In the last scene of Billy Wilder’s 1959 American comedy film, “Some Like it Hot”, starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis, Jerry played by Jack Lemmon gives a long list of reasons to Osgood played by Joe E. Brown why they can’t marry. Osgood dismisses all the excuses so an exasperated Jerry he pulls off his wig and shouts “Because I‘m a man”. Seemingly unruffled Osgood replies “Well, nobody’s perfect!”
As of Thursday October 8th, that “nobody’s perfect” is no longer true. For the first time ever in the history of its 38 annual editions Enzo Vizzari’s guide “Ristoranti d’Italia 2016, Le Guide de L’Espresso ” (576 pages, 22 euros in bookstores, 7,99 euros digital, 2,700 restaurants reviewed plus a new section of pizzerie) has given one of its three-toqued chefs a 20/20 rating. It was awarded to Massimo Bottura, the chef/patron contemporary art-lover of “Osteria Francescana” in Modena, who for the past six consecutive years Vizzari’s guide has judged as Italy’s best chef with a 19.75/20 rating. That’s not to forget that since 2010 “Osteria Francescana” has been listed in the top 5 at San Pellegrino’s World’s Best 50 Restaurant Awards and for 2015 is no. 2.
Vizzari said of Bottura: “ He’s the best chef ever to have been born in Italy because his dishes portray our country with the same intuition and irony as the great humanists of Renaissance. If Gualtiero Marchesi unfettered Italian cuisine from its safe refuge of “Grandma’s recipes” behind which it had vegetated for years, Bottura has gone one step beyond. He has transformed our dishes into works-of-art with a message.” His latest “inventions” are “tortellini in brodo di tutto” meaning that the broth is made from all types of meat and “tagliolini primavera in astratto or a miso or a Japanese soup of asparagus, peas, and black truffle.
Bottura’s fame with the powerful took off when he prepared the opening mega-supper in Central Park for the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy; President Obama was the guest of honor. At Expo 2015 Bottura prepared a meal for Michelle Obama using Expo leftovers of the day. Then in August he was invited to the White House to prepare a meal with White House chef Sam Kass. On October 16th, World Food Day, he and Kass with 20 other chefs from all over the world prepared a fundraising dinner “at zero impact” for 1,000 guests at Expo; the proceeds will go to socially oriented charities. Bottura hopes to repeat the event at the Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December.
Again this year “L’Espresso”’s three-toqued or 18-20-rated restaurants has grown: from 27 to 34 in number. Another well-deserved promotion is Enrico Crippa’s “Piazza Duomo” in Alba, which has reached “Osteria Francescana”’s former rating of 19.75/20. Crippa’s goal in life is to maintain “Piemonteseness” in everything he does. His delicious presentations better called combinatons: shrimps and cherries, whipped potato with Lapsang Souchong, too beautiful to eat, should be in an art museum. He tries out his new versions of traditional Piemontese dishes on the elderly before they go on his menu. If they say, “it’s not what it used to be,” he knows his variation is in the right direction. His latest is sausage with turnips, which like all his vegetables come from his own nearby garden.
Heinz Beck’s rooftop “La Pergola” in Rome, Massimiliano’s Alajmo’s “Le Calandre” near Padua, and Niko Romito “Casadonna/Reale” near Castel del Sangro in Abruzzo are holding steady at 19.5/20. Detail-oriented Beck believes top-quality food must also be healthy; his frozen sphere of “red” fruits on a cream of tea and crystallized raspberries is unique;
sensorial Alajmo runs wild: try his cappuccino of black-ink squid;
at mild-mannered Romito’s order “assoluto di cipolla” or onion and saffron soup with parmigiano buttons and his lamb. His new book, Unforketable.it, published by Giunti, is hot-off-the-press.
L’Espresso awarded no new promotions to 19/20, but confirmed are super-imaginative Davide Scabin’s “Combal.Zero” in Rivoli on the outskirts of Torino; Scabin was the first chef to “understand the luxury of the simple”;
ever-smiling, in-perpetual-motion Mauro Uliassi’s “Uliassi” in Senigallia is world famous, believe-it-or-not, for its chicken salad;
Antonino Cannavacciuolo’s elegant “Villa Crespi” outside of Novara in Orta San Giulio is admired for its sweets especially its cremoso alla vaniglia con fragole e basilico or its vanilla cream with strawberries and basil;
and bombastic and controversial Gianfranco Vissani’s “Vissani” in Baschi near Orvieto for decades now has been considered the best restaurant in Umbria (and not only).
