29-24 40th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, $75 an ounce.


A Slice of Northern Italy in Midtown - Recipes

Scossa should be high on your list if you are a local or are going to be in the Easton area for a visit. Food and service are top notch all the time. We have eaten here countless times and have not once been disappointed.

19 - 23 of 413 reviews

The restaurant has a very good vibe when you walk in the door. We were seated and given a drink menu. We were able to enjoy our drinks without being asked to order our entree. Jenna was very attentive and took our order when we were ready. The beet and green been salad and the Caesar salad were both very good. My wife ordered the veal scallopini with a side order of risotto. Both were outstanding. I ordered the veal Milanese which was not as good because the edges were burnt and it was served not as warm as I like it. The taste was good but a little on the cold side. Desert which was the chocolate torte was outstanding with a cappuccino and an expresso were also very good. One again, Jenna was a star when it came to our service. We will be back.


Bread and oil. Is there anything more natural, delicious, and genuine?

From generation to generation, grandmothers and mothers have handed down the healthiest snack for children: a simple slice of bread (homemade if you’re lucky) and good quality extra-virgin olive oil.

It’s the simplest – yet wholesome – recipe that’s out there! Just pour some oil in a saucer and dip your bread in it!. If the oil is very good and fragrant, salt isn’t even necessary.

Did you know that a classic slice of bread and oil can, with the addition of a few ingredients, become a real appetizer for friends and family? That’s right – just a few ingredients and you have bruschetta!

Discover our original ideas to turn your simple snack into a lovely appetizer!

Bread, oil, and chocolate

This may seem strange to you, but this is a true gourmet combination. Put some good dark chocolate on a slice of bread and oil. Add a pinch of salt if you want. The result will surprise (and delight) you!

Bread, oil, and avocado

Let's call it avocado toast. For the simpler version, place slices of avocado on toasted bread topped with a drizzle of oil.

Bread and oil with salmon

For many people, butter is always better than oil (in the tradition of Northern Europe), but we suggest trying a new, special oil to switch things up. Add some lemon juice, ground white pepper, or fennel.

Bread, oil, and garlic

A recipe for strong palates. Simply toast a slice of bread, season it with a little oil and then rub it with a clove of garlic. To complete, sprinkle with some grated parmesan cheese before returning it to the oven for a few minutes to bake. Use chives for the American version!

Bread, oil, and tomato

Everyone always likes classic bruschetta. Enrich with grated feta cheese or with a diced cucumber. Then add chopped mint or basil leaves. Remember that children like it when the tomato is rubbed on the bread, not sliced.

Bread and oil with pecorino cheese

A truly delicious snack you can make in just a few minutes – in the microwave or in the oven. Just cover some bread slices with oil and season with pecorino cheese. Bake everything in the oven. The cheese will melt on top of the bread and the bottom will be crunchy.

Bread, oil and zucchini noodles

Cut zucchini lengthwise with a mandolin slicer for noodle-like shapes. Season with oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Place on slices of bread with oil and spread some goat cheese on top.

Bread and oil. how about a quick “pizza”?

If you have any leftover bread, cut it into slices and wet it with a little water. Then place the bread in the base of a cake tin, squeezing it well to soften it and sprinkle with oil, tomato purée, salt, and capers. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350°F (180°C) for a great fake pizza!

Bread, oil and beans

A traditional recipe with lots of flavor. Easy to make, delicious and perfect as an entrée, too! The ideal combination? Between whole-wheat bread and washed and precooked cannellini beans. Simply season with oil, salt, and pepper.

Bread, oil and peppers

Fried green peppers and toasted bread are a match made in heaven! If you don't want to fry it, simply cut the peppers into strips and bake them in the oven with oil and a clove of garlic. Once soft, serve warm on slices of toasted Tuscan bread and season with a drizzle of raw oil.


TRADITIONAL DISHES STILL FLOURISH IN NORTHERN ITALY

Considering the hundreds of Italian restaurants in New York and the wide variety of dishes on their menus, it is surprising to realize that the selection represents only a small percentage of intriguing regional dishes of Italy. While I found on a recent six-week tour that it is more difficult to find excellent meals than it was 15 or 20 years ago, Italy still abounds in traditional specialties rarely if ever seen on menus in the United States. This is especially true of northern Italy, even though we consider that region well represented here. Many of these dishes fit the contemporary preference for lightness and freshness, for natural herb seasonings, for high-carbohydrate foods such as pasta and rice with vegetables and for main courses of fish and veal.

It is, therefore, hard to understand why restaurant owners and chefs feel they have to create the often bizarre and exotic dishes of the nuova cucina, their answer to France's nouvelle cuisine. Too many status-conscious Italian restaurateurs rely for novelty on new cliches such as vegetable p^ate fish steamed in lettuce kiwi pink peppercorns, and gravlax. The international adoption of such foods is leading to menus as boring as those that relied on old status symbols such as fillet of sole bonne femme, tournedos Rossini and veal Cordon Bleu.

