Italy is universally renowned for many spectacular cities and picturesque villages of historically artistic and ancient origins and enchanting landscapes, lakescapes and seascapes. Milano, is a city projected towards the future, rich in extraordinary monuments of its past, and possesses an ultra modern airport, Malpensa 2000. Vibrant, viable, and bustling, it is the centre for finance and business, and has also become the capital of fashion, design, gastronomy and now home to EXPO 2015.
The Milanese have taken on its city´s new facial change with grand style. This extraordinary city has always been a cradle of the arts, Romanesque churches, Gothic art, hidden treasures of architecture in all its nooks and crannies and a people so in love with food.
Many thanks to Pastry Chef Antonio Diafano of Pasticceria Panzera who was my guide, translator and companion during this epicurean escape that had taken me to a new cult destination called EATALY SMERALDO, a haven dedicated to Italian epicurisim which had recently opened in Milano, in Piazza XXV Aprile, consisting of 5,000 square metres devoted to locally sourced Italian gastronomic products, spread out over 4 floors and also presenting 19 venues and the Michelin Star Restaurant ALICE, in addition to exhibiting a convention centre, and culinary workshops and enotecas. Furthermore, the modernist Eataly has created its home in the historic theatre space of Milano´s former Teatro Smeraldo (www.eataly.it).
THE FOOD EXPERIENCE
Upon arrival from the Bergamo Airport, the Ori Shuttle Bus, which is a marvel at 5 Euros, leaves you in front of the Stazione Central ( 50 km. ) where I had stopped for a doublé Espresso and an amazingly exquisite mini Cannolli at Panzera located at:
Since both Chef Antonio Diafano and I were celebrating our birthdays, he had reserved a table for two at this memorable, cosy, rustic and enchanting restaurant called IL BUE è LA PATATA (The Bull and the Potato) dedicated to gastronomes where the passion for food and the pleasures for the palate find their highest form of expression in the product. It is located in a small elegant upscale neighborhood, yet possessing interiors of a countryside ambiance, with an oasis of fine local and regional classics and innovative creations.
Our dinner consisted of
Antipasti, local charcuterie meriting in excellence and divinely aged Pecorino, Parmesano and Grana Padano
The extraordinarily sublime and exquisite Risotto, served with Reggiano Parmesano
The rare Rib Eye of Beef which we shared
The Classic Tiramisù
Italian Red Wine: Valpolicella Superiore
CONTEMPORARY COSMOPOLITAN SPACE
Located on one of most picturesque car free streets, a destination for gourmandes, in a cosmopolitan Soho, Manhattan ambiance of black, neutrals and chrome, expresses an innovative concept of contemporary elegance, which boasts a vast selection of regional pastas and shellfish dishes.
The somewhat unconventional is expressed through its artisanal looking presentations.
Our dinner compositions were stuffed sea scallops, Linguini Vongole ( with clams ), the House Prosecco Dry White Sparkling Wine.
Dessert: We had decided upon Gelatto at a fashionable venue further up the street and an after dinner walk
INTERVIEW WITH CHEF ANTONIO DIAFANO
Mar: Who and what motivated and inspired you to become a professional pastry chef ?
Antonio: A life´s journey full of errors, trials and tribulations. I had made a lot of mistakes and I decided to study culinary arts and utilise my creativity.
Mar: Tell us about your mentors and which countries you have travelled to gastronomically.
Antonio: The cities that I had been really fulfilling with regard to gastronomy have been London, Milano and Paris: Chefs Michel Roux, fascinating Heston Blumenthal, Milano based Carlo Cracco, Bruno Barbieri, Enrico Crippa, David Oldani. For pastry: Chef Luca Montersino along with Chefs Pierre Hermé, Philippe Conticini, Cyril Lignac, and Philippe Bertrand. I had also visited with Chef Patissier Stoher, Fauchon, Laduree, and of course many other quintessential chefs including le Maître of Les Maîtres, Chef Paul Bocuse, and Chef Alain Ducasse. I have enriched my training by reading numerous books by Chefs Auguste Escoffier, Parmienter and Urban Dubois to name a few.
