Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia
Event: Dinner at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia
When: Saturday June 16th 2012, 7:30 PM
Michelin stars: 2
Addr: Via Privata Raimondo Montecuccoli, 6 20147 Milan (Italy)
Phone: +39 02 416886
Type of cuisine: Italian Haute cuisine (Pan-Italian with Tuscan influence)
Overall food rating: 8/10 Delicious take on Italian classic. One of my few favourite tables around the globe.
Service: 9/10 Lovely, attentive
Overall dining experience (the non food factor): 8/10 This is my type of dining experience, classic, focused on real great food/flavors. For those whose ideal of a dining experience needs to be pepped up with ‘theater’, the score will undoubtly be lower, and I also suspect that the dining room, not modern-looking though charming, and the neighborhood, perhaps too ‘suburb’, might lack the little ‘extra mileage’ in appeal that some would require to be floored. To each their own, then.
Food I had: I am a bit busy, was there with some friends (so no pics since having fun between friends turned out more important than bothering about food photographing), so won’t elaborate too much on each of the dishes — we basically shared bites of what we had ordered — , but I have sampled a tortelli / ossobuco of Piedmontese veal, the work of taste amazing, though very classic in presentation which is my liking (9/10), Veal (tenderloin cut) / Jerusalem artichoke, the veal (from the region of Piedmont) of stunning quality, the vegetable just ok (easily an 8/10 for that piece of veal — they could have simply served it as a carpaccio and I would have been a happy camper, the meat on its own being so fabulous in mouth) , Oxtail of beef is a classic here and you should not miss it if you go there, its deep meaty flavor enhanced by a well bodied stew made of red wine. Again, hearty and delicious like whatever we kept eating on that meal, easily a 8/10 for that oxtail. Rest assured that you can’t make such dish exquisite only by relying on the fact that fat and bones will do the talk…it takes a great palate and skills and this brigade certainly has both.
This concludes an interesting journey of seven days in Italy that I started off in Rome (only 1 quick day in Rome) , and then carried on to Northern Italy (Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna). Tiring to say the least, but this is Italy: a borderless ‘open-air candy store’ where everything is tempting. It is, as we all know, one of those rare countries where each parcel of land worths its weight in gold. This is not my first time in Italy, and everytime I visit this country, I regret of not having spent more time.
Gastronomy is, to me, as important as culture, history and architectures. Italy obviously offers plenty of those and this trip was the excuse to enjoy some great food as well as visiting as many historical vestiges as I could in such a short period of time. The dining part of this journey is crazy: Dinner on Tuesday at 3 star Michelin La Pergola in Rome, an impromptu quick lunch at 2 star Michelin Trussardi alla Scala in Milan on Wednesday, a big lunch at 3 star Michelin Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio on Thursday, and finally this Saturday dinner at the iconic 2 star Michelin Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan. It is absurd to enjoy as many meals in one single week, but absolutely understandable given the circumstances.
It was interesting, as a reflexion on my visits at the above mentioned Italian Michelin star ventures to reach conclusions I had not expected prior to the events: for eg , I had high hopes, given the raves and also its worldwide status as one of the grand tables of the world, that La Pergola would have blown me away. Although grand — It’s indeed a grand table, executing to perfection all the details that makes it known as one of the very best 3 star Michelin tables in the world – I have to admit that I was not fully impressed on a personal basis. I found it to be as expected: a great 3 star dinner, but not one that was outstanding enough in my view. This explains the recurrent 8/10, 8.5/10 marks (which means ‘very good’ in my assessment, but far from stellar) that I thought accurate to assign to most food items. In contrast, other 3 star Michelin tables that many would find average have surprisingly fed me with sometimes quantitatively less…but oftently far more impressive food. That is why this whole thing is subjective, after all … and it would be fair to remind that this is based just on one visit at those places.
Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, situated in remote suburbs of Milan, is a 2 star Michelin and legendary establishment of the city’s haute dining scene, with over 50 years of existence. The original Chef, Tuscan cordon bleu Aimo Moroni (he started cooking in the mid 50s) now fulfills the role of the owner, while two Chefs, Fabio Pisani (Grand Veyfour, Waterside Inn, Dal Pescatore) and Alessandro Negrini (Dal Pescatore, as well), are at the helm of the kitchen’s operations. What they do is basically their own interpretation of Pan-Italian cuisine with inspirations from Tuscany, Piedmont, Sicily and many other regions of Italy as well.
Aimo e Nadia is particularly praised among experienced gourmands of Italy’s high end gastro scene for offering strictly the very best produce of the country (for eg, the top grade veal from Piedmont, Sienese lardo, etc), which is a feature that I do expect at any table anyways, especially at this dining level and in this corner of the world, although I am mentioning this because that aspect will naturally grow big on the subconscious dimension of my perception of the meal to come.
In a world where there is a lot of babbling about classic techniques being boring, you would think that trendy modern cooking would bring the supposedly exciting palatable emotions that comes along, but years after the rise of those novel cooking trends, few modernist Chefs are really capable of offering the true excitement that pertains to the splendid impact that classic food can unleash in skilled hands (the Spaniards remain among the very few whose depth of modern cooking creativity can indeed rise at palatable heights of the fabulous taste of the kind of successful classic cooking that I am praising). So many people are lured by the superficial aspect of food that they can’t even make a difference between an average, above average, superior or excellent straightforward food item such a soup or a tartare. You get the idea: a restaurant like Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia catches my attention more than any of the latest trendy eateries, but this naturally comes with the expectation that classic food being my favourite cuisine type, it therefore needs to surpass itself.
Conclusion: Italian cuisine is in my top 10 favourite in the world along with Haitian, Congolese (Ex-Zaire), French, Chinese (from all over China), Indian (from all over India), Burmese (a lot of Indian and Thai influence) and Thai. In that top 10, it is perhaps the cuisine that is technically closer to my cooking philosophy: try getting the MOST (vibrant taste, above average exciting dishes, etc) out of the very LEAST (a simple ingredient, no fussy manipulation). It is therefore a cooking style that I am at ease with, because you sense the skills (or lack of talent) of the cook almost on the spot. When I was a kid, one popular leisure activity in my neighborhood was to give 1 fish to a dozen of kids (the exact same kind of fish for each of the kids), 1 humble charcoal grill (not the fancy ones we have nowadays), a box of matches, a bit of salt and 1 lemon. With those humble and limited elements in hands, the kids had to surpass themselves and make a fish as stunning in taste as they could. Their palate had to dig deep in its sensitivity. Their taste memories constantly enriched with subtleties. To me, this was the best cooking school in the world because the culinary touch of each of those amateur cooks could be sensed and appreciated. It was like appreciating Miro’s touch in a painting of Joan Miro, It was Chagall’s spirit in Marc Chagall’s works. Nowadays, when you eat at most restaurants , there is usually a brand name … then Paul, Clara, John and X cooking for the brand name. It’s Miro but not Miro that did it. It’s Chagall, but not Chagall that created it. It does not matter who is cooking, as long as there’s some sort of standard and some buzz. Just paint like Miro and Chagall, the most important is that their name are on the ad and make some noise, hourrahh!! And most people do not care anyways, since it’s mostly either good or bad food. Lol. No wonder it sometimes takes me 1 year of intense reflexion and research before deciding over a dinner worth of my hard earned money. What I liked with a place like Aimo e Nadia, eventhough Aimo and Nadia are perhaps not cooking that oftently anymore, it’s the presence of just those two Chefs only (Pisani an Negrini) with one goal: trying to convey, along the years, the spirit of Aimo e Nadia. They perhaps will never be in a position to replicate Aimo’s personal touch (I am not even sure that cloning Aimo can address this, Lol), but what they did on this dinner was exactly what both Aimo and I seem to have as a common culinary philosophy: a fascination for turning the least into the very most.