No risotto stained with berries compares with such traditional combinations as that luxurious rice preparation brightened with mixed vegetables or zucchini blossoms or fresh seafood. Pasta with sesame oil and ginger may have a place on Japanese and health-food menus, but in Italy it seems more interesting to have a unique specialty such as pizzoccheri, the buckwheat flour fettuccine with Swiss chard, potatoes, onion and cheese.

Fortunately there are some young chefs in Italy who are beginning to realize that traditional dishes long forgotten can seem brand new to both tourists and natives. Some of the best of such new-old trattorie are to be found in Venice and Milan.

As rich as all Italian regions are in forgotten dishes, the areas that seem to hold the greatest treasures suitable for contemporary menus are Umbria and Tuscany, which were reported on last week, and Venetia, Lombardy and Liguria, which follow. Bologna Cordon Bleu is a well-rated, attractive modern restaurant in the Grand Hotel Elite, celebrated primarily for its nuovo cucina specialties. Dinner was just this side of disaster, even though I was with Marcella Hazan, who is well known there and who teaches cooking in Bologna. She did know that the original chef had left in April because, according to the owner, he would no longer do as he was told. If the food we had was an example of what the owner wanted done, that chef left in the nick of time. The antipasto included decent renditions of the standard vegetable salads along with delicious herbed periwinkles and an octopus salad that needed more lemon juice. A sweet- sour lemon risotto seemed fine for two bites, then became cloying. Half- spoiled seafood rendered tagliatelle inedible. Better choices were the passatelli (a sp"atzlelike pasta with bread crumbs in the dough) in a celery sauce, and a puree of white beans with garlic and braised chicory. Beef fillet in a creamy strawberry sauce was awful. Equally poor was the stale sole with pistachios. The veal cutlet Bolognese, a local classic, was extremely salty and a rack of lamb was dry. Dinner for five at the Cordon Bleu was $133, but judging by the menu, we were charged less than full prices because of Mrs. Hazan's presence. Cordon Bleu, Grand Hotel Elite, Via Aurelio Saffi 38, 43-74-17. Notai was somewhat better, although far from excellent. At first glance its outdoor cafe looked inviting it takes a while to become aware of the mosquitoes hovering around the plants and the disruptive roar of motorcycles whizzing by. The accommodating staff provided well-aged, hand-sliced prosciutto and peeled ripe figs and excellent large tortelloni with ricotta and fresh tomatoes. Strichetti is an interesting local pasta that looks like noodles that have been pinched off in loose, bow-tie shapes. At Notai that pasta was fine but the vegetable sauce over it seemed scorched. A thin slice of salmon steamed with leeks and shrimp in lettuce leaves had good flavor although it was awash in butter sauce. Calf's liver sauteed with onions was stringy. The worst creation here was a salad of shrimp, apples, nuts and raw beef. Fruit was better than the tart of rancid pignoli nuts. Dinner for two came to $50. Notai, Via dei Pignattari 1, 22-86-94. Imola After three visits to Bologna, I have yet to have an exceptional lunch or dinner in a restaurant. That city perhaps has better restaurants, but after an exceptional lunch at San Domenico in nearby Imola, I decided to return for other meals, using up the time allotted for Bologna. San Domenico is in every way a jewel, a series of countrified but stylish and intimate dining rooms with impeccable formal service and exquisite food that combines traditional dishes and flavorings with nuova cucina lightness and invention. The restaurant is in a 15th-century country house in which the owner, Gianluigi Morini, was raised. From the first bite of appetizers through desserts, the food was exceptional. It would be difficult to pick a favorite appetizer. Candidates surely include the crisp string bean and hazelnut salad in a dressing of heavy sweet cream scallions and lemon juice the bottarga (pleasantly saline pressed tuna-fish roe much like pressed caviar) with black olives and arugula salad the silken liver p^ate with truffles, and a meaty terrine of rabbit in a blond white-wine aspic. Pastas have all the depth of flavor one could hope for and at the same time are delicate and original. Garganelli, the freshly made tiny twists of pasta that are a specialty in Emilia-Romagna, here get a bright primavera sauce of fresh vegetables and are as delightful as the miniature, airy green gnocchi adrift in sage-scented cream. Bologna's famed tortellini probably have never been served more elegantly than here, where the meat-filled pasta rounds appear in a gossamer sauce of cream blended with goose liver. Riso mantecato, literally stirred rice, is an outstanding risotto with rivulets of butter and reduced meat stock that gilds the mounds of creamy rice. These appetizers and pastas are hard acts to follow, but main courses stand up well at San Domenico. Pungent green herbs in a white-wine butter sauce brightened poached branzino, a fish much like our own striped bass. Tender fillets of rosemary-perfumed lamb (noci di agnello) were roasted rare as ordered, and red-wine vinegar and lemon combined for a piquant sauce just right for a rare fillet of beef. Roasted pigeon stuffed with duck livers, rabbit meat and herbs was rich but seductive, and a brassy but subtle mustard sauce enlivened roseate veal kidneys. The only dishes not up to the house standards were a breast of duck that was too well done and an overly dry braised breast of guinea hen. All main courses were decked out with beautiful vegetables, some sauteed, others in flans and timbales. Crusty rolls are baked twice a day, just before lunch and dinner. Desserts were as good as other courses. Equally delicious were the coffee bavaroise with an intense espresso coffee sauce a cassata with candied fruits and wild strawberries that gave new meaning to that Sicilian classic the bitter-chocolate ice- cream fondant in vanilla sauce, and a charlotte of frozen zabaglione with raspberry sauce. Fruit sherbets were also lovely, as was a midmeal palate refresher of grapefruit sherbet with dry vermouth. Only the constantly banging kitchen door disrupted the elegant tone of the inner dining room. Meals here average about $50 a person without wine. Ristorante San Domenico, Via Gaspare Sacchi 1, 29-000. Venice Osteria da Fiore has been a wine tavern for 100 years and a seafood restaurant owned by the Martine family for the past 25. The young brothers and cousins work together to provide impeccable, dedicated service, exhibiting unbridled respect for the food they present. When I reached for lemon to add to the beautiful grilled razor clams and scallops with roe on the half shell, a waiter said: ''Taste it first. It is seasoned.''

