Last Friday, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Italian Cultural Center held their annual Buon Appetito fundraiser. This year, “Fame & Fortunato” featured a silent auction and Chef Fortunato Nicotra presiding over an Italian cuisine cook-off among the executive chefs from Figlio, Arezzo, and Pazzaluna. Here are a few snapshots from the evening.
“You can’t understand Italian culture without understanding, at some approach or curiosity, the food,” said Massimo Bonavita, (above, standing), the organization’s co-founder. Nicotra (above, second from right) concurred. He’s a Sicilian-born, Michelin-starred chef who has held the executive post at New York City’s Felidia since 1996. “That is the key of Italian food: working with local ingredients,” he said. “Everything doesn’t have to come from Italy. It’s regional cooking.”
The chefs were presented an extra challenge: the event space’s lack of a proper kitchen to prepare their dishes. Despite this, they managed to crank out some very tasty bites for those in attendance.
Seth Teiken from St. Paul’s Pazzaluna got off to a flying start with his antipasto (above): a perfectly cooked scallop, wrapped in speck, alongside a mushroom and arugula jardiniere.
Those in attendance sampled the antipasti from all three chefs. The crowd favorite came from Arezzo (above) and Chef Sergio Gojkovic: creamy burrata cheese folded inside prosciutto, with a mixed salad and balsamic glaze.
The most successful dish from Figlio’s J.P. Samuelson was his primo course (above). It was termed chicken “osso buco,” though it came off like a really nice roast instead of a long braise. It was served over a Milanese risotto that the actual Milanese writer at the chef’s table confirmed was darn close to authentic.
This author’s favorite dish of the night was Gojkovic’s pumpkin ravioli in brown butter and sage, with tomatoes and crushed amaretti cookies. Sure, this dish is a cliche this time of year, but his broke the mold: perfectly al dente and explosively flavorful.
The writer received a complimentary ticket to the event.