“How nice it could be to say
That we love each other so much
But so much to die for
And that whatever happens
We’ll see each other at home … “
(Dolcenera – See you at home)
I’ve always been a different guy from the others. From an early age. I was interested in things that my peers did not even consider. I was intrigued by arguments that the “herd” just did not consider worthy of note. I was passionate about people, their lives, their stories. Let’s say that I was a “slave” to the storytelling even before this term was even thought of.
Not for my friends. Our speeches were all focused on football. With some digression, very sporadic to tell the truth, concerning the female universe. Talking about books was impossible. As well as film or music. They communicated through a single language: the ball. We would rather go down to the pitch and play football all day long, using every single minute of sunlight during the afternoon.
Do you remember “The Great Beauty“? The Oscar-winning film by Paolo Sorrentino? I guess you do. Well, if you have not seen it yet, do me a favour: close this virtual page now, and run to buy the DVD. You will thank me. I really mean it, eh.
Anyway, let’s go back to the beginning: “The Great Beauty”. The protagonist is Jep Gambardella. He is a writer in his fifties, bored by himself and by the life and the slick atmosphere of the world around him. He attends parties, gallery openings, exhibitions, book presentations. He is surrounded by artists, soubrettes, aspiring actresses, failed intellectuals. He goes through everything with an awareness, a clarity and a fundamentalism that cannot fail to be a counterpart to a universe that practically exists only under the jet set lights.
A necessary digression to make you understand where I want to get.
In one of the first bars of the movie, Gambardella expresses a concept that had the power to totally stick me to the seat of the cinema.
“(…) I, on the other hand, replied: The smell of old houses. The question was: What do you like most truly in life? I was destined for sensitivity “.
This is because, as a teenager, in one of the thousand conversations without interruption with my friends, I gave an answer that completely silenced the audience. We were wondering what the most beautiful phrase in the world was. Most of the group had opted for “Roma team in advantage!” Or “I love you”. Only later we would have discovered the pleasure of reading in the text of an email “A transfer in your favour has been issued …”. But that’s a whole other matter, quite fun for me. Let’s leave it to another day…
I remember that I took a few minutes to think about it. I gripped my chin firmly, fitting it between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand. I caressed the little hair that my face as a teenager had produced (who would have said that over the years would become my main characteristic…) and then I said exactly this thing:
– Actually, I’m torn between two sentences –
– Even two? – they started to make fun of me – You must always be an intellectual –
– Well no. There are two of the most beautiful phrases in the world: “See you tomorrow”, but above all, “See you at home” –
Imagine, then, what a great pleasure it was for me to be able to have lunch at “Casa Vissani“: one of the food and wine excellences of Italy, my country.
There are no rules without exceptions. That’s why today I want to transgress my modus operandi. I’ll talk to you about a restaurant that is two-starred and not three-starred as usual. Then, I will talk about a restaurant where I ate several days ago: on Easter Sunday, when I returned home for Easter holidays, I decided to visit a must of the Italian cuisine.
Casa Vissani is located in Umbria, in Baschi, a small town in the province of Terni. The concept of one of the most important chefs in Italy is immediately clear. Just the time to enter the wonderful waiting room that introduces you to the main room: comfortable sofas, distillates, cigars, spices. The atmosphere that the Vissani’s restaurant wants to recreate is “home”, as its name implies. Everything is familiar: from the air that you breathe together with the other guests, to the staff, who cook and serve. In fact, Gianfranco Vissani, is clearly at the head of all. The son Luca, however, takes care of the dining room and the Hotel, while his mother (and Vissani senior ex-wife) is the undisputed lady of the stove.
The location is amazing. Both on the outside, with Lake of Corbara that practically laps the restaurant, both inside. The room, very spacious, is beautiful: full of paintings, different tube lights that illuminate the tables, all dressed in beautiful white tablecloths of Flanders. Here, if I had to find a flaw, I would say that maybe it is a bit ‘too modern. Baschi, very close to Civitella del Lago, is a very “popular” country, which probably deserved a more rustic location. In the end it is impossible not to be captured by the elegance of the mise en place and the table centre, each representing an animal. Mine was a tiger.
Considering the holidays, that is the Easter day as I mentioned before, even the menu winks at the specialties that are usually eaten in every Italian home at the arrival of this day. Clearly, everything is accompanied by a wonderful selection of paired wines. Another small flaw to be underlined: there is a small dystonia between the chosen labels (of extraordinary excellence) and the quality of the food itself. But one can safely go over it.
The wines offered in combination are: Cuvée Royale Antinori, characterized by an unloaded yellow colour, the nose has fruity hints of peach and light notes of bread crust and yeast, but, on the other hand, it is lively and balanced on the palate; Viognier Special Edition 2013, of a bright and intense yellow colour, is soft and silky to the taste with a very long finish of vanilla and acacia honey; Tenuta Capofaro of 2014 – Tasca d’Almerita, fragrant wine, dense but with calibrated acidity; Poggio alle mura 1998, mauve red, expresses intense flavours of plum, cherry, blackberry jam and raspberries, to be mixed with hints of chocolate, cigars, vanilla and liquorice.
Before starting with the real meal, Casa Vissani delights the palate of its guests with crackers and breadsticks of different types: parmesan, durum wheat, bacon. Very good, especially if tasted with French butter contained in a small bowl.
It’s time for the amuse bouche: beef tartare with balsamic vinegar reduction, shrimp tartare with cucumber and clams, a small omelette with basil reduction and a small piece of chicken liver.
Then, it is the turn of the lobster and potatoes under the ashes with soy and ginger, fettuccine with squid ink, scallop mirepoix and red turnip. The dish is very nice: excellent lobster without the shell, delicious fettuccine with squid ink. On my personal opinion, I would have removed the lobster antennae. I think that everything on the plate shall be eaten, unlike the antennae, for example. But everything the dish, as well as being tasty, maintains an enviable balance and therefore must be promoted.
The second course is interesting too: we are talking about Cappelletti pasta in citrus tea broth with onion, beer and gruyere with almonds. It’s an interesting, balanced dish, with these balls of garlic that really push it very high. Definitely successful.
Another first course, however, is pasta with lagane, puffed chickpeas and friarielli peppers. No comment: I probably would never have proposed it to my guests.
We continue with the meat: the gigot d’agneau with orange mashed potatoes and wild salad. Excellent and prepared as tradition requires.
We close with the dessert: pineapple and meringue with blackberries, blueberries and white chocolate raspberries, Colomba crumble. This is a very nice dish to see and also very simple to eat. The Colomba crumble, not only is very tasty, but is also a great jack move.
The petit fou is appreciable: magdalene, bon-bons in sugar paste, chocolates, with an excellent local liqueur, typical and quite alcoholic.
Before leaving Casa Vissani and paying the bill, Luca, Gianfranco‘s son, will guide me through the restaurant. The kitchens are amazing: above all, I like the pass. Marbled and heated, allows the brigade to finish the dishes without losing their essence and all their aromas. The cellar is beautiful too, full of precious and ancient labels. At the centre of the room, there is a tasting table: in the past it was used to taste wines and oils, that can be easily repeated in the future. Bravo Gianfranco, you made me really feel at ease. What to say, then? See you at home…
Final rating 3 beards.