Watching any of the brothers or cousins who work here gentling the succulent risotto - made with shrimp or fish or radicchio or with squid and its ink - from platter onto plate, one expects it to be as exceptional as it is. Pasta with clams was also delicious, and fettuccine with salmon is a favorite with regulars.

Before we got to pasta there was an extraordinary parade of seafood appetizers: raw sea urchins in their grassy half shells, raw ridged clams, seafood salad, the grilled shellfish and a salad of tiny whole octopus, sliced conch and pearly squid eggs marinated in lemon juice and olive oil. Broiled fish is as fresh and perfectly cooked as appetizers. An outstanding mixed seafood fry included the tiny sweet soft-shell crabs.

Desserts that were proper finishes were strawberries with lemon juice and sugar, and warm fig tart.

Dinner for four came to $97.

Osteria da Fiore, San Polo 2308, 37- 208. Corte Sconta , a beguiling three- year-old trattoria specializing in seafood, is much touted as a secret find. If it proved a bit less wonderful than Osteria da Fiore, that was perhaps because our lunch was the first meal served after the restaurant had been closed for vacation.

The sunny yellow courtyard shaded with a grape arbor inspired the name, ''sconta'' being Venetian dialect for ''hidden.'' The whole restaurant is fairly well hidden in fact to find it begin by asking your way from the Arsenale vaporetto station on the Grand Canal. Corte Sconta is run by two young couples who are dedicated to preserving traditional Venetian cooking, which they are doing with great success.

Here too there is the progressive appetizer of raw, grilled and marinated fish and seafood, including a bowl of hot, garlic-scented mussels and the most spectacular freshly cracked Venetian crab (granseole) that I had anywhere. Broiled and fried fish are the expertly prepared main courses. The only disappointment was the pasta with a fresh tuna and tomato sauce that was dry and a bit greasy.

At the end of the meal guests are offered the dessert wine, vin santo, with some of the big and soothing kosher biscuit-cookies baked for this restaurant in the ghetto district. Lunch for two was $60.

Corte Sconta, Calle del Pestrin 3886, 27-024. La Madonna, just off the Grand Canal on the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge, is a huge, airy family restaurant where tourists get good, moderately priced fish meals and brusque, rude treatment, while regulars get sensational fish meals and service to match.

Seafood salad was good if less sparkling than those at the two previously mentioned Venetian restaurants. A fish soup with toasted croutons and big chunks of fish had a lovely balance of herbs, garlic and tomato. Spaghetti with clams out of the shell was decent and a bargain at $3. Well- grilled fillets of the white-fleshed San Pietro fish were delicious as was the tender but crackling fried calamari. Lunch for two came to $34.

La Madonna, San Polo 594, 23-824. Al Graspa de Ua is an old favorite, also off the Grand Canal but on the San Marco side of the Rialto Bridge. Seafood has held up well here but meat dishes seemed stale and lackluster. Assorted shellfish appetizers are the best starting point, followed by an especially light and delicate version of linguine with squid in ink. Linguine pescatore (with mixed seafood and tomatoes) was both sprightly and properly briny. Frying is less careful than broiling, comparing a limp mixed seafood fry and beautiful grilled scampi.

Lunch for two with wine and service was $55.

