Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bongiorno Italia!!

After an 8 hour flight, a 45 minute train, and a 10 minute trolley ride, we arrived in Milan, Italy.  We were so lucky to have Italian friends waiting for us in Italy.  We quickly discovered that having Italian friends is a real blessing in this country.  Our first order of business was getting them to make us a reservation at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia.  This restaurant is normally booked up for months but our friend was a friend of a friend of the sommelier.  And what do you know?  We were fortunate enough to get a spot on our 2nd night in Milan. Years ago, I studied at the French Culinary Institute.  One of my teachers there was the chef instructor of the School of Italian Studies. So who better to get recommendation from?  She told me that this place was the BEST meal she had ever had in Italy.  Well, she was right! Aimo e Nadia lived up to the hype.

I thought it was peculiar that my teacher emphasized that the restaurant was decorated in 80's style.  The warning didn't prepare me for the reality.  It was REALLY 80's!  The decor, the only 8 table, the glaring lights, the lack of music, and being that Michael and I were the only customers in the restaurant in the middle of nowhere Milan I was scared and skeptical.   Since this was our first time in Italy together, we moved forward with courage and order the full tasting menu.

We learned that the focus of the tasting menu was around this special salt from a lagoon in Sicily.  This salt played with the food.  It changed taste with each dish. We had a full education from Stefania (Aimo and Nadia's Daughter).  She entertained us with facts and stories of the food, where it came from and how it was grown.  She won our heart when Michael asked if the food was organic and with a smile she responded , "This is more than organic."

First Four Courses

The menu started lightly with bits of sweet fish, purees of chickpeas, and perfect vegetables.  After the 1st 4 courses...yes, 1st 4...then came the star of the evening, Etrurian Soup.  Stefania explained to us that this is a speciality here at Aimo.  Each element of the soup is cooked separately at low temperatures for hours in clay pots that are make specifically for them. This care and attention was not wasted, this soup was like eating love in a plate.  I never wanted it to end.

Etrurian Soup

After the warm and hearty soup, our only pasta dish arrived.  It was two raviolis stuff with ossobuco in a saffron sauce.  This was a great way to represent a country so famous for it's pasta.  It was a perfect balance. We continued on and 4 more delicious courses arrived...if you are counting that is 10 so far. They included veal from Piedmont, a selection of artisan cheeses, delicate citrus sorbets, and a play on tiramisu called "tirami-Sud." Then when we thought our dining experience was over the server placed a darling tray of petit fours for us.  These "cookies" were a surprise most especially the tiny madeleine with pineapple confit.  HEAVEN!

A Finish to a Wonderful Meal
A few evenings later we dined at a local spot called Barabba.  Our pal Giovanni, a native from Milano, brought us here.  As it was just a local hangout, we didn't have any expectations just something simple and casual.  We were surprised!  We were greeted by a charming woman that turned out to be the host and server.  She quickly suggested things to us and at her command out came a creamy burrata cheese, prosciutto di Parma, and this weird veg called puntarelle.  We fell in love with this puntarelle.  It is a form of chicory that is shaved and dressed in a anchovy, garlic and olive oil dressing. Our lovely, host/server/teacher of puntarelle told us that they were done making pasta for the evening when we arrived.  Sensing our disappointment she gave us a nod and a wink she made the kitchen re-open and out came plates of fresh spaghetti alla matriciana.  Then After our fresh pasta of pomodoro and pancetta out came Michael's favorite dessert of the trip.  It was called Fruttini di Amalfi.  They are fruits and nuts that have been scooped out and then re-stuffed with gelato of their corresponding flavor.  So the fig was stuffed with fig gelato and so on.  Michael was obsessed!

Allora...una pausa!  

Stay tuned for our time in Rome and Florence.... Ciao, Ciao!

Aimo, Me, Stefania & Michael

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