Monday, November 21, 2005

With Executive Chef Tony Mantuano


Gastronome Italian Experience at Spiaggia

By Jane Tracy, Vice-Chargée de Presse

With the reputation of Spiaggia as one of Chicago’s leading restaurants and the renown of Tony Mantuano, its Executive Chef, as one of the leading Italian cuisine chefs in the country, the Chicago Chapter headed out one November evening for an ‘esperienza Italiano.’  Chef Mantuano, recipient of the 2005 James Beard Award for Best Chef-Midwest, devoted a year of his time in Italy in 1983 learning everything possible about traditional cooking.  Transitioning from traditional to contemporary, his use of the finest ingredients available has resulted in an authentic representation of elegant Italian dishes.

The menu started as it meant to go on in a very European style with sardines from the Mediterranean sea, filleted and cured in citrus and olive oil. A La Gitana Manzanilla from Andalusia worked well.  It was a delight to listen to the food commentary by Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Frederic Castan as he explained the use of La Guitarra – the old-fashioned box rectangle with strings strung across it like a guitar. Handmade pasta dough is passed over the strings with a rolling pin, gently then falling through to be cooked and accompanied – in our case – with trumpet royale mushrooms, butter and parmigiano reggiano. The delectable simplicity of the dish left us wanting another serving.

This luxury-level Italian dining was complemented by wine pairings selected by Vice-Chargé de Missions/Caviste Bruce Foudree and an Italian style crepe filled with braised duck proved to be a perfect foil for the fruity 1996 Volnay Champans,  Domaine Jacques Prieur.  The duck confit had been bathing in olive oil from between two to five hours together with herbs and garlic before being braised and then wrapped in the crespelle. 

A further feature within the pairing structure was a 1995 Ornellaia, Marchese Lodovico Antinori. This was a rare find from this cutting edge, avant garde winemaker south of Florence and was paired with the shoulder of lamb. A 1994 Barolo, Paolo Scavino Brio Del Fiasc, showing good color and a lot of life was chosen to accompany the all too soon cheese course. There were five Italian cheeses made from cow, goat and sheep milks that included a Capriccio di Capra, a Gorgonzola and a Pecorino.

Chef Mantuano and his team were then introduced. Spiaggia had succeeded in taking us on a culinary tour faithfully respecting the flamboyance that is the bounty of Italy