Alajmo Art & “Fluid Light” Revive Ristorante Quadri

The news has got around by now the the Alajmo brothers of Le Calandre fame have taken the one-and-only Ristorante Quadri* under their wing — and, as is their habit, they are aiming for the sky.

Most know the famosissimo Quadri for the caffè; others have dined at the historic, classic restaurant upstairs, the only one on Piazza. The old girl has gotten quite a lift since Max (the youngest chef ever to receive three stars from Michelin) and Raf set up shop earlier this year, and deservedly so.

Some things haven’t changed. The massive Murano chandelier still illuminates intricate ironwork and red brocade tufted walls; in the evening, light shimmers through Roman shades draped over wide windows perched above the Piazza. But look closer: the new drapes are a dramatic gauzy black, classic linen tablecloths are knotted around and underneath to expose gracefully carved pedestals; gotò inspired glassware freshens elegant place settings as do transparent red bread dishes in the form of a painter’s palette, testament that chef Massimiliano’s artistry extends beyond the kitchen; you’ll discover it in almost every aspect of the restaurants’ decor, design, and artwork.

That is precisely what inspired the 12 courses we were served that warm summer’s day at the Quadri. The LuceFluida menu coincides with the Biennale; Le Calandre and the Quadri each serve a different versions through November 27. You could even consider them collateral exhibitions.

 (Nan McElroy)The intention, according to Massimiliano, “is to bring the concept of light to food;” he calls it an edible art event, and so it is. That little red palette bread dish might as well have been loaded with textures and tastes from mostardo to mousse, from creamy to crunchy croccante, from delicate to hearty, peppery to sweet to spicy to positively explosive. You don’t have much trouble imagining the kitchen as artist studio, with the cooks working along side Executive Chef Silvio Giavedoni whisking and swiping and searing and dotting to create each portata effortlessly and expertly, swept out just at right moment to present to the delighted guest.

Presentation, in fact, takes on a completely different meaning in the context of the Lucefluida meal. There is an accompanying notebook, with whimsical designs and inspired phrases and poems for each course — all by Max’s hand, of course — and the possibility to record lingering impressions as they come to you. Invention isn’t limited to only the fare —  but it’s best not to get any more specific, it’ll just ruin the surprise. (There are quite a few surprises, in fact; it pays to stay flexible.)

Of course there is a traditional menu as well as two other tasting menus; don’t expect the Alajmo team to contain themselves there either, Biennale or no. Suffice it to say the the meal is extraordinary, right down to the wine pairings which open with the Reims Vieille France Champagne to the Anselmi passito for dessert. A meal at the Quadri is an airy, yet intensely memorable celebration of abbinamento, the deft combining of all aspects of the dining experience, in an ambience unique in all the world. Squisito.

 

Ristorante Quadri (upstairs)
caffequadri.it

Lunch, 12:30 – 2:30 pm
Dinner, 7:30 – 10:30 pm

Closed Monday

*One footnote: the restoration/renovation of the Grancaffè downstairs is underway as we speak. Look for news on that soon.

Eating Venice: Tiny Yellow Tuna Fins

Whether yellow, blue or bigeye, raw or cooked, when the red flesh of tender tuna arrives at our table, these tiny, sturdy, perfectly positioned, radiant yellow fins that propelled this magnificent fish across ocean depths have long been discarded. But what an impression they make when still intact — and what would it be like to see them in use…

from the upcoming Eating Venice iPhone & iPad app — stay tuned!

Who sat on my peaches?

“Snuffbox” peaches: make the Bellini cocktail’s perfect puree…

…or eat them one by one (warning: have plenty of napkins handy).

These white tabacchiere (named for their snuffbox shape) dell’Etna, also known as saturnine peaches begin to show up at markets here mid-to-late July. They’re cultivated in Sicily, at various locations that circle the Etna volcano, where the climate and the soil are perfectly adapted to their needs: warm and dry, with well-drained soil. According to Slow Food, they’ve only been around since WWII, when estate agricultural laws changed to permit perennial cultivation (as opposed to only annual), which would fortunately include peach trees.

While the snuffbox name might not be an appetizing association, these are some of the sweetest and juiciest to be had, and due to their soft pulp make an excellent choice for the puree required to whip up the famous Bellini on a summer’s eve.

Recipe from Harry’s Bar:

Made with Prosecco instead of Champagne, it is nevertheless widely regarded as the best Champagne cocktail in the world.

When making a Bellini, everything (the glasses, Prosecco and white peach puree) should be as cold as possible.

The general rule is to use one part white peach puree to three parts Prosecco. Use fresh frozen white peach puree when you can, but when making your own puree, never use a food processor because it aerates the fruit. (Maurice Graham Henry often uses a cheese shredder, shredding the peaches and using a strainer to collect the maximum amount of juice.) Add a bit of sugar or some simple syrup if the puree is too tart or a tad sour.

And absolutely never use yellow peaches.

In recent times, Bellini recipes have begun to include a touch of raspberry juice — evidently the white peach color isn’t lively enough. Some use a two-to-one ratio of puree to Prosecco; Mario Batali uses goes one-to-one in Simple Italian Cooking, and has adapted the recipe for other fresh fruit, including pomegranate. Now that would be a color the maestro Bellini (after whom the cocktail was named) might have found truly appealing!

In order not to diminish the peaches’ sweetness, a dry Prosecco is probably preferable to a brut. I love the idea of using a cheese shredder for the puree — but I keep consuming the peaches by themselves so that I don’t have enough left over for the cocktail. Markets are open again on Tuesday, I’ll give it another try then…

 

Venice means fish…but which is which?

rialto_fish.jpgAlmost every travel guide will rightly advise you that for dining in Venice, don’t skip the fish. It’s good advice, and perhaps you’re coastal and are already familiar with the myriad of shapes and sizes seafood comes in: crustaceans, mollusks, and regular fish that range from pinky- to thigh-size.

But if you’re a landlubber or are simply more familiar with freshwater fish, I thought I’d run a series of short posts focusing on the fish and seafood waiting for you both on the menus in Venice and in the Rialto Market should you care to visit them before you consume them.

canoce_cicala_di_mare.jpgCANOCE: Mantis Shrimp

The first don’t-miss fish is a crustacean that has an official name of Pannocchia, but that is referred to in Venice as the canocia (in Rome and Tuscany, cicala di mare). The English nickname is Mantis Shrimp, referring to both its front appendages and the sweetness of its meat.

These canoce are from the high Adriatic, and so are generally smaller in size that those you might find fished from larger seas. In fact, all fish from this area are scaled to the Adriatic’s size. And according to some pescivendolo (fishmongers) are sweeter as a result. I’m staying out of that argument, however.

At the market, all the canoce‘s undersea defenses are easily identifiable: the fake eyes on the tail, the front legs poised to strike, and a shell that’s pointy from stem to stearn.

antipasto_pesce.jpg

Canoce are often served as part of an antipasto (but can take part in many a seafood dish, including risotto). Although they’ll be unarmed by the time they reach your plate, you’ll still need some technique to extract the meat from the remaining shell. For best results, hold the tail with your knife, and strip the meat from the bottom shell with your fork (or vice versa). It should separate easily, but if not, don’t hesitate to ask your server for a demonstration. (In the photo, the canoce is on the lower right.)

So, if they’re indeed in season, don’t let your unfamiliarity with the canoce‘s looks or name stop you from ordering these tasty morsels…you’ve come too far for that!