Tag: Romito

The greatness of celery for Niko Romito – Italian Cuisine

The greatness of celery for Niko Romito

Celery is Niko Romito's favorite ingredient. The chef from Abruzzo reveals the techniques and the recipe for his Celeriac and chestnuts, entrusted to the student Gaia Giordano

Sometimes a broth is enough to understand the (known) size of a chef and the (unknown) size of a product. Let's talk about Celery, carrot, onion: the Reale route opens in Castel di Sangro, in a nutshell one of the best Italian restaurants (the best for Gambero Rosso) and in the top 50 in the world (29th for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants) and it is probably the first broth in the history of Italian cuisine to become a signature dish – called Assoluto and we'll see why – that every gourmet knows (and appreciates). Ultimately, we know almost everything about carrot and onion. Less celery and that's why we decided to let the author of the dish tell us about it, Niko Romito. «I like it a lot, I use it in my kitchen both as a supporting ingredient in dishes loved by the public and as a flavor enhancer. Contains a very high percentage of sodium: dried and pulverized, it completely replaces the salt, also giving a fragrant, fresh and persistent aroma that lends itself to enhancing the preparations. I am thinking of tortelli with chicken and celery, for example ”, explains the chef from Abruzzo.

The history of the Absolute

Let's go back to the Absolute, this is how it was born. "At the beginning I made classic broths, applying the notions we all know: we start with a base of cold water and add a vegetable and possibly animal part to extract flavors and moods in order to transfer them to the liquid. Then low heat and long cooking until it reaches a barely visible boil: it is clarified – using egg white – and filtered to remove impurities and make the liquid clear, but at the risk of weakening the flavor. As my taste evolved and sought purity, I changed my approach and thus the work onextraction from cooked vegetable, or the concept of "absolute". I could no longer call it "broth" because it didn't start from water, even if by eliminating the pulp – of celery in this specific case – and keeping only the juice I obtained a liquid with the same density as the broth".

The three varieties

Obviously there is celery and celery, it being understood that it must be good. This is Romito's vision: «I use the green celery as an ingredient in broths, such as the Absolute, or for flavor. As a raw ingredient I prefer the white celery, equally fragrant, but less fibrous, perfect for marinating or centrifuged, while as the protagonist of a dish I use the celeriac which has a more complex and layered structure and aromas than the classic one. Of this, from the aromatic point of view, it maintains the freshness and flavor, but also has sweet and earthy notes, a much more intense flavor. The structure is completely different, classifiable between a turnip and a potato, and this allows it to be used as the main ingredient with various cooking techniques: grilled, direct, steamed in liquid, centrifuged, raw and marinated .

To be used entirely

Having said that celery is part of traditional Italian cuisine (in sautéed, broths, stews and roasts), Romito offers us the final advice. «Use it in its entirety, both raw and cooked. The part of the coast has a more delicate aroma, the part of the leaves has a more intense and fresh scent. If centrifuged, it is an excellent 'absolute', to be consumed raw as a drink, to be used cooked as the main ingredient in a sauce for pasta or as a base for a meat stew ". And the final gift is there Celeriac and chestnuts recipe, that his student Gaia Giordano proposes to Spazio Milano, the bistro created by Niko in Piazza Duomo.

Celeriac and chestnuts

Ingredients for 4 people and procedure

For the celery
400 g celery
extra virgin olive oil
fine salt
White wine vinegar

Remove the peel and keep it aside. Cut into 2 cm cubes, season with the other ingredients and steam for about an hour. Cool down.

For the filling
200 g capon of the day before cut into cubes
100 g mascarpone
50 g Grana Padano Riserva
50 g nutmeg
2 egg yolks

Mix everything arranging with the salt and prepare the ravioli.

For the sauce
celeriac peel
500 g of water

Toast the celeriac peels with the rosemary in a saucepan. Add the water and let it go over low heat until the broth is reduced by half.

For the chestnuts
300 g of boiled chestnuts
500 g of soy milk

Put the chestnuts in a saucepan with the soy milk and cook until the milk is completely absorbed by the chestnuts. Sift.


Put the celeriac cubes in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil. Toast and add the sauce. Let it go until the sauce has lacquered the celery cubes. Put the chestnut cream on a flat plate, add the celeriac cubes. Finish with extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of bay leaf extract.

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Niko Romito and the new campus to teach the culture of food – Italian Cuisine

Niko Romito and the new campus to teach the culture of food

The Abruzzo chef launches a permanent laboratory for chefs in Castel di Sangro, ready in 2022 and based on research, training and industrialization. With a North Star: "Everything must go in the direction of good and healthy food"

Niko Romito has a magnificent obsession with teaching. Perhaps because practically self-taught he has become one of the best Italian chefs (and not only) who in 15 years has gone from first courses in the family restaurant to Three Michelin Stars. Knowing how important the technical and cultural preparation of a future cook is, he opened in 2011 in Casadonna – the renovated ex-convent of Castel di Sangro where he leads the Real – its Academy, considered one of the best schools ever. "My reference was what was created byParisian École by Alain Ducasse: I understood that the method that allowed to conduct gastronomic formats, with great qualitative consistency, all started from the training center. An idea that I tried to apply to the model of Italian tradition and my philosophy, "explains the master from Abruzzo.

