Good morning, Federico! You, Chef, represent one of the brightest young minds of the Italian culinary scene. You worked in London at the Dorchester headquarters of the famous China Tang Bar and city symbol of the world beverage, but a colony of Italian hospitality, and you began in Rome with the Maestro Anthony Genovese, always known supporter of amari in the kitchen. How much these experiences have influenced your way of cooking, but above all, how much they have pushed you to develop all this in a minimalist food of great creativity that often surprises with ingredients represented by amari and aromatic liqueurs of the Italic heritage?
Good morning, Martina! Yes, my previous experiences in the restaurant environment have given me a lot, of course after having absorbed the greatest possible number of notions, the personal re-elaboration begins. I find the idea of the amari in the food very interesting, "la bottigliera", as I call it, is an element that stimulates a different vision in the search for certain flavors in the dishes. My kitchen uses few ingredients with which I try to create an important gustatory impact with a particular focus on acidity and bitterness: flavors that I love a lot. I pay great attention to the development of the vegetable that I often work with under vacuum or under-run macerations. Amari give me a strong help to develop shades of singular flavors while still remaining faithful to the raw material. Anchovy, fresh fennel, basil leaves, lemon peel and sautéed artichoke with Amaro Formidable: in the dish that I cooked for you, for example, bitterness plays a fundamental role, but is only used in the final preparation to confer the aromatic component, but leaving the sweetish and bitter persistence of the vegetable raw material. Curious is also a risotto in the preparation of which I use an Aromatic Bitters served with a quinto quarto of cuttlefish and juniper. In short, it's been a few years since I started working "la bottigliera" and I find this experience very interesting.
Which amaro category do you prefer to use in cooking?
I really like amari chianti and bitters! I mainly research amari that do not have a sweet component too present on the palate. I do not particularly like the sweet taste during lunch or dinner, a food that turns too much to this taste would inhibit my meal. I am a great genziana lover, I have some bottles from a family friend which are extraordinary for me. Unfortunately, finding gentian roots is very difficult and harvesting in Italy is prohibited, but it would be very interesting to produce a "home made" genziana and I will certainly try my hand at this production because I find stimulating the possibility of developing different aromatization shades in hydroalcoholic solutions.
We are very curious, it is finally the main actor and also the director of this new adventure called "Acciuga" at Prati in Rome, your new restaurant, can you tell us a little bit about it?
The name of the restaurant, “Acciuga”, is born not by chance, my wife has chosen it and it is a name that has conquered me immediately. Angelica, knowing me and my kitchen, immediately thought of this name: "Acciuga" represents my origins, the Adriatic Sea, Fano, is a very fast, intuitive, simple name that reflects in all its aspects the restaurant. The à la carte menu of “Acciuga” is a very usable menu that mainly works with bluefish, an express, fast cuisine that represents simplicity. Next to the à la carte menu, there is also the Federico menu: contemporary dishes, more articulated, in which ideas like "la bottigliera" or, for example, extreme acidity are developed.
What cooking techniques you use to make the most of the properties of amari?
Above all, I am interested in the macerations because with the vacuum process I can act on the search for the balance between the acid and the bitter taste. This technique is used, for example, to prepare a dish with cod served with a purée of chickpeas and almonds and a cucumber cooked in a vacuum with balanced salt and vinegar which is then seasoned with an amaro. In the dish you can then find the contrast not only between acid and bitter but also with the opulence given by chickpeas and almonds.
Which are your contacts with the Italian beverage world and who are the professionals you work with or collaborated with?
The first expert in the world of beverage that I would like to name is Luca Boccoli, sommelier who follows the wine list of "Acciuga" and professional I address for comparisons on different products, then Zed, Matteo Zamberlan, an extreme connoisseur to whom I request information and exchange opinions. Matteo live in Manhattan (NY) for several years and holds the role of Beverage Specialist in the Giorgio Armani Restaurant on 5th Avenue, so our professional relationship has slightly weakened, but thanks to the digital media I always manage to reach him for a technical comparison.
An American chef, Justin Severino, owner and Executive Chef of The Cure restaurant in Pittsburgh and Chef semi finalist for the James Beard-Found, thinks like you, Federico, to amari out of their traditional context. One of the best-selling salami of its production is the very famous Negroni Salami, in which a Bitter, a Vermouth and juniper berries aromatizing the meat, not to mention the lamb and pork salami and flavored with olives and Fernet. Justin, however, manages to do his best by cooking a very expensive salmon cut: he lets it marinate for thirty hours in two different qualities of orange juice, beets, hibiscus flowers and a lot of Fernet Branca, then he serves a few slices as a starter dish in a colorful assortment of almonds, beetroot, cucumber, green apple, dehydrated fennel and flower petals. How is it possible that it is always other peoples who are able to give the right value to our products and we as Italians are unable to do it or in any case we always arrive later?
We invent products and others use them! Trends in Italy always come later. In my opinion, in our country there is a problem of open-mindedness, the innovations are welcome in the beginning, then reach their peak with a boom in trend and then are abandoned. There are cities in Italy where you can venture more, but each has its own characteristic, for example Rome has the "tare" of the pasta cost, the restaurant "Acciuga" perfectly comply by adopting a contained price policy, especially on the main course, without neglecting the quality of course!
From your Italian origin and your continuous giving value with flickering creativity to the Italian tradition, in particular of the Marche, can you tell us what are the most loved dishes of your kitchen in which an amaro plays a fundamental role?
I can not say that there is an amaro that plays a fundamental role in a traditional dish that I cook in my restaurant. Bitterness exploits it to develop different, more creative ideas, even with ingredients from the Marche region, but tradition is tradition! I will never make a forcing on a traditional flavor with a nuance, a taste, that does not have to go. The tradition must be done well, it must be respected, in my opinion, should be left like that! The technique, certainly, can allow you to actualize a traditional recipe by lightening it, enhancing even more a flavor or eliminating something that could be a "defect" inside the dish.
At the end, Chef, said between us, when is you sitting at the table to eat, with which bitter you love to finish your meal?
Genziana, is my favorite! I would give a taste of the genziana that I spoke to you a little before to everyone. Finishing the meal with this root is perfect for me because in addition to helping on a digestive level, I also really like it in terms of taste. It is difficult to find a good genziana, so I also like to try new amari such as Amaro Formidabile!
Photo by Arianna Bonelli