The night presented the fourth of the I Lombardi dinners, now in their second year. This year and last year, two friends, two chefs, who were born just a few minutes away from each other in Lombardy Italy, celebrated their regional cuisine with a joint dinner. Chefs Stefano Manfredi and Alessandro Pavoni didn’t meet though until many years later here in Australia. Now they’re friends. Their dinners are held each year at each of their restaurants, Manfredi at Bells, and Ormeggio.
With two of my favourite chefs teaming up for such a regional delight, I was truly disappointed that after attending both I Lombardi dinners last year, I had to miss the third and earlier dinner of 2011 at Bells. But I made sure I was available for the 6th July 2011 at Alessandro Pavoni’s restaurant, Ormeggio.
Somehow (with a combination of a quick taxi arrival and then beating peak hour traffic) I arrived early only to find a young fan Izzy had dropped by to get Chef’s autograph after seeing him on MasterChef. While both Chefs Stefano Manfredi and Alessandro Pavoni had been guests of the show, it was a younger Chef from the Ormeggio kitchen, apprentice Alex Keene, that a starstruck Izzy really wanted to meet.
On such a cold night, the cosy warmth inside the restaurant was very welcome. And on arrival, the first of many senses to be aroused during the evening, was the glorious warm smell of delicious wafting aromas from the traditional Lombardy spitroast. While this dish would be served later in the evening, we didn’t have to wait long for a glass of Il Mosnel, Cuvee Brut, Franciacorta, from Lombardia in our hands. A sensational selection of assaggini from Alessandro and Stefano helped us mingle before we were seated.
Pane della casa
Osvaldo Vannini olio extra vergine – Lago di Como
Murray Cod, sautéed spinach, sultanas, caper salsa
2009 Filippi, Soave DOC, Veneto
Maccheroncini with yabbies and toasted sesame
2009 Camillo Donati, Malvasia Rosa Frizzante, Reggio Emilia
Spiedo Bresciano with Polenta
2007 Mamete Prevostini, Sassella Valtellina Superiore DOCG, Lombardia
Monte Bianco of chestnuts, cocoa nibs sauce, chestnut milk curd, persimmon
2009 Vittorio Bera, Moscato d’Asti, Piemonte
With such talent in the kitchen, the dinner was stunning, and the dishes from each Chef showcased their place of birth. There were stories of more recent additions, when Stefano Manfredi told us how his mother had created the playful macaroni with yabbies and toasted sesame. Oh my goodness, how the sesame lifted the yabbies to another level. That dish dazzled the palate with the wine match of the night too. Though the sparkling rosa had more of the refreshment of a crisp dry cider. A highly entertaining wine and match – which divided the room with polarity of opinion. Bravo for challenging us and for the courageous choice.
The night wasn’t all about food though, as we heard from John Hughes about another great talent from Lombardy – Guiseppe Verdi. And we heard about Verdi’s namesake opera I Lombardi (written in 1843). John Hughes story telling provided an entertaining respite to the business at hand – eating and drinking.
I’d often heard from Chef Alessandro Pavoni that the spit is traditional in his neck of the woods, and so we moved on to his range of Brescian Spiedo. He’d imported a number of Ferraboli spits from Italy which allow the roast meats to be basted as they cook. Served with a fine polenta, I was reminded of a story I’ve often heard told by Stefano Manfredi. When the Manfredi’s first opened their acclaimed The Restaurant in Ultimo – which was to be awarded 3 hats by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – mother Franca Manfredi didn’t want to serve polenta. It is the food of poor people. Thankfully it was cooked and served there. Through the Manfredi family we’ve all come to enjoy it now in Australia and it has been added to the repertoires also of many Australian home cooks.
Another dish that resulted in divided opinion was for me another highlight. I fell in love with sweet chestnut puree when I uncovered its pleasure as a teenager. It’s long been enjoyed by me, and I wonder why here in Australia we don’t see more if it. This simple treatment I feel was a lovely tribute to the season. A splendid way to finish a splendid evening in the company of good friends. Bravo Chefs! I’ll be back for more next year.
d’Albora Marina The Spit, Mosman NSW Australia
+61 2 9969 4088