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Dicono di Noi

Tastes of Italia Magazine

Region by region: Italy's food festivals - September 2007
The best in italian cooking

"DINING WITH THE ANGELS"

HOW TO HAVE A SUMPTUOUS DINNER IN AN ITALIAN PALACE BUILT ON THE RUINS OF A ROMAN TEMPLE AND THEATRE. SAVOR THE TAGLIATELLE, SPINACH AND FILET MIGNON WITH COFFEE BEANS.

I had a wonderful experience when i was in Italy just a few months ago. In order to understand it, a bit of background is necessary. At the beginning of the 18th century, a Roman family, related to the great architect Lorenzo Bernini, moved to the small village of Bevagna in Umbria, Italy where they bought and renovated a large property which became their residence. It was made up of an elegant 17th-century palace overlooking the remains of a Roman temple and theatre (first century A.D.), on which people had built small houses in the Middle Ages and another famous local family had erected their mansion in the 16th century. In other words, there were two palaces, some small houses and the remains of a Roman temple and theatre. The man in charge of this restoration left the mark of this genius in the work. He didn't either try to blend in the identities of the different parts or blot out some. He felt that what was in front of him was a group of buildings to bring back to life and to do so, he gave it a heart. His a simple but bright idea was to build an incredible hanging garden amid the age-old stones. Once given a heart, the different parts combined to make a whole. This "whole" is an utterly charming hotel-two old palaces on each side of the garden in which there are 14 attractive rooms and suites, each onecalled by a saint's or angel's name; together they are called "L'Orto degli Angeli"- now owned and operated by a descendent of the original owner, Francesco Antonini Angeli Nieri Mongalli, and his delightful wife Tiziana. In this unique atmosphere, they created the new Redibis Restorante (Latin for "I shall return!"). the Redibis occupies a well-preserved part of the Roman theatre (first century A.D.), which at that time could seat eight thousand people. As we sat at a table in this restaurant, we looked up at the vaulted roof of the "hallways". We closed our eyes and heard the roar and laughter of yesteryear. Above our heads, there is the grey stone of the tiers and we could imagine the spectators on the terraces of the cave. We thought of what life was like in that first century A.D.. It was not easy to believe that we were sitting in that very same theatre in Bevagna and enjoying excellent food and wine.

Redibis opened about a year ago; its executive chef Filippo Artioli, only 30 years old, is from nearby Ferrara in Emilia Romagna, a neighboring province of Umbria.

"My family owned the famous bakery there, Il Panificio di Gaibana. I grew up admiring and respecting local products and cooking techniques: even thoug I update a recipe, I build it on traditional Umbrian customs," he said.

He showed me two containers of dough starters and I couldn't believe him when he said these yeasts were 90 and 40 years old. The older one was kept alive by his first cooking teacher's family, and the other came from his family. He uses some of each in the various and delicious homemade breads, featured at the restaurant.
We were there when the news extra-virgin olive oil was being cold-pressed in the countryside, and at every meal we were given a half-filled "shot" glass of the new oil with cubes of Filippo's fantastic bread.

We spent an afternoon cooking with Filippoand listened to him carefully."If the fat on beef is white, that means the animal was female, and that means the meat will be more tender, " he said. As he grilled the pieces of filet mignon, he pointed out that the laurel bay leaves be added to the fire after the meat was at least one-half cooked which allows the meat to pick up the freshest burst of flavor will be lost by burning on the fire too long.

He extolled the benefits of pink salt from the Himalayas, as he salted the beef after it was cooked. (You may not have this salt nor want thetrouble of getting it, so we suggest you use sea or kosher salt instead.)

For his dessert, he made a special sauce he calls "mou-mou," perhaps a slang expression for hazelnuts. Later at home, we achieved the same flavour as the sauce by simply toasting hazelnuts, breaking them into pieces, and tossing them over the molten chocolate cake, which was like a sauce itself because of its melting center.

Tiziana, owner of Redibis, said that most Italians believe Umbrian maintains "la misura d'uomo" - the human dimension - because Umbrians cling to the old ways. They feel more secure with basic things of the past. Tough Filippo's preparations are updated and sophisticated reflecting modern tastes and styles, they are built on old ideas and principles. For example, serving pasta sill a first course but updated and unusual because it is combined with succulent fresh turnips. The beef is topgrade and grilled only with extra-virgin olive oil and perfumed with an herb that has a past in Umbria. The vegetable is a spinach classic, but presented differently, and his chocolate "budino", exciting in flavour and texture, is created with an old family recipe in mind, but changed to create a very soft center and accented by hazelnuts, toasted to bring them to full flavour.

We enjoyed two Umbrian wines; a crisp white wine Grechetto and a deeply satisfying Sagrantino red.

The true character of Redibis is linked with the surrounding area, especially with olive oil, the symbol of an old age culture, and one that conveys a worm message of welcome. The friendly atmosphere created at this angelic place invites guests to have a gastronomic and cultural experience which will help them remember that food is giving and sharing. What a wonderful experience we had dining with the angels.

Joe Famularo is a two time James Beard award-winning author. He has written 10 cookbooks, including A Cook's Tour of Italy (HP Books, Penguin Press), 2003, 2005, and The Italian Soup Cookbook (Workman Pub. Co. 1998). Cristopher Laus is assistant to Mr. Famularo.

Tagliatelle with Turnips, Tomatoes and Toasted Bread Crumbs/ Tagliatelle di Filippo

Toasted Fresch Bread Crumbs/ Pangrattato

Sauteed Spinach Ovals/ Spinaci all'agro

Shells with Cheese

Grilled Filet Mignon with Laurel Leaves, Paper-thin Bread and Coffee Beans/Filetti di manzo grigliati al lauro

Individual Warm Chocolate Cakes with "Truffles" and Hazelnuts/ Torta cioccolata con nocciole

 

From page 44 to page 51

 

photogallery

  • Tastes fo Italia, the best in Italian cooking
  • Dining with the Angels
  • Il Redibis
  • Tagliatelle with Turnips, Tomatoes and Toasted...
  • Tagliatelle with Turnips, Tomatoes and Toasted...
  • Sauteed Spinach Ovals
  • Shells with Cheese
  • Grilled Filet Mignon with Laurel Leaves
  • Grilled Filet Mignon with Laurel Leaves

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