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Chefs Francesco Apreda and Luigi Taglienti have more than one thing in common. They both have 1 Michelin star, they share a breathtaking view looking out the windows of their restaurants: Piazza Trinità dei Monti for Apreda of Hassler in Rome, and Piazza della Scala for Taglienti of Trussardi alla Scala in Milan. Even if one is originally from the South of Italy – Apreda, who was born in Naples - and the other is from the North – Taglienti was born in Savona, both share in a certain nostalgia for their home cities.
Sometimes – on extraordinary occasions – they even share a workspace. At the Culinaria event in Rome, for example. On Sunday March 17th, chef Francesco Apreda opened the doors of his kitchen to his colleague Luigi Taglienti to present a very special menu to the guests, one that combined their different territories in a contemporary key. The Chefs shared with us the very special menu and spoke about the occasion that brought them together.
“It's been a pleasure having Luigi in my kitchen, said Francesco Apreda – and create a journey that brings together Northern Italy's traditional dishes with the Southern ones, get inspired to make something new, surprising, but never too excessive”. “I haven’t known Francesco for very long, but we immediately realized we agreed on a lot of things: the search for new ingredients, absolute respect for tradition and the savvy but not extreme use of technology”, said Taglienti.
In this occasion Northern flavors alternated with Southern ones. Starting with Black and white Squid and a Warm, liquid, smoked Caprese salad. “The Black and White Squid dish is becoming my signature creation”, comments Taglienti “and even for this dinner I’m continuing to research the world of acidic flavors with fresh elements – these are two features of my cooking today.”
“Often the inspiration for a dish is a story or a memory” says Hassler’s chef Apreda. “For every dish I invent, there’s a story behind it. I’m not able to just improvise something. The Warm, liquid, smoked Caprese salad, for example, is both complex and simple – and I have my mother to thank for it. My mother used to let fresh mozzarella sit on a counter top for three days, immersed in its own liquid. She never would have put it in the refrigerator. All I did was add tomato essence and a touch of smoky flavor. This is how I try to recreate a taste of a memory.”
The first courses of the 4-handed menu included Lemon risotto, Penja’s white pepper and marinara mussels and Pasta and potatoes, king crabs and Indian curry that Apreda describes this way: “My dish of Pasta, potatoes, king crab and curry is also a tribute to the past. I tried to reproduce something we ate at home when I was a child. In Naples, we use smooth pasta and we cooked them right in a kind of potato purée. In today’s version, I cook the pasta separately in a seafood bisque and then assemble the dish afterward.”
“My kitchen always carries the scent of spices – after all, I lived in India for 10 years and I still go to buy herbs, all kinds of pepper and other unfamiliar ingredients for those of us in the West. My advice? Never buy packaged spices, but have fun making your own curry by mixing and balancing according to your own taste. The result will be unique and personal.”
Then follow two second courses: Roasted pigeon in dark tea and oranges, Roman style artichokes and Taglienti’s Cabbage, pig stomach and prawns.
“The Cabbage, pig stomach and prawn dish is an example of how, in putting together a bunch of ‘simple’ ingredients, you can create something sumptuous” tells Taglienti. “The cabbage, with its popular Lombard connotations, combines perfectly with the prawns. It becomes something noble.”
The influence of territory according to Taglienti, “Borders’ a mental territory that bridges the space between sweet and savory – it’s fragile and often subjective”.
The menu ends with two desserts: Confini and Ricordi Zabaglione, Italian Ice with barley water and coffee cream.
Conclusions? It was a great success, definitely to be replicated, perhaps in Milan this time.