Al Graspa de Ua, San Marco 5094, 23-647. Antico Martini is almost absurdly formal, considering its casual setting on the tiny square opposite the Teatro La Fenice. This is a popular restaurant where we had one very good and one very ordinary lunch, both expensive. Some Continental dishes are on the menu, but I stuck to Italian specialties. San Daniele prosciutto with figs was a far better appetizer than the dry, tasteless crabmeat that must have been picked from the shell hours before it was served. True risotto with crunchy grains of rice and a seafood sauce could not be improved upon, nor could the calf's liver Veneziana with thick flakes of liver and sauteed onions on cornmeal polenta. Roast lamb was also good, as was a coffee semifreddo ice cream with zabaglione.

Lunch a few days later was less successful. Tortellini were pasty and thick. Veal cutlet Milanese was as limp as it might be on a cafeteria steam table, and chicken cacciatore with soggy polenta would be at home in a TV dinner Italian-style.

The dinner for two was $104 and the lunch was $45 without wine. Antico Martini, Campo San Fantin 1983, 24-121. Harry's Bar is now owned by the Cipriani hotel chain, an organization that has sent several chefs to American restaurants. Judging by the expensive, bland and lackluster fare they dish up at this fabled rallying point of Hemingway and his devotees, they would do well to keep a few skilled chefs for themselves.

Carpaccio, the raw-beef appetizer invented here and named for the early-Renaissance Venetian painter, is decent but bland. Risotto with porcini arrived so quickly that it must have been based on precooked rice. Green noodles gratineed with cream were soft and insipid. Liver veneziana and sole meuni ere were fair.

Desserts were high points, especially meringues with fluffs of cream and a cake layered with mousseline of zabaglione. Seating is elbow to elbow and the service is slam-bang but ultimately accommodating.

Lunch for two with a quarter liter of the house white wine was a $110.

Harry's Bar, Calle Vallaresso 1323, 36-797. Ristorante Do Forni is the most visible restaurant in Venice, with its signs hung out as invitations even at the big parking garage outside the city. It is huge, noisy and jammed - a corny three-ring circus of a tourist restaurant, where service is pushy and indifferent seafood antipasti were stale cooked rice with scampi, though decent, was not true risotto as billed a greasy amatriciana sauce topped the large pasta, bucatini.

Broiled fish and the roasted veal shin, stinco, were acceptable, but desserts were not.

Ristorante Do Forni, Calle Specchieri 468, 32-148. Portofino Il Navicello , meaning ''ship'' or '➺rge,'' takes its name from the sort of boat-shaped tilt of its outdoor cafe. Overlooking the raffish marina where dreamboat yachts drop anchor, this colorful trattoria is exactly what everyone hopes to find in Portofino. Specialties are delicate versions of herbaceous Ligurian classics.

The mixed seafood salad that is a standard throughout Italy takes on new meaning here in a sparkling fresh combination of squid, mussels and octopus. A more unusual fish appetizer consists of chiffon-sheer slices of raw swordfish marinated in lemon juice and dressed with oil, parsley and flecks of red onion. A savory mixed fry includes crisp and greaseless zucchini, tortellini, fried sage leaves and mozzarella, to which tiny fried macaroons (amaretti) are sometimes added, is equally good as a shared appetizer or a main course. Irresistible pastas included big green lasagne noodles broken in random lengths and enfolding a smooth, thick pesto sauce and pansotti - a version of ravioli filled with wild green mountain herbs, eggs and cheese and topped with a pale, fragrant sauce of pounded pignoli and walnuts, breadcrumbs softened in milk, garlic, fresh marjoram and grated Parmesan.

Scampi were moist and tender, both sauteed in butter and oil and finished with a dash of brandy and white wine, and simply grilled and glossed with butter. Dentice, a fish close to striped bass, was impeccably baked to retain its sheen and flavor.

In addition to grilled meats, the most popular nonfish specialty on this menu is vitello al uccelletti, literally veal birds, strips of veal sauteed in butter over high heat until faintly golden brown, then simmered for a few seconds with white wine, bay leaves, peppers, olives and pignoli.

A copious dinner for three that included many extra dishes for sampling was $96, with wine and service.

Il Navicello, Salita alla Chiesa 1, 69- 471. Recco Vitturin, a restaurant of long standing in this small, bustling Riviera town, moved a few years ago to a modern setting that is spacious and bright but lacking in character.

The big specialty at Vitturin is the foccacia (usually a bun or roll that varies in shape and filling in each region of Italy). Here it is a huge tart of leafy flour-and-water pastry, much like phyllo leaves, that is baked with a melting cheese filling. It is generally considered a meal, as pizza would be, but some prefer to share orders as appetizers. An especially good pasta dish was trofiette, extruded dumpling-noodles tossed with string beans, potatoes and pesto sauce.

Dinner for six with wine and much sampling came to $105.

