He studies her as a scientist because "I understand where he takes me". For Niko Romito, research is the starting point for a journey that leads to a goal of incredible, essential but delicious dishes. Apparently simple, yet complex
The name of one of his dishes was even included in the Treccani: Absolute. «Exact: Absolute, of onion, did not exist before in gastronomy. I created the dish first and then gave it the name: a liquid that has the same structure and density of water, then zero, but there is no water, so it is not broth. Absolute, because it is a hundred percent liquid made up of onions . Obviously very good, because Niko Romito on every plate there are very few in Italy, only a few in the world. In the poker of aces at the top of our kitchen, you can rightly have a passionate preference, but the personalities are different. Simplifying, Massimo Bottura is the Vision, Massimiliano Alajmo the Talent and Enrico Crippa the History: there is no doubt that the chef from Castel di Sangro represents the Application. In the sense that he totally self-taught and starting only to help the family after the death of his father. From an (almost) degree in Economics and Commerce in Rome at Three Michelin Stars in just seven years, conquered in 2013 when the restaurant had moved from two years to Casadonna – beautiful former monastery – from the Rivisondoli office.
It takes months for a dish
A self-taught genius, it was said, that he did not go through professional schools or like so many illustrious colleagues he did not have teachers and did not even do the classic starred stages. «But afterwards I“ studied ”a lot: my kitchen is a continuous research. I take the ingredient and I take it all over, the study in depth. To create a dish, before it can be served on the table, it can also take months, sometimes more than a year of failed experiments, ingredients that are not used, dozens of very busy people to make that dish unique. Let's try, let's taste. Are we not convinced of the result? You throw everything away and start again. The cost of the dish is not what is served on the table, but what is behind it: research, technology, study. For this reason haute cuisine has a high price, but unfortunately the concept is not understandable to everyone .
Essence and Ideal
An example? The pigeon that today at the Reale it is served with cloves, water and mustard, inspired by the work done five years ago on the particular (and ingenious) cooking of meat «It is cooked in a broth obtained from the same bird, which is then reduced: I sacrifice a animal to cook ten. I called it "fondant" because the temperature at which I prepare it, below 70 ° C, is such that it retains all the humors inside while the toasting cooks the skin without triggering the Maillard reaction. The absence of the external crust gives continuity, allows the pigeon to "melt" the inside of the flesh with its outer shell. An expedient that helps me to focus on the centrality, on the essence of a product ". Not surprisingly, one of the tasting menus of the Reale is called Essence (at 170 euros, wines not included), while the other has a name Ideal (at 210 euros). With the famous downed and regenerated bread ("better than the espresso, it is more stabilized") which becomes a real course. The paper is very rich: 45 dishes, including desserts, each with the year of creation indicated. They would all be tasted, of course.
The fish that looks like meat
In the "2019 collection", there is a dish that explains Romito's art in an exemplary way: the turbot on the grill with caper powder, gentian and emulsion of its broth. A semi-absolute that required a long work, where the texture of the fish stands out, celebrated by the cutlery: it is obtained by marinating for 12 hours in water and salt and roasting on the embers, for the power of the fire that does not it dries and the smoky note on gentian. Sea and mountains, structure and bitter balanced by salty lemon and caper powder. An aesthetic and tasteful masterpiece, which is hard to understand how it was created. How are theSliced beef, whose indefinable consistency hides an explosion of flavor, or the Rice, potatoes and black pepper where you remain stunned discovering that the perfect creaming is done without any fat.
The touch of class
But perhaps even more important is that this manic work finds the right declinations in the other Romito premises: at the Bulgari scattered around the world (by the way, in a few months the one in Shanghai took the Michelin Star) for example there are already famous ones Spaghetti and Tomato – where the pure tomato is concentrated in the oven without adding liquids, then cut down and then blended – and "its" versions of baked Lasagna and Costoletta alla Milanese. And from alt – the taste station on the state road that leads to Castel di Sangro – there is the most famous fried chicken of the peninsula. «After a long work we got to cook it whole in just nine minutes, thanks to a pressure fryer that by virtue of the constant volume prepares a crispy chicken that does not lose moisture, which in fact is the same in the thigh and in the chest "He explains happily.
Foregone question, but mandatory: what is all this research for? "At the emotion of simplicity. I try to give emotions to those who taste my cuisine: I try to ensure that the complexity behind making a dish is resolved in simplicity, the dish must be understandable in respect of the raw material used. Complexity in the kitchen can be advantageous, the complication never. A badly processed ingredient is a ruined ingredient. In my dishes there are invisible ingredients, but an integral part of the recipe: those who eat do not perceive them, but if they were not there the dish would not be complete, the balance and emotion that all the parts together can give away would not be complete . Right, absolutely right: that's why Niko has a sense of matter.