I am writing today to share with you the wonderful Christmas I spent with my family in Pisogne, on Lake Iseo, at the Tentazioni Restaurant of Giacomo and Sandro Pittelli, two young twins of Calabrian origin who I am sure will go far. Giacomo is exceptional in the dining room: grace and mastery make him more unique than rare. Sandro has a lot of talent in the kitchen... but also humility, calm and awareness, rare qualities in a young chef: they are definitely a winning couple! [Update July 2021: if you are looking for restaurants in Pisogne I'll give you some bad news: they've moved to a beautiful new location at Residence Bersaglio between Costa Volpino and Lovere! However from Pisogne it's 7-8 minutes by car, I assure you it's worth it].
First of all, I had one of the best Christmases of my life with my whole family... so thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making it so! This Christmas 2015 was really peaceful and the setting of Lake Iseo romantic & magical! Pisogne was beautifully decorated, even better than Lovere. L'Capovilla Hotelswhich is located above the Restaurant Tentazioni in Pisognewhere my parents stay when they come to visit me is very nice, with really lovely, well-kept rooms overlooking the lake... But today I want to focus on the gastronomic experience at Ristorante Tentazioni in Pisogne. And I stress that I did not write ENOgastronomic. The wine part was not there. So I won't dwell on wines that not only didn't go with what we ate, but were not at all up to it... just as the service of these was not up to it: the waitress brought the open bottles and placed them on the table, our sparkling wine was undoubtedly flawed (but they didn't let me taste it and I didn't go so far as to say so) and the Custoza bianco was placed on the table without a glacette/ice and after 10 minutes it was close to 20°. The Barbera was decent... but how do you pair a red wine that is by nature often 'rude' with such an elegant and delicate menu? So let's gloss over the ENO experience and focus on the excellent gastronomic experience! Fortunately I also go with water from time to time... and the Oltrepò Pavese Moscato for dessert, although I am not a lover of the genre, was the best wine... so we ended on a high note!
Given the dishes, both meat and fish, for my personal taste the perfect match was the Lagrain Rosé St Pauls Kellerei. A single wine, from aperitif to suckling pig, would have simplified their cellar management and would have looked great. What's more, it's in the same price range as the Barbera they proposed... Of course you have to have an idea... however try it to believe 😉
For a tasting of this wine, which I thoroughly enjoyed with Laura and Andrea at Vineria Nuova in Ravenna, I refer to Franco Ziliani's words:
Brilliant, bright cherry colour, it has an intense nose, perfumed with small red berries (raspberry, currant, wild strawberry), with nuances of aromatic herbs and hints of black liquorice, with a nice juicy flesh, ripe to the right point, yet fresh.
The palate is well-dried, nervous, finely mineral, endowed with a nice pulpy roundness of fruit, but sustained by a precise tannic set-up that gives breadth to the wine, which spreads out wide and gourmand on the palate, endowed with a long, consistent persistence and calibrated vinosity. The finish is still on notes of liquorice, fresh and taut.
Read the full article on this winery at Franco Ziliani, Vino al Vino
I have already been to this restaurant on a normal Sunday in September and the wine service was much better because it was done by Giacomo (although not perfect). The wine list, however, is never up to the kitchen, and I am not talking about prices, I am talking about selection! [Update July 2021: the wine list in the new restaurant has improved a lot and you can find some real gems! Above all I enjoyed their selection of Calabrian wines, unique among restaurants in and around Pisogne].
I can resist anything but temptation. Oscar Wilde
Let's start well: Oscar Wilde is my favourite writer and I know practically every one of his works by heart.
Restaurants in Pisogne: the 2015 Christmas Menu at Le Tentazioni
Welcome aperitif: sardines in tempura, cod croquettes and fried pizza
We all thought it's always nice to start out like this... the cod croquette was delicious with a melt-in-your-mouth filling, the fried pizza was excellent... only the sardines in tempura didn't convince me: tempura is a Japanese frying technique that I know very well... it has the characteristic of making the fried food very light and crispy thanks to the lumps of flour that are desired here, and only flour and almost iced sparkling water are used to prepare it! To my eye and taste, these fried sardines seemed more traditional than tempura! However the fried fish was dry and the fish tasty! *_*
Grilled and mashed cuttlefish with black polenta and puffed quinoa
A difficult and beautiful dish! Getting it wrong with cuttlefish in my personal experience is extremely easy... and there is nothing worse than a rubbery cuttlefish!!! Instead, the grilled one was perfect too! I really liked the mantecata cuttlefish, Chef Sandro Pittelli told me it was a new dish... well congratulations! If I may make a small observation on the polenta al nero: granted that it was delicious and that both the flavour of the polenta and the taste of the cuttlefish ink stood out... I find it a bit risky to add black on these occasions (Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter...)... we all had black teeth! 😆
Potato and cotechino flan on parmesan fondue
Certainly not a memorable dish, but it was very enjoyable. The potato flan was well executed, the cotechino gave flavour without overpowering the other flavours and the parmesan fondue was prepared with particular care: velvety and literally melted in my mouth. The drizzle of oil and fried parsley completed the dish and gave a touch of colour that denotes attention.
