We drove inland, past vineyards and ripe mountains to the (especially) quaint town of Nusco. Upon arrival, our Michelin awarded gem incongruously advertised its symbolic nipple logo with an arrow pointing towards its charm. Clearly a food destination (why else go to Nusco) my bright blue eyes navigated me to the seat I would call home for the next three hours. The interior was gracefully modern, airily displaying framed artwork across from a bookshelf full of exceptional wines. Ettore gave head chef Antonio Pisaniello a nod and our tasting began…
Our first course was a (rather ubiquitous) Potato Croquette; his approach was seemingly (and effectively) to lighten the regional dish of its deep fried weight. An inviting puddle of Carciocavallo cream laddled beneath was smartly spiked with Tomato Water (jus) to balance both texture and flavor.
A Veal tongue and Eggplant mélange followed. Aware of potentially timid palettes’ his sublime garnishes, (Mint, Blanched Tomato Peel and a Foam [no lo so]) with each bite, subtlety redirected your senses. Unfortunately the dish’s singularity was diminished somewhat by the gravy which accompanied.
Deep fried (Cow’s Milk) Ricotta then came served on a flight dish atop finely diced Proscuitto and Zucchini. A green oil/jus played gently with its orange neighbor (another light sauce of some kind). Although I felt the size of the Ricotta was too grand, the plate’s eruptive space was unquestionably clever. Although not mentioned as an ingredient, the adhesive mozzarella (I assume included for practicality) gave a misleading sponginess to the dish. Still, my last scandalously creamy bite coated my mouth stunningly…allowing the exceptionally paired wine to socialize before entering my abyss.
Our single Fish course was the most eccentric yet focused of the night. A resounding first bite “sigh” unearthed a myriad of carefully plated ingredients. A buttery whipped bean puree disguised a light tomato water stream. Deconstructed tomato appeared in two other forms, its skin lightly fried in strips as a garnish and “dusted” on the outer perimeter of the plate. The fish, poached to perfection, proudly centralized the dish. A surprisingly subtle bite of Peperoncino gave the dish additional character. However my best bite emerged when the mint garnish remixed the dish and made it otherworldly.
I timidly excused myself to tour the kitchen. Although never invited I introduced myself as a passionate traveling young chef to the staff as I witnessed our next course take shape. There I met another New Yorker whose chosen vocation (er, cooking) led him into this particular kitchen I found myself in. We exchanged few words, but I was comforted by his presence, a reminder that I was not alone.
I returned from the kitchen greeted by a glass of Tavarasi; a lauded local red wine. Richly satisfying, it soundtracked the heavier dishes which were on their way. The Ricotta filled ravioli emerged lightly smothered in a Tomato Fresco sauce. Simply plated, its charm was in the pasta itself; silky, moist and rich from its own freshness. Once again the water from lightly smashed Tomatoes was used effectively to offset the dishes heavier ingredients. Crushed Almonds gave the dish its earthy finish.
A 4 bean Zuppa with Cavatelli followed, perfectly thickened and inviting…it’s Pancetta base still present. Although not my favorite dish (or perhaps too rich in the moment), it was executed beautifully.
Our last savory dish, Veal prepared three ways, challenged the table with its “Secondi” verboseness. In the end, I never got an adequate description of each cut of meat and my brain must have fuzzed because my notes stop here! It was as rich as it should be with the dishes signature differentiation and continuity intact.
Passing on a full round of Chocolate flights we were given a dolci “amouse bouche”; a spaciously complex Melon foam. Its sweetness of perfection, its texture symbolically negating the coursed which preceded. A Gelatto flight rounded out our lunch. It felt like an encore in my mouth and include tart apple with cinnamon (?), Fig and Caramel and Melon and Strawberry. We each explained our choice favorites as the restaurant prepared to close.