Saturday, December 20, 2014

Milano Supper at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia

We had our first "proper" meal of the trip at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in a quiet suburb neighborhood in western part of Milan. When I was planning for the trip I was a bit put off by its remote location, but the restaurant being only one of the two Michelin 2-starred restaurants in town (the other being Cracco in downtown) and a Relais & Chateaux newcomer, I was curious to try.


It took us a good 30 minutes on metro to reach the restaurant (about 10 stations away from Duomo), but it's not that hard to find - it's literally just round the corner if you manage to get out at the right exit. It's at a really random residential block but you won't miss it with its unique facade filled with modern art paintings. The same artsy theme extended to the dining area, an unusually bright room with only 8 small tables, with more paintings on the surrounding wall (there's another room on the other side for more tables). While I think those bold artwork was cool, I did find the lighting a bit cold, reminding me more of a classroom or clinic then a fine-dining restaurant. It doesn't help when we were the first group of customers to arrive, seated at the corner table at the far end, but the atmosphere warmed up a little bit as more people sat down, filling the whole room and when food was served.

The restaurant was set up by the Tuscan husband-wife team of Aimo and Nadia Moroni in 1962 who have now passed the day-to-day cooking duties to a young pair of chefs Fabio and Alessandro. I would say their cooking was somewhat a combination of traditional cooking and modern presentations which highlight the best ingredients available across various Italian regions. Many of the dishes came from traditional Tuscan cuisine - given the root of the owners, but much inspiration was drawn from other regions as well.

We were still having a bit of jetlag so we went for a la carte instead of the longer tasting menu options. Soon after we ordered, a basket of bread was served (and they were delicious particularly the grissini), along with the amuse bouche of a small bowl of Jerusalem artichoke and watermelon cream with olive oil. It's a simple dish yet with interesting flavors.

Knowing I will probably have far too many Piedmontese food in the next few days, I still couldn't resist ordering yet another Piedmontese dish as my starter. The dish of veal carpaccio cooked in extra virgin olive oil and herbs with "tonnata" sauce, juice of turnip tops and red "honey" onions was a re-invention of the traditional Vitello Tonnato, with half-cooked thin pounded "slices" of Piedmontese veal served on top of a herbs, pesto-like sauce. The meat was super-tender and flavorful, and definitely different than many of the same dishes we had in the next few days. 

A wide variety of main course choices were available, from seafood to meat from various regions, and even one called the "quinto quarto", described as a small tour in the world of offals, which I seriously considered ordering. At the end, I opted for the guinea hen served 2 ways - breast was turned into a roulade wrapped with almond and licorice and leg meat was turned into a croquette with spices. The meat was well-cooked and moist; the presentation was simple but overall it's rich and delicious. The sauce and seasonings was spot-on.

I had the most interesting dessert called "Mele Mangio", presented four different types of apples - Renetta, Annurca, Cotogna and Sorba - in six different ways - several as jam, along with a thin apple crisp and a sorbet on the side. That was served with a soft Italian meringues with flakes of grain on outside. It's very light but did accent the different apple flavors and textures. I also liked the petit fours, with a sugared strawberry jelly candy, a chocolate truffle with hazelnut, and banana bread with hazelnut cream. All of them were lovely and enjoyable, offering just the right sweetness touch to conclude our meal.

The wine list was an interesting read - it didn't go with the conventional categorization by grape varietals or counties or bottle format, but with sections of different "themes" in a 30-page book. For example, there's a whole section dedicated to Biodynamic wines, or a whole page of DRC, and I have my eye set on the section somewhere in the middle for wines from Etna, the volcano in Sicily. I wasn't too familiar with the wine region so the sommelier explained to us patiently and recommended one called Quote 600 from Alberto Aiello Graci's winery, a small production wines using Narello Mascalese and Cappuccio grapes - 2 indigenous grape varietals in Sicily - grew on vines 600 meters up the volcano (hence the name), which all of us enjoyed with an energetic spice nose, ripe fruity palate and a big, Bordeaux-like body.

I was very pleased with the meal thinking the chefs did an excellent job augmenting simple but good quality ingredients into a number of creative dishes using traditional cooking techniques and contemporary presentations, without going over the top. Exactly what I was looking for and they delivered brilliantly. Not shabby at all for yet another (belated) birthday celebration meal, this time 6000 miles away from home.

The full picture album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157649095122345/

When? October 23 2014
Where? il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, Via Privata Raimondo Montecuccoli 6, Milano, Italy
Menu Highlights? Piedmontese veal carpaccio cooked in extra virgin olive oil and herbs with "tonnata" sauce, juice of turnip tops and red "honey" onions
Drinks? 2011 Etna Rosso Quota 600, Graci, Etna DOC
Web: www.aimoenadia.com

(This is the part of the Journey to Piedmont series, a writing project capturing our recent travel experiences to the region)

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