Until today I had always talked to you about the classic outings, those on Sundays where you eat in good restaurants: genuine cuisine without too many frills, new wine and so on.
Today I want to amaze you, I want to tell you about two gourmet proposals outside Milan that I have just tried and that have entered the list of my favorite restaurants with a straight leg.
The Market Place (Como)
I had already had the honor of trying the cuisine of chef Davide Maci during a dinner in Milan organized by Euro-Toques (the only association of chefs recognized by the European Union, of which Davide is a member) and I was very impressed by his cuisine that is simple in ingredients but elaborate in the workmanship. When I was invited to try the new spring menu in his restaurant in Como then I was very happy and curious to try his new creations. The Market Place is the name of the restaurant that opened in 2011 near the historic center of Como, just 40 minutes from Milan (which is the same time it takes if they invite me to dinner in several areas of Milan); the name derives from Davide's desire to reproduce the atmosphere he breathed in London when he went to the market to choose the ingredients and raw materials of his dishes and I would say that he succeeded.
The space is small (maximum 30 seats), intimate and very warm; the furniture is modern and contemporary, made of light wood and crates on the walls, with a kitchen totally open to the dining room of which he is particularly proud.
But let's get to the tasting menu, a real mystical experience in 7 courses! It starts with Fassona tartare and beer ice cream, then curd with goat's milk, potatoes and bread crust, followed by barbeque octopus with borlotti bean cream, parsley and turnips. On this last dish I was really moved: I don't normally eat it but this octopus, certainly thanks to the excellent raw material, cooking and combinations, seemed to me one of the best foods in the world. I forgot, each dish is accompanied by special wines or cocktails designed by the chef together with the young sommelier Andrea Livio to best enhance the courses. After a small sorbet, dinner continues with cod ravioli (with potatoes, bergamot emulsion, broad beans and peas), with mullet (a spectacle also for the eyes, with fennel and seaweed chips), with rib of beef ( a must for the chef, very tender with carrot and horseradish) and then top it off with the strawberry cheese cake, white chocolate and cocoa short bread.
One is truly speechless; the menu is perfect, balanced (it comes out full, but not weighed down), refined and based on seasonal raw materials of the highest quality. The great talent, actually now recognized by everyone, of Davide Maci is there and it shows, his dishes speak for him without adding anything else.
The Market Place is a place that has nothing to envy to the pretentious Milanese restaurants; if you want to spend a special evening this is the right place to do it.
The price of the Spring Tasting Menu is 60 euros + 20 for the wine pairing.
Alternatively there is the Basic Tasting Menu at 45 euros + 20 with wines, or the A la Carte Menu (but I highly recommend you to try the Spring menu!).
For a 360 ° experience with Davide Maci's cuisine and vision you can also try the most recent Punch and Fresco Cocktail Shop (also in Como). The Punch is a more informal bistro where you can eat from the aperitif until midnight by combining innovative and unusual cocktails with the dishes; Unlike The Market Place, Punch is also open for lunch on the weekend for a super quality brunch.
The Fresco Cocktail Shop, as the name implies, instead focuses on the drink proposal and is open only in the evening, from the aperitif onwards. You just have to go to Como and try them all 3!
The Market Place - Via Borsieri 21 / A Como - tel. 031270712
Mon: 19.00-22.00 / Tuesday to Sat: 12.00-14.30 and 19.00-22.30 / Sun: closed
Punch - Via Oltrecolle 43 Como - tel 031280797
Tue to Sat 18.00-01.00 / kitchen open until 24.00 / Sat and Sun 12.00-15.00
Fresco Cocktail Shop - Viale Lecco 23 Como - tel. 3937315649
Sun to Thurs 18.00-01.00 / Fri and Sat 18.00-02.00 / Tue: closed
Ada and Augusto (Gaggiano)
40 minutes from Milan, this time to the south, is the Cascina Guzzafame that Augusto Monti, pioneer of Lombard agriculture and heir to a long dynasty of breeders, transformed in 1973 into a well-known production and commercial model in Lombardy.
