. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: Lost Flavors

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lost Flavors

Sometimes a normal, unassuming evening can turn into a time warp experience: it happened to me on Saturday night.
First I have to provide you with an introduction to my first experience with Luciano Madii aka Il Frasca. I met him over ten years ago in Montevarchi with my brother in law, amidst our self-proclaimed crusade to the Prada outlet. Our journey fulfilled, we unassumingly asked the Carabinieri at the autostrada tollbooth where we could eat a good lunch before the outlet opened. The two of them, almost in unison said "Il Frasca. Make a right, then a left after the bridge and then follow the signs." That is exactly how we unassumingly got to "Il Frasca sull'Ambra."
The restaurant was filled with Prada managers and designers (the factory is few minutes away from the restaurant) and every table was taken, so we waited unassumingly by the bar.
Meanwhile another Prada manager who looked very hurried stepped in after us, hoping for a table. I told Frasca that we were not in hurry, and that we had to wait for the outlet to open anyway, so we could wait for the next one if he wanted to give it to the gentleman after us. That is how we unassumingly became friends, and we spent the whole day with him, only to be invited for dinner at his other restaurant "La Valle dell'Inferno".
A word about the man himself - Il Frasca is an excellent chef with over 30 years of experience. He now owns two restaurants in the Valdarno, La Valle dell'Inferno with his residence connected and la Fiaschetteria where his nephews Riccardo and Daniele run the show. He also owns an establishment in Coconut Groove in Miami. Since that first fateful day, I have eaten at La Valle dell' Inferno and the Fiaschetteria numerous times and always had the best meals. Luciano was in NY last week and stayed with us for couple of days including the unassuming Saturday, the evening that he turned into a great and memorable experience, through a warm, comforting and soothing Ribollita.
La Ribollita, literally meaning "reboiled" because of its second passage in the pan to finish the dish, is sort of a bread soup made with kale, beans, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, herbs and extra virgin olive oil. It is a pretty simple dish, a reminder of the poor roots of the classic Italian cuisine. But trust me, when Robollita is done right, it's like a symphony of flavors in the mouth.
If you go to Tuscany, every little town and every person in the town will keep the secret of how to make the a perfect Ribollita. Some put more vegetables than others, some create a little crust when reboiling, etc, etc. I'm sure one could write an entire book with all the variations and the variations on the variations of Ribollita. The Tuscans, perhaps by nature, have a very efficient networking system, but do not allow it to mar their pride for their own specific creations. As Fabio Giannotti of La Fornace, winery in Montalcino once told me: "my Brunello is the best, but I talk with other winemakers about lots of things, especially when a "friend" has a problem and need information in how to deal with it." The same unassuming networking principle also works with recipes:" my Ribollita is the best but tell me one thing - how do you get the crust so crispy like that..."
So, that Saturday I came home from the shop, and Frasca, Luciano's friend Il Pimpi (in Tuscany more than anywhere else they use nicknames religiously) and my sister were waiting for me to eat a big pot of Ribollita. Luciano took few big spoons put in a pan and started to reboil it, then put it in four plates, landed some thin slices of onions over the top and drizzled some olive oil on it. I poured some Tenuta Vitalonga Elcione for everybody then we all sat, ate and started to travel through time and space, following the hands that made those simply delicious flavors throughout the centuries.
Buona Bevuta e Mangiata a Tutti

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