NEWS FLASH: my vitello tonnato research continues this week with an entry on the Milanese version of the dish over on the Tenuta Carretta blog.
The funniest thing happened last week on my way to Boston to have dinner with a good friend and client of mine at Ribelle, one of the city’s super cool new wave restaurants, opened a few years ago.
After said friend/client emailed wine director Theresa Paopao his request to do a pasta tasting menu, she gently advised that the restaurant’s cooking was not traditional Italian.
She was happy to accommodate his request and our party, of course.
But “I just wanted to put this out there,” she wrote, “so that the only surprises are pleasant ones.”
When we sat down to eat and the first pasta arrived, I was reminded of what my friend and client Tony Vallone always says: for food to be authentically Italian, it must also be creative.
Those are the wholewheat canestri (baskets), above, with robiola due latti (sheep’s and cow’s milk) and sunchoke.
In my view, the excellent food at Ribelle had all the hallmarks of great Italian cuisine: wholesome, fresh ingredients; artisanal food products; al dente cooking times for the pasta; and the creativity and playfulness that sets contemporary Italian gastronomy apart from the rest on the world stage today.
Those are the maccheroni, above, with nori goma and uni (my favorite dish of the evening, especially because the heat was appropriately intense).
You could easily have been served this dish on the Amalfi coast (I recently read, btw, that Campania is now the Italian region with the second highest number of Michelin stars).
A poet is someone who takes the elements of a language (a finite set of words and meanings) and combines them in a new and unique way.
In my view of the enogastronomic world, the same holds for great Italian cookery.
As untraditionally Italian as Ribelle may be, this is the true tradition of authentic Italian cuisine today in my view: imaginative combinations of classic and local ingredients that create new aromas and flavors.
Those are the agnolotti (otherwise, a traditional Piedmontese stuffed pasta), above, filled with boar and served with black trumpet mushrooms.
The rigatoni, above, with octopus and fennel, were another favorite of mine.
I was really impressed by the verve and flair of Ribelle’s cooking and I left the restaurant with a belly satiated and content — I loved the food that much.
Is Ribelle a traditional Italian restaurant? No.
Is it an authentic Italian restaurant? I’ll answer that question with a hearty and al dente “yes.”