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Great interpreters of immortal dishes: Nadia Santini, Romano Tamani, Ivan Albertelli, Marco Ticciati, Mariuccia Bologna

An ancient tradition, a present and a future in continuous evolution: that of first courses is a timeless spring. We at So Wine So Food will tell you about it with an all-Italian virtual tour of carbohydrates. Loved and imitated all over the world. Symbol of the most authentic Italian spirit, both inside and outside the border. The first courses undoubtedly represent the most famous business card with which the Bel Paese tells its rich and varied gastronomic offer. From cappelletti to tortellini and ravioli, passing through the classic lasagna and tagliatelle, up to durum wheat pasta: that of the first course is a story with ancient and firm roots in the territory. Inside a tortellino or in the consistency of a dumpling, all the Italian DNA is contained, made up of genius, creativity, inventiveness. Unique feature of the first courses, that of being present in the menus of inns, taverns, but also of starred restaurants, thanks to their extreme eclecticism. In this virtual carbohydrate tour, we will focus on those places in Central-Northern Italy capable of perfectly preserving the tradition of first courses, implementing it with a pinch of innovation, aimed at further raising its quality. Speaking of taverns, the Hostaria da Ivan in Roccabianca (PR) should be mentioned. In the dining room the histrionic host Ivan Albertelli, in the kitchen Barbara Aimi. A path, that of Barbara, which in the past did not include cooking: “Initially my profession was that of a professional nurse in cardiac surgery, then also thanks to the help of a lady from Piacenza, I learned the preparation of tortelli which in Piacenza are slightly intertwined (and are in fact called tortelli con la coda). Since we opened, I immediately started offering filled pasta and fresh pasta, in particular the traditional one from the Parma area such as anolini. Special mention deserves the ravioli with dandelion: I recovered them from an old recipe book. To dampen the bitterness of the plant, I decided to combine chestnut honey with smoked bacon, an intriguing filling that unfortunately can only be offered at a certain time of the year, I am very attentive to seasonality and the use of fats in dishes ” . From the historic and fat Emilia, we pass to Tuscany, precisely to Suvereto, a delightful village in the heart of the Livorno Maremma. Here a chef works who makes colors and traditions his trademark: Marco Ticciati, chef and patron of “Dal Cacini”. Marco is an impressionist of the kitchen. Freshly caught and freshly prepared fish products: in his restaurant there are no freezers, a clear sign of attachment to a culinary philosophy made up of noble principles and poor compromises. The menu is daily, prepared only with freshly sourced ingredients; the care and dedication to the customer is total: “I keep customers on the phone for a quarter of an hour while booking, to understand allergies, intolerances and tastes”. Among the first courses that chef Ticciati has chosen to tell us is his Corsa soup, served as a “second first course” due to its strong and intense flavor. “It is not an easy dish to prepare – admits the chef – due to the long preparation; however the final result is surprising and has amazed even food and wine critics ”. Marco has however adapted to his tastes this historic preparation: a less liquid consistency, a more delicate use of garlic and aromatic herbs, as well as the use of harissa powder, to make it more contemporary. The first to which the Tuscan chef is most fond of are however chestnut gnocchi with cuttlefish and cuttlefish ink, naturally served only in the months of November and December due to the great attention to seasonality. The strong flavor of the chestnut goes perfectly with the sweetness of the cuttlefish and its very fresh black. We go up to the Peninsula up to Mantua, precisely in Canneto sull’Oglio, where for years there has been a real gem of the landscape Italian gastronomic, the three-starred Dal Pescatore, led by the Santini family. In the dining room to pamper customers with attention and wines from all over the world are Antonio, Alberto and Valentina, while behind the stove we find the chefs Nadia and Giovanni. “In our family – explains chef Giovanni Santini – the recipes of the first courses have always been kept by the grandmother. When I entered the family kitchen for the first time I was a kid, it was a growth opportunity for me. The person close to whom I matured and who inspired me was my grandmother. She introduced me to the profession through the simple game of kneading and copying her gestures to close the fresh pasta “. But what is the thought that Giovanni Santini has on the importance of the first course in Italy? “The first courses represent the maximum depth of Italian taste, from egg and stuffed pasta from Northern Italy to durum wheat pasta from the South: it is difficult to think of preparing a first course with complex aesthetic derivations, because in the first course the temperature is fundamental , there is not much time to compose a dish without its temperature decaying ”says chef Santini. To the question about which Dal Pescatore first course Santini is most attached to, Giovanni replies without any hesitation: “The dish that has marked my life and that never ceases to amaze me is certainly the pumpkin ravioli seasoned with butter and Parmesan; this is because they represent a continuous search for perfection, an inseparable link between the old and the new generations who must preserve this recipe but not in an unchangeable way. Everything changes, the ingredients change: the pumpkins that are grown in the present are very different from those of thirty years ago. Thanks to ingenuity and a technology governed by the mind, it is necessary to try to obtain a product with the best organoleptic properties possible; this is also complicated due to the impoverishment of the land. Every time you prepare the tortello, you have to give your best, all this represents a direct comparison with your own craftsmanship “. We move from the province of Mantua to that of Verona, because the municipality of Villa Bartolomea has recently embraced the Tamani brothers and their Embassy. Romano and Francesco, respectively chef and maître sommelier of the restaurant, have a unique charisma and boundless food and wine knowledge, acquired over years and years of activity. Conversing with Romano about pasta and pasta dishes turns out to be a unique experience: the chef conveys an incredible love for pasta; a pure feeling, driven by an unstoppable passion for this great Italian tradition. His favorite first course? “Absolutely the tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce – says Romano Tamani with emotion – no product in the world can match the goodness of the Bolognese tagliatella with a snowfall of Parmigiano Reggiano”. The last stop on our tour is Rocchetta Tanaro, in the province of Asti, where a family, thanks to a long-term work, is considered the guardian of the rich Piedmontese gastronomic culture: we are talking about the Bologna family and their I Bologna. In the dining room we find Cristina while the kitchen is the kingdom of Beppe, flanked by his parents Carlo and Mariuccia. The latter turns out to be the real lady of Piedmontese pasta, from tagliatelle to ravioli passing through the famous agnolotti and tajarin: Mariuccia’s rolling pin never stops.

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