The Reale of Niko Romito and the red meat of a lamb by the ancient and shameless taste


 

I had not been to Castel di Sangro for a while, too long for someone like me who has followed Niko throughout his career, from when he was still young at his first attempts in the kitchen of the Reale in Rivisondoli, up until here in this very elegant mountain retreat.

Casadonna is a great place, elegant and charming, smart and groomed down to the last detail, without being stiff, but solid and rugged like the mountain landscape suggests. Niko has grown, he has lost his hair and has acquired a silvery beard, he moves slowly and silently, suitably for a young mountain master, a bit hermit and very fashionable, but with a polished informal style.
 
 
 
The aperitif in the beautiful room in front of the chimney was a suitable prelude, the champagne chosen by Gianni, the sommelier I met as a boy and who is now a solid expert, was pleasantly strong in its sapid and intense tone, the finger food tasted of the surrounding landscape and territory, as always. If there is one thing that has always struck me in Romito's cuisine is his capacity to conciliate the territory with modernity, to honour the products, which is why I was curious and longing to try the new proposals.
We took a seat and I handed myself over completely. The scampi sandwich was delicious and fresh, a perfect waft of sea and iodine to start, then the cold emulsion of beef and olive oil, with raspberry mayonnaise, pleasant, despite my carnivorous instinct being slightly unprepared for the creamy and velvety consistency.
 
 
The sea bass and white truffle was delicious, a spotless and persuasive dish, the Adriatic Sea in the mountains, a mixture between sapid, citrusy, earthy and rhythmic. The veal jelly is now a classic, rhythmic and incessant, moving easily between sweet and sapid, between soft and rich, sumptuous. The artichoke with a rosemary jelly was good and minimal, only slightly monotonous and solid (usual?): a great cooking effort for a result that needs to be perfected. Then the sweetbreads, cream, lemon and salt, with a clean and surgical flavour, the softness of the cream chasing the acidity of the lemon, interrupted by a sapid note like a bepop piece, above all else the sweetbreads that had they been crunchy and fondant would have been perfect.
 
 
We were more than halfway through the meal and yet no dish required a knife, I started frying in my chair, asking myself what the future path is, a neurologic cuisine, studied for our receptors and not for our jaws? But let's move on: we were presented with a very delicate beef broth, scented with cinnamon and lemon like the elegant consommé from the city of Teramo,
 
 
 
 
the tortellini stuffed with veal were solid. The ravioli with buffalo ricotta and condensed buffalo mozzarella, directly from the original production area, suffered the risk incurred by transforming buffalo mozzarella, a product that is so extraordinary as it is, to not require any addition. The spaghetti with squid extract and seafood tasted like a wintery sea storms, of walks with sea waves and excursions to the beach, pleasant and Gascon.
 
 
 
The veal stew with alcoholic mixed leaf salad was fresh thanks to the bitterness of the mixed leaf salad and the juniper of the gin, a very modern and elegant dish. The garlic and pink grapefruit lamb ended the meal with a territorial touch dressed-up for the festivities.
 
 
The meringue, raspberry and toffee was the right conclusion for a meal entirely played on counterpoints.
 
 
I raised my eyes from the dish, looked out of the window, the green fields, a shepherd from the Abruzzo passed outside, the white padded cloth of the table and the stone of the flooring, I can't help not noticing that the knife was never necessary in all this original and ancestral landscape, thinking that Italian cuisine needs to start again from the landscape, from the villages, from the waft of pasture pecorino, from the red meat of lamb with an ancient flavour, and if Niko, who's the best of all, can't do it, then maybe nobody can...

Tags: / castel di sangro / niko romito / alessandro bocchetti / shameless / lamb / italian cuisine / casadonna / reale /

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