Artisanal fusilloni, angler fish, mussels and artichoke pesto with parsley
A very pleasant dish... the artisan fusillone that Sandro Pittelli used was of high quality and the cooking was really perfect. The artichoke pesto was very delicate and fine, almost velvety, and I really liked it... and above all I liked the clear and recognisable taste of the artichoke (nothing annoys me more than not understanding what I'm eating, I have to be able to recognise each ingredient without reading the menu or for me the dish failed 😉 ). On my plate I only found one mussel (perfectly cooked)... personally I would have been careful to put exactly 3 per plate. The only jarring note was the cherry tomatoes: some were still whole and so when you poked them with your teeth to chew them they released the inherent boiling water of the tomato itself. I didn't find them particularly necessary in this dish except for the hint of colour.
Tortelli di ossobuco with double broth, black truffle and 24-month Bagoss flakes
Here I was thrilled. In 30 years I had never eaten something so exceptional. The egg pasta was perfect and very tasty, the filling had a hint of orange that dissolved the fatness of the marrow of the ossobuco in a very elegant way... and the Bagoss melted in the heat of the tortelli. The closure was also beautiful, they were all closed so perfectly that they looked as if they had been drawn. The broth, added by Giacomo at the moment, was hot and thick. The slivers of truffle enriched the dish with savoury but not intrusive notes. I was delighted to have a repeat performance....😋
Leg of suckling pig glazed with thyme and honey with lemon Jerusalem artichoke puree
Another really successful dish! The suckling pig, evidently cooked at a low temperature, melted in the mouth, apart from the crispy and tasty surface crust. The Jerusalem artichoke puree was really nice and harmonised perfectly with the whole menu. The base was not too salty... in short, really good!
White chocolate and orange blossom mousse with praline heart
This for me was the only really wrong dish of the meal... (But then I consoled myself with a cream ice-cream (which actually tastes like zabaglione) at Centrale di Lovere and I was happy again *__* This dessert was wrong first of all because of the name: mousse has the characteristic of having microscopic air bubbles inside it to give a foamy, very light and airy (rather than creamy) consistency. This is also why I don't agree with the use of isinglass when it comes to mousse: it inevitably causes the mousse to lose its characteristic foaminess in favour of a firmness that has little to do with it... in my case the isinglass was really too much and the consistency was really unpleasant! (It has to be said that my mother's was much better than mine ...) Another discordant note was the orange blossom: this flavouring, if used sparingly, has an unpleasant aftertaste. In my cake it seemed as if a vial had fallen... another sore point: as you can see from the photo, it was not well levelled and as it solidified due to the effect of the jelly, it remained all rippled on the surface...
But all in all it was a delicious lunch! Excellent value for money: this Christmas lunch cost €60 water, wine and coffee included. In fact... if you happen to be in Pisogne, you absolutely have to come to this restaurant, especially without special occasions that affect the quality a little. I had already been here with my family in September and it was a wonderful experience!
Restaurants in Pisogne: a perfect place to unwrap Christmas presents!
Then at Christmas I received beautiful presents: Francesco gave me a super semi-professional kneading machine (so he eats my delicacies), Dad and Mum this wooden board game really funny!
Ah!!! I'll point out that Kenwood's beautiful kneading machine is now on discount on Amazon... if you got yourself some Christmas presents... well now is the time to get it! 😉 I can tell you that it works very well, it is quite quiet, practical, solid and sturdy even if it vibrates a bit. It has literally changed my life in the kitchen, I now make even more wonderful things! And especially for fresh pasta, which I make at home almost every day, it is very convenient! While she kneads, I can write on my wine blog! Here is the link to the Amazon offer! Even with this fabulous kneading machine matching my grandmother's baking talent is tough... from the Christmas log to the lemon Bavarian cream, meringues, pistachios and a heart of biscuit and orange peel! And then I am amazed that I gained 2 kg at Christmas... I was also too good!!! 😄😄😄
And lastly... well, my grandmother gave me some money and told me to get myself a nice present since I never buy anything for myself... and how could I not listen to her? So I gave in to one last temptation... A bag that is even called Eva! Those who know me know that I adore bags of the highest quality... and my mother has genetically passed on to me a weakness for Orciani, a designer she has bought since I was very small and he was still unknown. Well, the design is extraordinary and meticulous in every detail, but the thing that struck me most about this leather messenger bag was definitely the hidden pocket in the insert on the back of the bag to hold the shoulder strap in a place 'you can't see'. Orciani uses crazy leathers that smell good. Every detail of the bag is discreetly branded, in fact he only uses engraved metal and leather to sign his work without defacing it with big 'patches' (which I can't stand!). This bag by Orciani Eva, it's as big as an A4 printer sheet and fits my whole world: iPad Air 2, umbrella, wallet, business card holder, beauty, tissues, pen, corkscrew, keys, usb key, sunglasses case, mobile phone and amuchina! My father, after having given it to my mother in the bimaterial version, also found it for me in the online shop of a nice shop in the centre of Monza called Pasadena - Premium Denim... yes, I know I have a boyfriend from Monza... but what can I do if I always prefer to buy online? They are great: they shipped the same day they received the payment confirmation and after not even 24 hours the bag was at my house. Very well cared for parcel even in specifying my not easy address and very kind owners.
Well I know I went on and on but... I'm super happy! I can't wait to show it off next Tuesday at the TownHouse Hotel in Milan's Piazza Duomo at the presentation event of a Lombardy winery which I won't tell you about just yet... it's a wine secret! So I'll be waiting for you next Wednesday to find out all the details!
The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul will grow sick with longing for the things it has forbidden itself, longing for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and outlawed. Oscar Wilde
See you soon and Happy New Year!!!