Vitturin, Via dei Giustiniani 48-50. 73-12-25.

Milan Gualtiero Marchesi is a semi-nuova restaurant that deserves its accolades. Named for its chef-owner, the downstairs restaurant suggests a pleasant supper club, although the arty modern sculptures are pretentious and graceless. Cooking, on the other hand, is neither. Food is attractively presented, but there are no tortured arrangements and almost everything was flavorful and delicate. P^ates of game birds, lacy green tagliarini with scallops and their roe in a pesto sauce and gratineed shrimp were superb only a warm salad of shrimp and cucumber seemed contrived and bland.

Rombo, a fish that resembles turbot, had a cloudlike filling of trout mousse and a pink Nantua sauce. Steamed pigeon was tender and full of a good gamy flavor grapes did not make its sauce too sweet.

Thyme and rosemary worked their magic on rare roasted rack of lamb that was served with a timbale of eggplant mousse. Fruit sherbets, white and dark chocolate mousse with chocolate sauce and Grand Marnier ice cream equaled the rest of the meal. Only a lid of puff pastry over fresh strawberries seemed pointless.

Gualtiero Marchesi, Via Bonvesin de la Riva 9, 74-12-46. Osteria della Cagnola is one of the best of the new-old trattorie. The tiny, bright dining room is the setting for an exceptional antipasto of grilled vegetables marinated in oil and wonderful sausages and hams. In winter, a hot poached sausage of pork liver is served with mashed potatoes. In summer, sausages are suitably of the dried variety. Sage, cream and ricotta raised ravioli to a new level of elegance, while canestrelli - small, salty clams - added their sharp flavor to risotto. Raw sliced beef that seemed to have been lightly seared and dressed with olive oil, parsley and herbs was a cool and sustaining summer main course, as was the mixed grill of swordfish and lotte. Scotch plaid is the decorative motif and Scotch whisky brightens the cr eme caramel.

Osteria della Cagnola, Via Domenico Cirillo 14, 38-94-28. All'Isola is another fairly new and attractive traditional trattoria, with white walls and huge collages.

Among the beautiful appetizers were grilled vegetables vitello tonnato in sauce both pungent and gentle crisp, hot tiny chicken croquettes, and a good seafood salad. Risotto pavese, rice simmered with wine and red beans, was a traditional dish perfectly rendered. Another local specialty, risotto al salto, was a near miss. A slightly crisp pancake made of saffron-scented risotto Milanese, it was too thin and dry.

Veal cutlet Milanese arrived as crisp and tender as that classic should be. Involtini de verza, meat- stuffed leaves of savoy cabbage, was also good, although the filling could have been moister. Thick, exquisitely bittersweet hot chocolate sauce was spooned into airy souffles.

Lunch for two without wine was $33.

All'Isola, Corso Como 10, 65-71-624. Aimo e Nadia offers some of Milan's best nuova cucina, although it does so in a dated pseudo-Polynesian setting. Among the fine creations are the appetizers of warm duck breast in a sweet pepper sauce and a p^ate of scampi that was unexpectedly moist but good when spread on toast. The warm roast pepper stuffed with ricotta was more classic and every bit as good.

Pumpkin blossoms and truffles added color and flavor to a perfectly simmered risotto a satiny sauce of crab and the strong-flavored fish cernia added depth to light gnocchi. Spaghetti with onions and tiny pickled green peppers was gently spiced and satisfying. Roast veal shin, stinco, was served properly pink and at room temperature, a welcome touch during summer. Another fine main course was the boned chicken stuffed with vegetables and giblets.

Desserts are exceptional, especially the sherbet with flakes of fresh coconut and a sauce of wild berries, and the hot baked figs in a subtle sauce of Marsala, Calvados, Armagnac and ground almonds.

Aimo e Nadia, Via Montecuccoli 6, 41-68-86. Boeucc is a 60-year-old restaurant that has weathered well. One may choose between a pretty garden, a stylish grill room or a somewhat dated but romantic dining room reminiscent of those in grand hotels. Wherever you sit you can be sure of getting polite, professional service and dependable renditions of the traditional local dishes such as veal cutlet Milanese, zucchini stuffed with mozzarella and osso buco with risotto Milanese. A dazzling self-service antipasto array can be followed by a delicate soup of tiny clams or the green rigatoni Boeucc tossed with pancetta bacon, cream and black pepper. Pastry desserts looked better than they tasted.

Dinner for three with wine was about $75.

Boeucc, Piazza Belgioioso 2, 79-02- 24. Antica Trattoria della Pesa , in the same family for 103 years, is virtually a museum restaurant. Although the traditional Milanese food turned out is lackluster at times, it is decent enough to make a meal here worthwhile. Though the dining-rooms need fresh paint, the Art Nouveau accents throughout add charm. So does the staff, which could not be more friendly or efficient.