Currently, the Japanese Culinary Movement is very much in evidence, both in food and pastry. My professional contacts include Chef Keiichi Hasimoto, Chef Yasuhiro Suzuki and in the world of pastries, Chef Sadaharu Aoki in Paris, and Chef Minamoto Kichoan Company in London.
Mar: Can you tell us about your profound interest in epicurism and how this developed ?
Antonio: Both the kitchen and bakeries have always fascinated me and the idea of renovating all these sweet pastries into savoury pastries has been my challenge in recent years. The field is so vast and varied that it becomes truly fascinating and satisfying to me.
Mar: What is your view on the numerous T.V. shows aired worlwide and the relatively recent admiration for the chefs?
Antonio: The presentations of gastronomy in general are of primary importance. The fundamental is the decisive impact on the audiences and the inspiration of the récipes and the presenting of them. I must say that I have learnt a lot from these shows about the practical kitchen and the combining of ingredients in the latest récipes.
Mar: What is the degree of importance that you bring to the aesthetics of a presentation ?
Antonio: The quintessential is the visual impact, however, never excluding the taste and product profile of the best and most natural ingredients. For me, almost anything can inspire a récipe.
Mar: Tell us about your culinary philosophy, the products preferred etc.
Antonio: Everything for me revolves around the seasons. Each must be processed according to season, maturation of the ingredients and the preserving of the colors, aromas and flavors of all the ingredients I prepare.
Mar: Tell us about your planning and dressing of the compositions you create before presenting to the public.
Antonio: Each product has its own time factor in the kitchen, of course. When I present a dish, I try to be as consistent as possible with the ingredients and create the presentation as explicit as possible with attractive color effects.
Mar: What are some of your customers’ feedback on the crostatas, tarts and quiches that you create ?
Mar: What is your creative process in terms of dressage? Do you have a method ? A base of structure? Colors and /or the harmony of tastes?
Antonio: Dressage is always consistent with the ingredients used. I do not think there are any rules set, however, a chef must have a great dose of creativity.
Mar: Which chefs do you deem most talented in dressage ?
Antonio: My Chef references are Chef Keiichi Hasimoto of Le Sorcier in Yamagushi, Japan, and Chef Wuttisak Wuttiporn in Phuket Island, Thailand, who are really impressive for me. Also, Lenotre Presentations, Gerard Courbon-longy in Lyon, France, Chef Gérard Boscher of Brittany, France, and Chef Cristian Gadau of Mantova, Italy. Of course, there are uncountable others.
Mar: Which sources of inspiration provide you with the tools to dress a composition ?
Antonio: Nature, daily life, culture, the Internet, books, showcases, which can be useful to compose the ideas implemented for a dish.
Mar: Which aspects of your baking and cooking experience do you believe you need to improve upon and why ?
Antonio : Everyday, all vhefs and other professionals improve and mature with the fruits of our labor. The wisdom and constructive critique of others as well.
Mar: What tools do you employ? Tweezers, silver and gold foils, edible flowers, molds, etcetera ?
Antonio: The updating of a wide variety of materials in our work is essential. But the use of what may not seem essential may be very relevant to the dish as a whole composition.
Mar: Tell us about your Gastronomic Dream Trip.
Antonio: Surely, it is a goal to travel to Japan in all its entirety so I can experience the culture and also all of Asia. Let´s not forget Paris, and Europe in general, which is always worthy of a culinary adventure.
Mar: Have you thought to author a book and /or develop a website of your own ?
Antonio: My website is under construction at this very moment. To author a book takes time and at the moment I have not yet sat down to pen!
Mar: Which culinary books do you recommend in reference to the compositions that you create ?
Antonio: Firstly, for macarons, Delicieux Macarons authored by Chef Christophe Felder. Author Emmanuelle Andrieu, Cercles Sans Chichi and for pies Chef Luca Montersino.
Mar: Are you working on any food culture research projects at the moment ?
Antonio: Of course, I am discovering the world of vegan and vegetarian cuisines that I believe can be improved.
Here are uncountable products, my land cultivates and produces, in Lombardy : http: //wikipedia.org/wiki/Prodotti_agroalimentari_tradizionali_lombardi
Mar: Thank you very much Chef Antonio. It has been a true pleasure and an honor.
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.