A very special restaurant. With a heart, capable of flying beyond the flock, which has been handed down for generations. We are in the Cremona area, we are in Il Gabbiano di Corte de ’Cortesi
"Turn the whetstone!" So sings the chorus of the Turandot to treacherously invite the executioner to sharpen the blade that will cut the head of the Prince of Persia for not knowing how to solve the enigma posed by the princess … More mildly, the whetstone is the tool that peasants used to sharpen their precious scythe. In Cremona, this stone is called gösafer, the sharpener, and has become a specialty of the Il Gabbiano restaurant.
Beyond the flock
There are companies that are born from a love, from an encounter that looks like a scene from a romantic film. Early Sixties: Giusi Tigoli, a beautiful stenographer who works in the Niguarda offices, allows herself coffee and lunch break in the bar at the bus stop that takes her every morning to the hospital, where Gianni Fontana, the manager's son, works. that does not take her eyes off her. And a word today, a word tomorrow, Gianni and Giusi know each other, love each other, get married. And they decide to open a business in her hometown, which bears a fairytale name: Corte de ’Cortesi, a few hundred souls in the Cremonese countryside, on the Oglio river.
The location is suggestive: a rural building, complete with a farmyard and stables for horses, overlooking the village square, which has always been a place of rest and refreshment, since 1913, and therefore recognized among the historical activities of the Region Lombardy. This is testified by the Adamello granite column that holds everything and that has always been there, white and dotted with black, solid, reassuring.
Gianni, who is a reader, has no doubts about the name: he has in his heart a book that he liked so much with his positive and valuable message, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach, who climbed the charts in those years. «To the real seagull Jonathan, who lives deep inside us, as the opening quote states, Gianni dedicates the restaurant inaugurated in 1983, because he wants to fly beyond the flock, to do something different and better, like his hero feathered.
The village, where there are no passing roads and therefore only those who want to get there, is famous for its geese and its lutes. Geese are mentioned because they are numerous in the farms, they adapt well to the territory and the climate and nothing is thrown away. And then there is that very nice story that Mrs. Giusi always willingly tells: everyone in the village knows each other and when a rare stranger arrives the women in the square stretch their necks to look at it better and comment in a lively chat that reminds a little a cheerful quack. It is a must to remember the luthiers, because the Cremonese is the land of choice for these craftsmen and the master who supplies the instruments to Branduardi's musical genius lives right there.
The "pig of the Jews" and the boiled meat
The goose is one of the workhorses of the Il Gabbiano inn. In all of Lombardy and Veneto goose ham and salami have been produced for generations. In the late Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, with the arrival of many fleeing Jews from all over Europe, the local cuisine suffered from their religious food restrictions and made, as often happens, a necessity of virtue, using the goose instead of the highly forbidden pig. Goose today is truly ecumenical, in the sense that everyone can eat it with satisfaction at Il Gabbiano, if you think of the traditional roasted goose leg, cooked for five hours at low temperature, served with chestnuts and corn polenta, or goose breast marinated with herbs and then seared on the plate (so pink!), served with salad and colored vegetable creams. An example of how tradition can become contemporary cuisine, with fast, light, tasty cooking.
Cotechino, on the other hand, plays an important role in the traditional Cremonese boiled meat of Il Gabbiano, awarded by Alessandro Borghese in 2019, consisting of 5 cuts of at least four different animals: a nice piece of beef priest's hat, the legendary calf head , the hen, the cotechino (typically Cremonese) and the beef tongue, accompanied by mashed potatoes, green and red sauce and the inevitable mustard, another pride of the territory, where primadonna is the 80% sliced apple mixed with other seasonal fruits and vegetables: citrus, kiwi, pumpkin, pineapple, melon, watermelon peel … And let's not expect the bright colors of industrial mustards, because boiling without artifices dampens the yellows, greens, reds, but it is the flavor of each component to make the tasty difference.
The peasant culture of the gösafer
In the typical menus there are always terms that are not known, and this, unpronounceable for non-Lombards, attracts attention. "Ask us for his story," says the note on the side, and we don't let ourselves be prayed: it's worth it, especially if it is Andrea Fontana, our lovable cicerone who is telling us the secrets of Il Gabbiano.
For the peasant of these parts, the indispensable tool was the scythe, friendly name of the iron, the iron. But as you know, its blade is damaged by use, and must be kept sharp. Then he carried a stone hanging on his belt, with the aim of remaking the edge of the blade, rubbing it with that unmistakable and measured gesture.
The same gesture that the family made gathering around the table when there was the good fortune to integrate more than frugal meals with the nutritional contribution of a beautiful smoked herring, which was hung in the middle of the table. Each diner rubbed his piece of bread or dried polenta on it, crawling it from top to bottom with religious care, like the farmer with his gösafer, hoping that some tasty fragments would give the mouthful taste, until the family herring remained. little more than a bone; then it was taken and boiled with oil, lots of garlic, parsley and red wine vinegar. A tasty sauce for seasoning poor foods, a bowl of cabbage, two hard-boiled eggs, such simple things.
The gösafer that is on the menu today is a refined version, made with traditional dried Iseo sardines, but reminiscent of those scenes from a not at all remote past, with all the poetry of the peasant culture of the area.
Precisely the strength of this appropriately updated tradition led Il Gabbiano up to the Expo to represent Lombardy in the Eataly pavilion for the entire month of June 2015.
The Seagull that was inside Gianni Fontana's heart flew into that of his children: Andrea, our guide in the drafting of this piece, owner and sommelier of the well-stocked cellar and Stefania who has been supporting him since 2011 with her special sweets. Since 2017, Elena has been in the kitchen, the chef, Andrea's wife, who puts tradition and modernity in the pot to continue flying beyond the flock.
Tiramisu according to Tognazzi
Ugo Tognazzi, an illustrious Cremonese, was, as is well known, a cooking enthusiast. In the menu of Il Gabbiano there is his reinterpretation of a classic dessert like tiramisu, taken from the book The Abbuffone published in 1974 by Rizzoli (where he appears with the name of Coppa Bagnacavallo because Tognazzi invented it while he was shooting around there) and revisited by Stefania Fontana. It is an interesting variation of the classic tiramisu, where instead of bathing the ladyfingers in coffee, amaretti are bathed in alkermes. Then the cream is made by whipping cream. Separately, whip egg yolks with sugar, add mascarpone, dark chocolate chips, whipped cream and mix everything. Then alternate two layers of amaretti with cream and finish with flaky chocolate or cocoa powder.
This is the recipe that Il Gabbiano gives to readers of "La Cucina italiana", while waiting to welcome them in person to the country of geese and luthiers. In the meantime, from April it also makes delivery in the area every weekend!
Ingredients for 4 portions
125 ml Alkermes
150 g white sugar
100 g icing sugar
250 g mascarpone
100 g flaky dark chocolate
1 natural vanilla bean P.
Create a bath by dissolving 125 g of sugar in the Alkermes, then leave the macaroons to soak for at least an hour.
Separate the yolks from the egg whites.
In a bowl, whip the yolks with 25 g of white sugar. Add the mascarpone, vanilla and 90 g of flaked chocolate and incorporate everything.
Separately, whisk the egg whites with 100 g of icing sugar.
Incorporate the two doughs being careful not to disassemble the egg whites.
Serve by creating at least four layers alternating 3-5 amaretti with the cream obtained. Sprinkle with the remaining dark chocolate flakes.
Trattoria Il Gabbiano
Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 10 Corte de ’Cortesi (CR)