Among the choices of regulars are the grilled steak and the bollito misto: boiled beef, chicken, veal and, sometimes, tongue served with a piquant green sauce. It can be ordered for groups of five or more. Stufato, a beef stew, was satisfying, as was the cool Milan summer soup, minestrone semifreddo. While osso buco was bland but acceptable, the risotto al salta served with it was excellent. So were desserts such as the loaf-shaped pannettone layered with whipped cream and topped with powdered chocolate and stracchino, ice cream with hot coffee poured over it.

Lunch for two with one glass of wine was $32.

Antica Trattoria della Pesa, Viale Pasubio 10, 66-57-41. Savini , in Milan's famed Galleria, and Giannino, on Via Sciesa, are probably the most famous restaurants in the city. Meals at both proved disappointing despite gracious and efficient service. Scaletta is favored by all guidebooks and by Milan's design community. It seems to attract an anti- Gualtiero Marchesi faction. The city's fashionable food-conscious citizenry seems divided between these two Meccas of nuova cucina. My vote is firmly with Gualtiero Marchesi despite the casual, stylish dining room at Scaletta, with its modern prints and paintings, its plants and colored Murano glass. Unfortunately, I did not sit in the dining room. On a broiling hot night our party of four was seated at a lone dark and airless table in the bar even though we had a reservation and were willing to wait for the other room. We were ignored for 10 minutes and then were treated to surly, overbearing service and an absurd recitation of dishes, course by course, with no prices.

What followed represented culinary innovation at its worst. Fair appetizers included raw codfish in a flavorless marinade and herring in horseradish cream. The best choice was a p^ate of snails with finely ground walnuts. All pastas were characterless, including watery gnocchi in an unpleasant sauce of fish and clams and a risotto murky with strawberries and stingingly salty with cheese. Gritty pink peppercorns were the most distinguishing feature of the tough sliced duck breast. Similarly disappointing were the warm salad of shrimp and greens and beef in a sticky mint and marrow sauce.

It would be hard to pick the worst of three highly touted ice creams perhaps the mint suggesting cold toothpaste was not quite as bad as those flavored with sage and rosemary, which tasted like cough drops.

Scaletta, Piazzale Stazione Genova 3, 83-50-290. Forcola La Brace is an old wine canteen and country restaurant at the foot of the Italian Alps north of Lake Como. Close to the Swiss and Austrian borders, the Valtellina region of Lombardy is known for snowy weather and the wild porcini mushrooms that grow on the chestnut-and-pine-covered slopes. The restaurant's name is a clue to its specialty: brace is a fire over which meat and fish are broiled. Here the mixed grill of meats is supplemented with a big wedge of a country cheese that forms a charred bottom crust as it toasts over the wood fire. The air-dried beef, bresaola, produced in this region is delicious served with pepper, oil, parsley and shavings of Parmesan cheese.

The outstanding specialty was the pizzoccheri, fettuccine made with fine, dark buckwheat flour that is combined with Swiss chard, sage, red onions, potato, butter and cheese. Buckwheat, called here, romantically, grano de saraceno - Saracen grain - also makes polenta Taragna, a winter dish that, it is said, must absorb a quarter-pound each of butter and bitto, a local cheese. Risotto with porcini was excellent even though the mushrooms were dried at this season. The grilled meats were accompanied by exceptional potatoes mashed with prosciutto, butter and melted cheese.

Lunch or dinner here will be about $30 a person. Forcola is a two-and- a-half-hour drive from Milan.


History of cheese in Italy

Yet, Italians got serious about cheese for real in medieval times, when some of our best-loved cheeses were created and cheese truly became the staple of our cuisine. It’s a story of monks, hermits, and taxes. A story that begins on the humblest of Italian tables, rose to royal popularity, and has been continuing today. So, what is that we need to know about medieval cheese and the history of cheese in Italy?

Italian cheese in the Middle Ages

Or the story of Italian cheese, of its monks and … cows

Even the Italian word for cheese, formaggio, finds its roots in the Middle Ages. Linguists underline it became common in the 13th century and that it originated from the Old French “fromage,” itself loaned from the late Latin term “formaticum,” which means “put into shape.” In those times, every household in the countryside produced cheese. Sheep, goats, and cows were invaluable patrimonies for farmers, who would very rarely kill them for meat, preferring to take advantage of their virtually endless milk production. Truth is that, however, milk was barely consumed as such, and was almost entirely used to make medieval cheese, which was a nutritious, cheap, and easily available source of proteins.

It was particularly popular in our northern regions, but well known in the South, too: the famous Salerno school of medicine, the most ancient medical school in the world, already discussed the virtues and, alas, dangers of consuming too much cheese between the 12th and 13th century, suggesting to consume it in small quantities.