Chef and mentor

Sixteen students per course, thirty-two students a year, which generates "human capital" for the group's restaurants and projects, and at the same time spreads an approach to building one's own culinary language. After six months of immersive training – followed by top-level teachers – we start for a six-month internship, in one of the satellites of the Romito network: the three-starred Reale, which is a few meters from the Academy, the various Spaces, the restaurants of the Bulgari Hotels in Milan, Beijing, Shanghai and Dubai, the Alt taste station, the Bomba street food format and the Intelligenza Nutritional project partnership with La Sapienza University and the hospital menu production chain. It is no coincidence that the Michelin Chef Mentor Award 2021 went to him, in the month – November – in which Romito was director of the magazine “La Cucina Italiana”.

2022 target

Now a big leap in quality. A structure of 3700 square meters on Strada Statale 17 – also in Castel di Sangro – which will host the Niko Romito Campus. It will be a research and advanced training center that will weave interdisciplinary dialogues around food and innovation, with the possibility of translating ideas into formats suitable for each segment. A gymnasium of experimentation on the concepts of goodness and healthiness with potential repercussions on every category of catering. The campus will arise from a renovation project of a furniture factory. There will be research laboratories, classrooms, a production center for virtual teaching materials, common areas and an open space dedicated to agronomic experiments. Theory and practice will travel together: the outcome of the progress and activities on campus will also be shared with everyone through a virtual platform which will give an account of the path taken in Castel di Sangro. "The works will begin in a few months, we aim to open enrollments in spring 2022", he explains, "to hold the first courses in the following autumn". Romito elaborated the project during the many weeks of closure of his activities and obtained clear visions from it.

The social value

“One of my missions of the future is to make people understand the importance of food and the consequences it has on healthHe says. «In 2020 we have both aspects better in focus. So it is essential to make it clear that eating well and healthy can improve health. In addition to reducing public expenditure, because malnutrition generates 40% of diseases and therefore the expenditure of enormous resources to treat them. A serious cook cannot avoid being involved in these issues . For Niko, it must be said, these are nothing new: many projects – starting with Nutritional Intelligence conducted with the Cristo Re hospital in Rome – they helped him in the creation of the Campus. «In recent years I have understood the social value of food. And how crucial industrialization must be in food transformation processes to improve the catering of hospitals, canteens, companies and schools. The commitment must be that of convey good and healthy products through simple or more complex catering models, as long as they benefit the largest number of people possible .

Format incubator

Ultimately, what is the purpose of the Campus? "Sharing knowledge and developing culture at various levels, above all a new culture of food, of its transformation based on the values ​​of healthiness, sustainability, circularity, solidarity and democratic access. Always with the same scientific and technical approach: a single standardizable, accessible, open application protocol. Research is certainly the starting point of this path, whose immediate next step is training. But the purpose of this track is to become the incubator of new formats, necessary so that everything is not limited to theory, but you find a concrete outlet in entrepreneurship linked to nutrition and catering. It is a long and ambitious job, I realize that. But it is the only way I know ".

Interview with Niko Romito – Italian Cuisine – Italian Cuisine

Interview with Niko Romito - Italian Cuisine

"We need haute cuisine that goes straight to the heart, inspired by our model of the tavern". A brave man, who must be decided on his own path, Niko Romito takes many risks, including that of not pleasing him, but he likes him. His cuisine is as Italian as it is intense and absolute. Until the last cauliflower

Dear Niko, I am writing to you so I get a little distracted. And since you are very far away, the stronger I will write to you . The incipit with Lucio Dalla's song came to me like this, but it is certain that Niko Romito you live far away as it is certain that we hope so much in the year to come. And yes, Niko lives in Abruzzo, a magical region and one of the least populated in Italy. For a Milanese a mirage, for a Roman a mountain destination given the distance from the weekend, for everyone a place of rare beauty and discovery. And Niko Romito lives in Castel di Sangro, a few kilometers from the most famous Rivisondoli where once his father Antonio, an eclectic and creative character, had a hotel. And in this Abruzzo "strong and gentle", as Primo Levi defined it, who coined the expression to define the title of one of his travel stories published in 1882, in this land I was saying, Niko is always there, except when he is not around for the world and for its tours (in "normal" times of course) since it has an important collaboration with Bulgari Hotels with the concept The restaurant.

Beijing, Shanghai, but also Milan, Dubai and soon Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, a success. And then you find yourself in Casadonna lost in those bewilders that have the flavor of adventure, in a sort of moorland that would have inspired Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters to write novels closer to the Mediterranean and certainly to the Adriatic. And he comes. Smiling, unsavory, courageous. It does nothing to please you but you like it, it does nothing to seduce you with its cuisine but it seduces you and has the true courage of men who live in remote lands. A story, his, fantastic. An outsider who finds himself with determination and stubbornness and takes first a star and then a second star within three years (2007 and 2009) until the Olympus of the gods, the third, proclaimed in 2013.

