A tour de force of risotto in Vicenza. This is a locals spot, a short drive out of the main center. Naturally, I was introduced to this restaurant by locals, this restaurant doesn't show up in the guide books or the Gambero or Michelin guides. The rule of thumb, one risotto per person. We pick them and the restaurant decides in which order to serve them. They will come out one-at-a-time.
Please take notice, the risotto has texture, yet remains loose. Individual grains have texture, "bite", not mooshy and over-cooked. There is also liquid surrounding the rice. Risotto is NOT served dry like pilaf or white rice.
Mantovana, with crema di zucca, salsiccia cotta with rosemary fresco tritato. Great way to start off the evening. Creamy mouth feel, rosemary is mellowed out, sausage adds depth. I'm not a fan of rosemary mashed potatoes, the rosemary is just too pronounced. However, with risotto and with the lighter touch of rosemary, there isn't the pungency, only the fragrance, opening up the senses, almost as an appetizer should.
El Burielo, it had smoked meat and veggies in it. Smoke, tempered, just added perfume to this risotto. Think about adding a speck to a risotto. Spanish chorizo could be introduced here, a play on paella. Opens up a world of possibilities. Smoke is a meat flavor multiplier. There wasn't that much smoked meat in this dish, but that smoke makes you believe you've just eaten some barbecue.
Tartufato, with scagliette di ricotta fume. It's hard to beat this risotto. It's truffles for Pete's sake. A lot of them too. Really, I have not words. It's wonderful. It also removes any smoky nuances from the previous risotto.
Piccantino alla Puttanesca, rice with black and green olives, capers, spicy tomato sauce, anchovy, peppers. Wins the award for unique. Why is puttanesca parochially reserved only with pasta? I think risotto melds the ingredients of puttanesca better than pasta. There's an edge on pasta puttanesca (I know that's the point), sharp flavors of garlic, pepper and anchovy can be off-putting. The risotto incorporates the flavors better because of the starch in the sauce. A bite of anchovy or garlic doesn't stick out in risotto like they would with pasta. With each scoop of rice, every single ingredient is part of every bite with the same basic concentration. With pasta, many of the ingredients are at the bottom of the bowl, not homogenized around each bite of pasta. With risotto, no ingredients are left behind, homogenized evenly in the entire dish.
I finished with a lemon sorbetto in a martini glass and the sorbet was a bit loose, and certainly had egg white. I sometimes forget how much I like something bright, clean and acidic to finish off a rich meal; a rich meal with a wide variety of flavors.
Pasta is still my favorite dish in Italy, perhaps in the whole wide world. However, this stretches the boundaries for risotto as truly a main dish and a dish that can take on any combination of ingredients and styles, just like pasta can. And for the gluten free crowd, a proper risotto preparation is ten times better than any rice, whole wheat or quinoa pasta.