Difficult to follow their directives, however, for the hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t have the money to put meat on their table on a regular basis. Medievalist and food historian Massimo Montanari, cited in a very interesting article from Italian history monthly Focus Storia, emphasizes how cheese was mentioned incredibly often in medieval documents, proving how common a food it was and how profoundly tied to the socio-cultural fabric of the country it already was in those centuries. What more we need to know about the history of cheese in Italy during the Middle Ages?

Different types of cheese. Ph. Goir on depositphotos

Northern Italian monks and birth of a very popular Italian cheese

Popular as it was, cheese would have remained the food of peasants and farmers, were it not for the ingenious ways of Northern Italian monks, inventors of the emperor of cheeses: grana. We have to ideally travel to the fertile plains south of Milan, sometimes after the year 1135, when the Abbey of Chiaravalle was founded.

Here, Cistercian monks began an extensive deforestation process to turn woods around the abbey into farmland, which they supplied with plenty of water thanks to an advanced irrigation system. With such a wealth of space and forage at their disposal, the monks increased their cattle numbers, ending up with large quantities of milk. But what to do with it, how to preserve it? Well, doing what everyone else around there did, you may think: making cheese.

History of cheese in Italy – Gorgonzola, Grana Padano

You’re right, but things weren’t so simple. Up to then, production was limited to fresh cheeses which, albeit lasting much longer than milk, still had a pretty limited shelf life. Mind, not that medieval spoiled cheese was such a bad idea: legend says that the coming to be of gorgonzola, Italy’s best known blue, happened quite by chance sometimes between the 10th and the 12th century when a bunch of stracchino wheels got moldy.

That wasn’t the monks of Chiaravalle’s cup of tea, though. Being known cheese producers, they had an idea: cooking milk curd for long to obtain a thicker cheese that could be matured and preserved for longer. They called it caesus vetus (mature cheese, quite literally), we know it today as grana padano.

Cheese: the food of monks and farmers. Or so it was at the beginning, in the Dark Ages. Soon enough, though, even the wealthiest of lords ended up with a slice of cheesy goodness on his brocade-clad tables. Farmers almost never owned the lands they worked and had to pay rent. More often than not, this wasn’t done with money, but with products and foods: thanks to this, cheese made it onto the table of Italy’s rich and famous, who couldn’t have enough of the deliciously tangy thing, once upon a time considered a lowly, undignified product.

Cheese in the Middle Ages. Ph. Public Domain on wikimedia

Some last curiosity about Medieval cheese

… And so it goes the story of Italian cheese and of how the medieval mind made it famous. Come here, though. I have some more curiosities for you:

  • Its is in the Middle Ages that the Italian habit of eatingcheese at the end of a meal developed: apparently, it was suggested by doctors of the time to do so.
  • According to food historians, more than 20 types of cheese we still consume regularly today were created in the Middle Ages. Along with grana and gorgonzola, we should mention also Friuli’s Montasio: even if it acquired its name only in the late 18th century, its production had begun in the Abbey of Moggio Udinese, sometimes in the 1200s.
  • Mozzarella was known already by the Greeks inhabiting the South of Italy in the 6th and 5th century BC, but got its name in the Middle Ages when people started to associate the cheese with the act of “mozzare” (to cut), necessary to make single mozzarella from larger curd pieces.
  • More about mozzarella, which was produced also in the Abbey of San Lorenzo in Capua, in the Campania province of Caserta. According to a 12th-century document, the monks offered it to all pilgrims passing by.
  • The patron saint of cheesemakers is Saint Lucius: he lived in the 13th century when he would make cheese to feed the poor of the milk of his landlord’s estate. He was killed for it.

…in conclusion about the history of cheese in Italy

While the history of cheese in Italy can be dated back to antiquity, the Middle Ages marked the turning point for the development of Italian cheese tradition, to the point we can really talk about a “medieval history” of Italian cheese. It is during these centuries, especially within the quiet and peace of monastic communities, that many of our beloved formaggi, including grana, parmigiano and mozzarella, was created. All hail medieval monks, then for their lasting contribution to Italian cuisine!

If you would like to read the original article which inspired this piece, look for the well documented research by Daniele Venturoli, published on the Spring Edition of Focus Storia Collection.


Restaurant Review : Bologna – the slice of Northern Italy in Bangalore | India

At Indira nagar , one can discover the wine and food tradition s of Bologna in the medieval setup of northern Italy. I would call it a journey to discover the culinery tastes of Emilia Romagna through its famous flavours:, the land of balsamic vinegar, Pdo Modena ham, world’s most grated cheese Parmigiano Reggiano and Bologna wines from the hills. For those who are unaware , Bolgna is the largest city of Emilia-Romagna region, the Italy’s gastronomic paradise.

