Guam Diner Bytes: Al Dente Ristorante
I had a most delightful dinner experience at Al Dente earlier this week when a small cadre of media folks were invited to attend the launch of Al Dente’s Chef de Cuisine Cristiano Pozzi’s latest culinary masterwork – a tour of Italy’s Umbria region. This verdant region borders Tuscany and is often referred to as the “green heart of Italy.” This special set dinner menu is served now through Sept. 30 ($60 or $70 with glasses of white and red wine).
We are fortunate to have Chef Pozzi transport us to this special region where fresh ingredients are sourced to create unique flavor combinations that have made Umbria a popular destination for food adventurers. The dinner was fun as I really enjoyed the interaction with these young icons of the local media.
The timing of the gathering celebrated a special event for me as well as I was at Al Dente 15 years ago doing a review when I was called by my daughter informing me I was a grandfather! I have a lot of history with Al Dente.
Chef Pozzi is a wonderful culinary advocate as he passionately reveals and shares insights to the use of ingredients as well as the significance of the region’s culture and history. He’s a really nice guy and loves to share his knowledge about Italian cuisine.
Although I will briefly introduce the set menu courses for this Umbrian food tour, I highly recommend that you try this yourself so that you can draw your own experiences based on your taste preferences and palate.
We started out lightly with Warm mozzarella crostini, black olive pesto, orange zest, and baby leaf spinach. These ingredients worked in concert to pleasantly combine with the Campogrande wine being paired.
I was a bit surprised by the “Cipollata” onion soup that came next. It was made with Parmesan cheese and eggs. It reminded me a little of egg drop soup, which is something new in my experience. It was a very delicate and light tasting.
A special feature was Chef Pozzi’s introduction of the Norcina-style homemade spaghetti made with garlic olive oil, black truffle and anchovies. There’s something amazingly seductive in the appreciation of a quality spaghetti. This is simple, good, and fun to enjoy with the wine and companions.
The herb-crusted codfish, ceraiola-style red potatoes, fava beans in pancetta sauce will take you to the next level with is delicately moist flakiness of the fish with herbs that do not interfere with its taste. Take your time with this...enjoy the fava beans with the pieces of pancetta, mixed with the fish and potato. I truly adored this codfish!
You will experience a rare treat with this main course, the Perugina-style veal scaloppini, with chicken liver, pumpkin mash, capers, Parma ham in white wine sauce. This is one of the only (if not the only) places serving veal scaloppini so be sure your take your time to enjoy each bite. You will not even recognize that chicken liver is an ingredient as its taste and texture are submerged in an amazing blend of elements. This could be one of the signature dishes for this set menu. It’s transformative, especially when paired with the Antinori Toscana red wine served in this course.
Just as all good things must come to an end, so does this dolce finale bring closure to a grand dinner. Chef Pozzi made a playful creation of sweet rice fritters with vanilla gelato joined by a cup of cinnamon sauce. The vanilla and cinnamon flavors seen to resonate in this dessert. The portions are ideal and don’t leave you with those guilty feelings from over-indulging.
Bravo Chef Cristiano! I will keep my passport handy for any journey you’d like us to explore with you!
Ken “The Guam Food Guy” Stewart