Italian food is so delicious and even more so when executed by well-trained and committed Italian chefs. This level of cooking of Italian cuisine is what Italy seeks to celebrate annually with the event “Week of Italian Cuisine in the World”—to make people the world over fall in love with Italian cuisine again and again and again.
This is the fourth year that this weekly celebration is taking place, with the goal in mind of promoting Italian culinary traditions. For this year’s celebration, His Excellency Giorgio Guglielmino, ambassador of Italy to the Philippines, flew in Chef Carla Brigliadori of Casa Artusi.
Casa Artusi, located in Frolimpopoli in northeastern Italy, is the very first center of gastronomic culture to be established, devoted entirely to Italian home cooking. It was founded in the name of Pellegrino Artusi, author of the manual “La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene” (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well), revered as a kind of bible of Italian cuisine. Today, Casa Artusi has a culinary school, a restaurant, a wine cellar, library, bookshop and museum.
I had the privilege of visiting Casa Artusi a few years ago and to this day I still vividly remember the golden pasta served by Chef Carla, who is a Marietta—a title bestowed upon persons certified by Casa Artusi as authorities on Italian cuisine who are members of the Associazone Delle Mariette (named after Artusi’s own cook, Marietta). That is why when Aileen Co invited me to this dinner by the Italian Embassy featuring Chef Carla, I just dropped everything to have a taste of her cooking again!
Chef Carla did not disappoint, serving two pastas: an amazing pappardelle in salsa alla rustica and ricotta-stuffed tortelli. I had the privilege of sitting beside Eugeniu Rotaru, deputy head of mission of the Embassy of Italy, who shared that Chef Carla is so devoted to the techniques in the manual that in preparing for the evening’s dinner, there was a very long discussion just on the length of the noodles as this would affect the precision in cooking to achieve the perfect al dente for the pasta. Chef Carla herself confessed later that she was so tired—yet still smiling—from manually making the pasta for the evening for the hundred or so guests! Mr. Rotaru also noted how the menu was written in such a way that a number is beside the dish that was served by Chef Carla; this was to indicate the number of the recipe of that dish in the Casa Artusi book.
The revelation at the Finestra dinner for me, however, since I had already tried Chef Carla’s cooking a few times in the past, was the talent of Chef Alan Marchetti of Finestra. He opened with a delicate octopus carpaccio where the octopus was sliced so thinly, like sheets of silk, and the Italian cherry tomatoes just sang. This was followed by buffalo mozzarella with no less than 25-year aged Modena balsamic vinegar (the Italians take their balsamic vinegar very seriously). Finally, he served braised wagyu beef cheeks that were so tender they didn’t even need the foie gras for you to fall in love with the dish.
Many Italians at the dinner confessed that Finestra, to their mind, is the best Italian restaurant in the Philippines today and after tasting Chef Alan’s creations that evening, it is easy to see why.
At this dinner, Ambassador Guglielmino wanted to show something traditional and something modern and he did just that by this collaborative dinner of Chef Carla of Casa Artusi and Chef Alan of Finestra. More importantly, the goal of the Week of Italian Cuisine of reintroducing Italian flavors to the world and making us all fall in love with Italian cooking again and again and again was definitely achieved. Italian cuisine is just really delizioso!!!
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