Last night I attended the second of Pentimento Restaurant’s monthly “Passport to Italy” dinners. For February, chef Massimo Fedozzi took his 36 guests to Lombardia in the country's far north.
Among the regions of Italy, Lombardia is not particularly esteemed for its cuisine (though it does have a couple of world-class cheeses, among them Gorgonzola, Grana Padano and Taleggio). Its most famous dish is undoubtedly risotto alla Milanese, named for the capital, Milan. Risotto makes the best possible use of the rice that grows in the Po River Valley, the fertile lowlands that occupy the region’s southern half.
The highlight of Fedozzi’s five-course dinner was undoubtedly the risotto. Classically, risotto Milanese is made rich with Grana Padano (or Parmesan) and butter; it’s made golden with saffron. Fedozzi’s upped the ante on both scores, enriching his dish further with the addition of roasted bone marrow, and making it even more golden by garnishing each dish with a square of 24-carat gold leaf. (In the eating, I could taste neither gold nor marrow -- just rich, creamy-toothsome, textbook risotto.)
Fedozzi explained that his risotto d'oro (golden risotto) was an homage to his mentor, Gualtiero Marchesi, the so-called father of modern Italian cuisine and the first chef in Italy to earn three Michelin stars. A proud son of Lombardia, Marchesi’s most famous recipe is his “risotto, oro e zafferano” (risotto, gold and saffron).
Lombardia’s wines are probably even less acclaimed than its cooking, but Sam Vergari, a representative of Vinifera Imports, provided some good ones, particularly two sparkling Franciacortas from Villa Crespia, the super-crisp “Numero Zero,” and the richer, rose-hued “Brolese Rosé.”
Pentimento will be hosting these Passport dinners through the end of the year. Next up are Emilia-Romagna (March 10) and Puglia (April 14). Click here for details.
Pentimento is at 93 Main St., Stony Brook, 631-689-7755, pentimentorestaurant.net