Promoted to 18.5/20: go to once Presidente des Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe Emanuele Scarello’s “Agli Amici” in Godia, famous for its potatoes, outside Udine for his risotti and potato dishes
and to Francesco Sposito’s “Taverna Estia with an open-kitchen in Brusciano (Napels) for cream puffs and cuttlefish with burrata, tangerine oil and tarragon and his roasted babà à rhum served with a caramel mousse, apple ice cream and an orange pastry.
Instead, 5th-generation chef Gian Piero Vivalda’s “Antica Corona Reale” near Cuneo with its variety of pigeon dishes,
the Santini family’s “Dal Pescatore” in Canneto sull’Oglio south of Mantua for tortelli alla zucca,
Ciccio Sultano’s “Il Duomo” in Ragusa Ibla for imaginative Sicilian specialties,
Giorgio Pinchiorri and Annie Féolde’s “Enoteca Pinchiorri” with his mind-boggling cellar, probably the best in the world,
and her extraordinary cuisine,
Enrico Bartolini’s “Devero Ristorante” in Cavenago di Brianza between Milan and Bergamo for its contemporary cuisine,
Norbert Niederkofler’s “St. Hubertus” in Abtei (Bolzano) for his local specialties revisited,
Pino Cuttaia’s “La Madia” in Licata (Agrigento) for Sicily on a plate,
the Portinari brothers’ “La Peca” in Lonigo (Vicenza) for the wine cellar and spaghetti with fresh peas and cooked ham in spring,
Moreno Cedroni’s ever-creative “La Madonnina del Pescatore” in Senigallia,
and Pier Giorgio Parini’s “Osteria del Povero Diavolo” near Rimini for the freshness of his ingredients,
are all still holding their ground at 18.5/20.
Promoted to 18/20 are Silvio Salmoiraghi’s “Acquarello”near Varese for his “Dripping al pistacchio”,
historic, but recently renovated, “Del Cambio” in Turin, where a table is still set for Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour, who was United Italy’s first Prime Minister, for Piemontese chef Matteo Baronetto’s award-winning crème brûlée made with extra-virgin olive oil, vanilla pods, and squid as well as his his signature dish: La finanziera (veal sweetbreads),
Vito Mollica’s “Il Palagio” at “The Four Season’s Hotel” in Florence for Tuscan specialties with a modern twist,
Maurizio Serva’s “La Trota” in Rivoduti (Rieti) for fresh water fish,
Riccardo Camanini’s “Lido 84” in Gardone Riviera (Brescia) on the shore of Lake Garda for sweetbreads in pistachio butter, with raisins, capers, and candied lemon peel,
Lorenzo Viani’s “Lorenzo” in Forte dei Marmi for fish,
and Andrea Berton’s “Il Ristorante Berton” in Milan’s futuristic district of Porta Nuova Varesine for a choice of main courses with Alba’s white truffle.
A newcomer to this roster’s of culinary stars at 18 is Giancarlo Perbellini’s “Casa Perbellini” in the heart of Verona for sesame wafer with branzino tartare, braised veal cheek, and frozen zabaione.
Confirmed with 18/20 are Salvatore Tassa’s “Colline Ciociare” in Acuto (Frosinone) for the chef’s customized “Ultrasensoriale” menu of seasonal ingredients for the whole table,
ultra-modern “Cracco” in Milano for his cubist Milanese cutlet,
Enrico and Roberto Cerea’s “Da Vittorio” near Bergamo for its “hot and cold caviar” with almond ice cream and smoked potatoes,
Fabrizia Meroi’s “Laite” in Sappada (Belluno) for its magical atmosphere, exceptional cellar and self-taught chef,
and Gennaro Esposito’s “La Torre del Saracino” on the Amalfi Coast for its lasagnetta with raw baby shrimps.
Lombardy remains the region of Italy with the highest number of top restaurants with Piemonte a close second. Missing are Val d’Aosta, Molise, Basilicata, Puglia, and Calabria.
“Italy’s restaurateurs”, said Vizzari, “are experiencing a moment of glory. I don’t believe we’ve ever eaten as well as now. The credit goes to the generation of chefs, which counts Bottura, Uliassi, and Scabin, who knew how to widen the horizons of tradition.”