As the kilometers of our expensive but very pleasant wander go by, we frequently happen to reflect on the feeling, of pleasure and satisfaction, that a chef experiences when he’s aware that even a single guest sitting at his table had planned, in large advance perhaps, to travel sidereal distances to go to his restaurant.
We are sure that Niko Romito experiences often this kind of feeling, being surely aware that, wherever you are, getting to the Casadonna won’t be like a piece of cake. But don’t dispirit, the culinary art of the Reale deserves much more than a simple deviation.
Before being a chef of unquestionable talent, practically an autodidact as other great ones, Romito is an intelligent person, knowledgeable and sensitive to his land. At the same time, he is a great communicator and businessman, rich of ideas that are able to nip the crisis in the bud, even in a place which is recovering from the miserable wounds of its recent past.
Romito thinks in great. He has an entrepreneurial spirit that is virtually unequaled in Italy, which he develops through various brilliant initiatives. Among these, stands out the formation school “Niko”, that in two years earned the praise of Slow Food and of the illustrious Università di Scienza Gastronomica of Pollenzo, with which an important collaboration was established. An out-match bet and afoot of other interesting projects such as “Spazio” (Space), an activity managed by the first students of the school, whom even share the revenues, a polyfunctional Persona di palato fine, esperto in vini e vivande. Termine combacia attualmente con un'idea creativa e avanguardista applicata al mondo gastronomico.... venue opened at Rivosondoli, in the former seat of the Reale. Its concept is to be replied in Rome and, probably, in other Italian cities.
But it’s not over yet. Soon we will also hear about “Unforketable”, in collaboration with another alimentary giant of the “Made in Italy”. A kind of encyclopedia of Italian cuisine, a project of a very high potential of which we will reveal no more.
Very many responsibilities that, anyway, don’t encumber on the creative talent of the chef from Abruzzo. He knows very well that in order to conceive a contemporary and evolved culinary art it is essential to know how to evoke the territory and, inevitably, to know inside out the foundations of the tradition.
The key of the table is the essence of the ingredients, what matters the most in a dish. Hence, sauces and dressings are reduced to the essential and leave the field to three, maximum four elements that are clearly put on focus. Their minimalist expression do not divert the commensals attention from understanding the main significance of the raw material. Behind any creation develops an obsessive research on single products of strong territorial identity, and to make the most of it they are elaborated with technical and complex steps that lead to a result of illusory simplicity. The aim is to eliminate fat, sugar and all that is unnecessary. Many try to do this, but only a few attain these indisputable results.
We definitely stand before one of the most sensitive exponents of the contemporary culinary art of our country. It would deserve, as its region, a higher visibility also abroad.
The new, minimalist and elegant dining room, is beaming during the day and warm in the evening. It is the kingdom of Cristiana, the chef’s sister, who coordinates a close-knit group of young experts of the dining room that, in perfect synergy with the kitchen, offer a friendly service of rare precision, of utterly high level.
Today the Reale is also a beautiful Relais, an example of perfect architectonic integration between antique and modern. It offers you the chance to spend some days at full round in the name of taste and relax, staying in one of Casadonna’s wonderful rooms. At your awakening, you will be welcomed by a refined breakfast and amenities that you will long remember.
The appetizers are an evergreen. Always the same ones. Always fantastic. Crostino (toasted bread) with sheep ricotta and candied cherry tomatoes, goat meatball with potatoes, croquettes of chicory and pecorino cheese, mince of sausage with candied orange, beetroot chips with rabbit liver pâté.
Immediately followed by the very simple and exquisite warm tart with black olives.
Puff pastry and breadsticks.
Smoked guanciale (pork jowl).
Another great mouthful of delight: fried sandwich with raw prawns, candied tomato and lettuce.
The first portion of bread.
The first course is one of the novelties of this year: distilled ham, chickpeas and rosemary; the best synthesis of this the culinary art.
The first classic: cold emulsion of beef and oil with tarragon and raspberry mayonnaise. As soon as we’re finished, the excellent service staff replaces our wine glasses to prevent the contamination of unpleasant egg scents.
More bread, different, excellent.
Gelatin of veal, dried porcini mushrooms, almonds, rosemary and black truffle. The introduction by Cristiana Romito is fundamental and educates the commensal to better approach the course. The truffle is not the main element and, as such, he won’t take over the other ones. It is important, here, to give the idea of a damp cold underbrush, recreated through the harmony of all ingredients combined. Technically exemplary, masterly indeed.
“Assoluto” a broth made of onions, parmesan cheese and toasted saffron. Probably the symbol of Reale’s culinary art. Concentration and essence of three very different ingredients, that enhance one another. It has established as a great classic of the Italian gourmet cuisine.
Salted codfish, potatoes, black olives and basil.
Crispy expression of tongue. A must for all lovers of the genre.
Then we’re back on the road with the first courses and another novelty: ravioli of buffalo ricotta, distilled of buffalo mozzarella, black pepper and capers. A dense broth, obtained by centrifuging the water from the buffalo mozzarella, which takes on a velvety and intriguing consistency. The sweetness of the ravioli (the dish, before its redefinition, was thought of as a dessert) is balanced by the sapid counterpoint of the capers essence. Chapeau.
Durum wheat fettuccelle, red cherry shrimps and pink pepper. What can we say… its red color doesn’t come from tomatoes but from a concentration of shrimp heads obtained through a cold elaboration of the carapace. The fresh and sour implications that extend the iodized perception of the raw shrimp, come along with tarragon and lemon. Romito is a phenomenon regarding the first courses.
Lamb, garlic and pink grapefruit. The evolution of the territory. The meat seems raw but it is cooked in sheep milk and then smoked. We sit before the umpteenth brilliant dish.
From an extensive wine list, we drew the Montepulciano made by one of the most perceptive wine producers we have. Year 2000, the last one in the cellar. Unexpectedly not very opened up, one hour was enough to release its typical complexity and elegance.
Essence. A brave dessert. The roundness of the taste, a constant feature so far, now leaves room for a cerebral delight.
Also the small pastry is deeply thought: tart with peaches, rosemary and cream; hot chocolate bomb.
Coffee brittle and milk chocolate.
To finish, a lemon sponge.
During the day the dining room is very bright.
The restaurant entrance.