Now coming to this restaurant by the same name , Bologna was founded by Jason Cheru, one of the former stakeholders of another reputed Italian restaurant brand in Bangalore Chianti and also Fiorano . With traditional style interiors with arched pillars , rustically coloured walls and old lamps , with an option of dining at balcony overlooking the bustling 100 feet road. Unlike the other premier Italian eateries , the menu is simple and dishes here reminds of rustic village flavours of Italy. The seafood soup , Zuppa di Frutti di mare was our first dish here.


The 6 Secret Ingredients That'll Make Your Slapdash Dinner Taste Like Real Italian Food

Because if you're not in Italy, you can at least eat like you are.

I'm quite certain I don't have an ounce of Italian in my blood, but after a week of eating and drinking my way across Italy on a Trafalgar guided vacation, I now feel that I can claim a certain gastronomic expertise. It's nearly impossible not to fall in love with what (and how) Italians eat: Jam-filled brioche and cappuccinos for breakfast, multi-course meals of flavorful antipasti, fresh pasta (the fact that pasta is its own course is enough) and simple grilled fish, and the occasional affogato or slice of pizza when hunger strikes on the go.

In Italy, food isn't a race or a reward but a daily luxury to be savored. After an unforgettable trip to Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Venice, my promise to myself is that I'm going to let that attitude linger as long as I can, starting first with my approach to cooking and eating, followed closely by updating my shopping list. These six ingredients I developed an appreciation for while dining my way through Italy will play a big role. Buon appetito!

1. Sheep's Milk Ricotta

While ricotta fresca can be made from cow, goat or buffalo's milk, it's the sheep's milk variety that stole my heart. I had the pleasure of sourcing and cooking fresh zucchini blossoms with Chef Libero at Florence's Villa Machiavelli, where we taste-tested the lightly-fried purist version (the Florence way) and another stuffed with sheep's milk ricotta (the Roman way). Both are delicious &mdash but when cooking at home, I'd advise everyone to go big and opt for the latter.

But there's a major difference between the ricotta you see in plastic tubs at your grocery story and ricotta fresca, found at a proper cheese shop. With a smooth texture and mild, sweet flavor, fresh sheep's milk ricotta will practically transform a tomato, olive, and basil bruschetta into its very own meal. Ricotta fresca can be just as perfect on its own, with a drizzle of honey, served alongside fresh figs and crusty bread.

2. Mostarda

I first tried mostarda at a family-run deli in Venice, alongside some taleggio cheese, washed down with a glass of friulano. The jam-like condiment of candied fruit (often quince) and mustard powder is traditional of Northern Italy, but variations can be found all over the country.

While mustard + fruit may sound like a strange combination, it's actually a refreshing and unique complement to the cheese board served at your next dinner party. Pick it up at a local speciality shop and use it in place of a chutney or fig jam to look fancy in front of all your friends if you're more into DIY, here's a simple recipe.

3. Chianti

This dry red wine is practically synonymous with Italy, and while it's fantastic to drink&mdashI love Castello del Trebbio's Chianti Rufina, made with 100% Sangiovese grapes&mdashit's also great for cooking. While at a wine tasting at the Castello del Trebbio vineyard, the producer told our Trafalgar group a story about how they were having problems with wild boar eating all their grapes&mdashso they found an innovative solution: Cooking wild boar in Chianti makes a fabulous ragu and it solves that rampant wild animal issue. YUM. Pick up a bottle&ndashand a boar&mdashand try this recipe ASAP.

4. Fresh Pasta

If you like pasta (is that even a question?), you need to try making it at home at least once. It's so laughably easy, that I'm sure you'll want to do it again.

I was converted by Chef Fabio Bongianni during a cooking class in Rome, where we made fresh spinach ravioli. The ingredient list consisted of just four items: flour, water, one egg, and a simple pasta machine like this one.

5. Saffron

One of the most precious and expensive spices in the world, saffron is that extra ingredient that will set your Italian cooking apart it adds color, aroma and flavor to both sweet and savory dishes&mdashand a little bit goes a long way. One of my favorite recipes that uses saffron in all its glory is Risotto alla Milanese, a creamy rice dish with a single tablespoon of saffron required (I love this recipe).

But saffron isn't just for purists. While in Italy, I was introduced to a new form of saffron that I'd never seen or tasted before: Saffron jelly. Since then, I have been indulging in this simple recipe each night for the past week: 1 dollop of saffron jelly + 1 slice of salty Fontina cheese + 1 crunchy crostini = delicious.

6. White Truffles

I get so excited when I see white truffles on a menu&mdashnot truffle oil, but whole, beautiful, fresh white truffles sliced over a simple plate of pasta. And if you need to justify a plane ticket to Italy, please do so knowing that Umbria is considered the heart of truffle country.

If you can't make the trip, picking up a jar of preserved black truffles proves a close second. A simple truffled chicken recipe requires only placing sliced black truffle under the skin, seasoning appropriately, and roasting at 400°. Your kitchen will smell like heaven, you'll look like an Italian cooking master, and your guests will surely go home happy.

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