«When I inherited my father's pastry shop in Rivisondoli, I didn't really know how to cook. I was studying Economics and Business. I found myself offering classic traditional dishes such as cream and mushroom tagliatelle, sausage in scamorza cheese, and I was always full. We had the millefeuille and the apple pie. At the end of the first season, with my sister Christian who was in the room, we had set aside a treasure. Then at some point I decided to cook only what I wanted and the restaurant emptied. People sat at the table and asked us for the arrosticino, pecorino with honey and since it wasn't on the menu, they got up and left. In a week we made two covers. We were young, a little crazy, we managed to stay afloat with little. We had the ceramics of Limoges and Bernadotte that they gave only to starred chefs and I bought them through a colleague who then sent them back to me, the linen napkins with stitching, I served magnum by Gassier rosé as an aperitif, I was an extraterrestrial. But then the stars came, two in three years and everything changed. Many told me to move, I was the only Michelin in Abruzzo. At that time, I also said no to Bulgari to take the reins of the kitchen in Tokyo where Luca Fantin then went, but I said no because I had in mind Casadonna. Strange then how he came back anyway .

When you open a restaurant in a town of 689 inhabitants (Istat 2017 figure), if you don't fit in perfectly with the clientele's palate, you don't have many chances of duration. And instead Niko pulls straight and holds firm. Rather. He invests in the Casadonna project, where the Reale is located, his restaurant today three Michelin stars (which he moved from Rivisondoli to here in 2011), and nine rooms including suites and rooms in Majella stone, as well as several hectares of native pecorino vineyards and the professional school, theAcademy which bears his name. A former convent of the sixteenth century to symbolize an oasis of peace and purity like its cuisine. When he offers you a cauliflower, Niko, so to speak, is not telling you to taste a cauliflower cooked with a multitude of ingredients where the first is the main element, he is offering you the absolute essence of the vegetable studied and tested to give the pinnacle of the experience of its flavor.

"It is a domestic food dropped into haute cuisine, where it took two years of work to arrive at a dish among the most talked about by the critics and enthusiasts who come here, it is the three-star version of home-cooked cauliflower … nutritionally speaking, it makes its flavor perfect and pure. It takes haute cuisine that goes straight to the heart. I am fascinated when I make a dish … such as cardoncello with garlic, oil and parsley, the classic Italian tradition, or work with celery, carrots and onion. I took the three most used and least esteemed vegetables in our kitchen because they are hidden and usually serve as a base for meat sauce, braised and roasted. Why don't we restore dignity to three protagonists? Very Italian, right? Let's not call them broths but "absolute" because there is no added water. I get the idea by reading old manuals of regional cuisine. It is a result that has a structure similar to broth water but is the maximum concentration of flavor. And I still love soups, if I think about how many soup recipes there are, why not recreate the great soup in large restaurants? Haute cuisine must not lose its connection with the domestic kitchen, it can dialogue with modernity and maintain warmth, taste, affection ".

There is a lot emotion when Niko talks about cooking because it's not just cooking, it's culture, identity. "When I think of the cuisine of our country, the drawing of Italy on the map immediately comes to mind. The more I grow, the more I get to know other gastronomic realities, the more I appreciate the greatness of our food. It is a set of cultures and products, of the territory, of stories to tell, of biodiversity, of variety of products from the sea to the land, and above all it is a set of experiences that identify our culture and it is something extraordinary. I am fascinated by the cuisine of the bell towers, already only in Abruzzo four municipalities of the same province have different traditions and uses. For us it is obvious to always eat different dishes from the Aosta Valley to Sicily. Instead it is extraordinary. When I went to school, my references were the French and Spanish school, I didn't appreciate regional cuisine, it was an established fact. Instead today I perceive all its power. Our strength comes from the tavern – the type of dishes, the warmth, the service approach -, a world that fascinates foreigners. As a young man I thought it was a minor place, but instead I'm there culture and theidentity even stronger than those high-end catering kitchens that seek to pursue international standards. The idea that a restaurant cannot start from the trattoria model to obtain the star is very wrong. If I think of a historic three-star like Nadia Santini's Dal Pescatore, when you sit at her table, you eat traditional dishes brought to the nth degree with all the techniques she knows to make them magnificent. He makes an incredible effort to reset the recipes to improve the flavor, nutritional intake, lightness. In this way our food becomes absolutely identity and can dialogue with the world, become unique in the world .

Romito's thought is round, coherent, refined in unsuspecting times. And it is thanks to chefs like him that there could beUnesco in our future. "When I think about the candidacy, I imagine our territory that carries architecture and landscape with it, and food as a cultural expression of everything, a heritage that can be visited by the world and that tells the many values ​​that peoples should seek for find quality and well-being for individuals and the planet . We are an evolving model, in short, and Niko Romito is an excellent representative of it.

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