You arrive at the Cascina from a country road surrounded by a long row of trees and you immediately realize that you have arrived in a special place. In fact, the first Italian "farm restaurant" has just opened here, a gourmet restaurant led by the young and talented Japanese chef Takeshi Iwai, a former student of Alajmo, Cannavacciulo and Genovese, who wanted to take up the challenge of the Monti family: to create a kitchen modern Italian almost entirely at zero km. Yes, 70% of what you will eat at Ada and Augusto comes from Cascina Guzzafame: beef and pork (also used to make cured meats), chickens, Carnaroli rice, flours, organic vegetables (the them is a certified organic garden), milk (which is used by the internal dairy to make butter, yogurt and excellent cheeses), eggs and honey. All these foods and products, among other things, can also be purchased in the shop located in the courtyard of the Cascina.
The small restaurant (there are only 30 seats) was created from the renovation of a floor of the main house where Ada and Augusto Monti lived, leaving the original furnishings to recreate the hospitality and simplicity of the owners. Entering this intimate and warm environment, you are greeted beautifully by the smile of Francesca, Ada and Augusto's granddaughter, who coordinates the service in an impeccable way and follows the cellar, choosing small wine productions from the North-East herself. You will immediately feel at home! But let's get to the kitchen.
Chef Takeshi Iwai has designed tasting menus featuring Italian dishes revisited in a modern key, clean recipes made with a few ingredients that cannot be fresher, which he himself can choose and collect a few meters from the kitchen. A challenge that is anything but easy that the chef has taken up and developed in an excellent way, giving us an incredibly good cuisine that is also beautiful to look at.
Its oriental origin emerges in fact in the presentation of the dishes, with particular attention to color combinations and geometry: its dishes are real works of art that one is almost afraid of ruining by putting on a fork and knife. In this regard, Takeshi has made use of the collaboration of the designers of Punto Soave who have created for him unique pieces made by hand by Venetian artisans, which contribute to making the experience of Ada and Augusto's guests unique.
In this spring, the gastronomic proposal is based on two tasting menus, called Ada and Augusto. In the Ada menu (45 euros + drinks), the most classic, you will find the Battuta di manzetta with tuna sauce, the Risotto di radicchio al salta, Capocollo and rib with a trilogy of cabbage. The Augusto menu (58 euros + drinks) is instead more creative and offers: Artichoke and ossobuco cutlet, Grilled cannoli cavolata and smoked chestnut risotto and Grilled beef with grilled vegetables. At the end of both menus you can choose between a selection of Cascina Guzzafame cheeses accompanied by home-made jams (personally I could make an internal meal eating only their cheeses, to say they are exceptional is an understatement!) Or a dessert. Here too the choice is really difficult, there is the house tiramisu, the caramelized apple with ginger and The four forms of chocolate, all expertly prepared by Maria Giulia Magario.
Considering the zero km supply chain, the menus will often change according to the seasonal products and we will be able to taste many Takeshi dishes. I can't wait to go back already !!
The Ada e Augusto restaurant is open only in the evening from Wednesday to Saturday and I highly recommend it if you want to spend a special, romantic evening out of the classic situations of Milanese restaurants.
And if you want to try Takeshi's and the staff's cuisine in a simpler setting, you can come on the weekend and have lunch in the Agrituristic Restaurant, the “great country restaurant” as the Monti family likes to call it. Here you can taste the classic dishes of the Lombard tradition, always all strictly zero km. The agritourism menu costs 30 euros + drinks: it is impossible to finish all the courses! Book well in advance.
Speaking with Francesca and with the other heirs of Ada and Augusto one is carried away by an incredible energy, and this also transpires from the thousands of activities they organize in the Cascina: there is the Educational Farm for children, Yoga classes, sessions of Pet Therapy with donkeys and many others. In conclusion, if you hadn't understood, I immediately fell in love with this place! La Cascina is an oasis of peace, ideal for rediscovering a more human dimension, in contact with the earth and with nature that we citizens often tend to lose or forget.
Cascina Guzzafame - Location Cascina Guzzafame, 20083 Gaggiano (MI) - Tel: 02 9086659
Ada e Augusto Restaurant (Tel. 331 6383207) - Wed to Sat 20.00-22.00
Ristorante Agrituristico (Tel. 331 6383207) – Sat and Sun 12.30 - 14.00