An Italian Feast from Alessandro Colli
I love Italian food. The sort of dishes you can’t always enjoy in the UK – whenever I’ve spent time in Italy it’s always quite clear that Italian cuisine starts with excellent provenance and continues with careful and painstaking preparation. Even the simplest dish may take hours of work. So, there’s something quite special about having an Italian chef like Alessandro Colli in your home as a private chef to cook dinner for you. In any case, I am always excited when I’m asked to validate a new La Belle Assiette chef – I’ve had some wonderful experiences in the past!
And, someone like Alessandro Colli who has a stellar pedigree having worked for Richard Caring’s Caprice Group and for Claude Bosi at Bibendum, has the background to produce an excellent menu.
So, a Belle Assiette evening with Alessandro as chef promised to be a wonderful event.
Alessandro arrived. Chef Sandrino as he likes to be called, thanks to his grandmother in Italy who gave him that name as a small boy, growing up in Alessandria near Turin. She also taught him to cook – and is still his main inspiration. Setting up downstairs in my kitchen he explained that he now worked as a private chef for various international clients – and was joining La Belle Assiette so that he could showcase the best of his Italian dishes.
In keeping with the evening as my guests arrived, we served them with a glass of Franciacorta Contadi Castaldi Brut, an Italian wine which is made using the same traditional method as Champagne, with much the same blend of grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero replacing Pinot Meunier).
I’m a big fan of Franciacorta in much the same way as I love English sparkling wine – unlike Prosecco, the traditional method of production with a second fermentation in bottle producing the bubbles, results in a fine drink with softer bubbles. Contadi Castaldi Brut is a fresh warm, citrus and white peach Franciacorta and a great aperitif which worked well for those of us who had any left, with our starter.
Risotto with black squid ink was delicate – I was curious how Sandrino had managed to make such a light dish and he explained that it was cooked in a white stock made with fennel, white onion, celery, cardamom and bay beaten with mascarpone chopped squid and black squid ink then dressed in a ricotta, mascarpone, Parmigiano and pecorino cream and garnished with pan-fried squid and raw Ebi prawn.
Next, a dish of Sea Bass with cauliflower served three ways – a burnt cauliflower puree, three-day marinated cauliflower florets in sugar, champagne vinegar, saffron and fennel seeds and cauliflower cress. All finished with wild green garlic and coconut chips. It looked stunning and the fish was perfectly cooked.
Then, a surprise savoury dish of cannoli filled with ricotta, caviar and raw king prawns which was utterly delicious and very different. Having tried to make my own cannoli on a cookery course in Sicily I can testify how hard it is to do – and how perfect these crisp pastry tubes were. The savoury filling was a delight too – they’d make an excellent canape dish!
Finally the lightest and prettiest Italian chocolate soufflé topped with 24k gold leaf and dark chocolate.
This is the kind of cooking that makes La Belle Assiette so special. It’s restaurant quality food served in the comfort of your own home with a chef who spends time explaining each of the dishes to you and tailoring the menu to the requirements of your guests.
What DID my guests think?
The Hedonist loved the seabass and cauliflower
A fillet of perfectly cooked sea bass came with cauliflower prepared three ways. I loved this dish, it was sophisticated and full of exciting flavours and contrasting textures.
While Sarah was all about the risotto
I loved the contrast in colours between the black squid ink risotto and the delicate prawn and grilled octopus resting on the top. It would have been easy for this to be an overpowering fish dish, but through the use of a white stock it retained a certain delicacy.
Personally, I found it hard to pick a single dish and congratulate Sandrino on a well executed and delicious dinner. My kitchen was left immaculately clean and tidy and all I had to do was empty the dishwasher at the end of the evening.
You can book Alessandro Colli as a private chef through La Belle Assiette to cook for your own dinner party starting at just £39 a head. Given he’s cooked for the Queen, you’ll be in good company – and getting something of a bargain!