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In today's Media Mix, comparing Dunkin' Donuts to artisanal donuts, plus a League of Legends restaurant
The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.
China's Newest Themed Restaurant: Another themed restaurant has popped up in China, this time featuring waitresses and waiters dressed like League of Legends characters. The name: Demacia. [Forbes]
George Clooney: Pizza Maker? This illustration on a Germany pizzeria's pizza box looks suspiciously like George Clooney. Tequila first, then pizza? [Buzzfeed]
Firecakes vs. Dunkin': Chicago Reader did a reader taste test of artisanal donuts versus Dunkin' Donuts. Obviously Dunkin' won. [Chicago Reader]
SPQR Closed for Unknown Reasons: Grub Street notes that SPQR restaurant in New York's Little Italy has closed, and its contents were auctioned off yesterday. [Grub Street]
Recipe: Skinny Baked Zucchini Chips
These babies make a healthy, low calorie snack &mdash just 49 calories and 2 SmartPoints for 20 chips. Leftover chips will not keep well, so try to eat them quickly before they lose crispness! For more fun potato chip alternatives, check out our recipes for Skinny Baked Sweet Potato Chips and Crispy Kale Chips.
- The key for successful zucchini chips is to not cut them too thick or too thin (between ⅛" and ¼" is ideal), and to not drench them in oil.
- Cooking times will vary by thickness and baking pan heaviness. In other words, they demand your attention, so keep an eye on them when baking. They may have to be rotated around the tray to prevent the ones around the edges from burning. When done right, they'll have a beautiful golden color with a light crunch to go with it.
Recipe: Skinny Baked Zucchini Chips
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1-1½ hours
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: 20 chips
1 medium zucchini (about 1 lb makes about 80)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 225°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a mandoline slicer, slice the zucchini chips very thinly. On a slicer with three thickness settings, use the second.
Lay the slices out in a single layer on paper towels and place another paper towel layer on top of them. Put a baking sheet over them for 10 minutes to help remove some of the moisture, resulting in a crispier chip.
Lightly brush the parchment paper with oil, then line the zucchini slices in a single layer on the baking sheets, and lightly brush the tops with oil.
Season evenly with the salt, garlic powder and onion powder.
Bake for 1-1½ hours, until the chips are crispy, rotating halfway through. Allow the chips to rest for 5 minutes before eating.
Store leftovers in an airtight container.
Per Serving: (20 chips)
Calories from fat: 34
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
George Clooney Can't Get Over How Much His Daughter Looks Like Wife Amal
Adorable little Ella has Amal Clooney's eyes, said the actor.
George Clooney loves both of his children equally, but he&aposs especially taken with his daughter, Ella. The reason? She looks exactly like his wife, Amal.
"They&aposre born with personalities. Ella is very elegant and dainty and she has these big beautiful eyes she looks like Amal," the actor told Extra. His son, Alexander, couldn&apost be more different-he actually weighs a full three pounds more than his sister. "He&aposs just a thug, he&aposs a fat little boy, he laughs louder than everyone in the room it&aposs the funniest thing." While he&aposs proud that his children are already developing distinct traits of their own, Clooney said that he feels lucky to know that there&aposs a piece of his wife in both of the twins. "When Amal and I met and when we got married it became really clear we were lucky. It seemed selfish not to share some of that luck with some other people," he said, on the decision to have children.
The couple&aposs love story is more than lucky-it&aposs downright magical. The couple first crossed paths in Lake Como, Italy. "I thought she was beautiful, and I thought she was funny and obviously smart," Clooney told The Hollywood Reporter of his first impression of the human rights lawyer. After a few dates, the two took a safari trip together to Tanzania, where the actor realized Amal was the one. They were married nearly one year later. "There was no doubt that we were the right couple and that we were the right team. And we were a team from right off the bat," he said. "Immediately, we felt we were just happy, and we have been happy ever since."
The actor may love to talk about he and his wife&aposs relationship and their children, but he and Amal have no plans to add to their family. When asked if the couple will try for more, Clooney said, "Done!"
The recipe for Patsy's Italian Restaurant spans the generations
Sal Scognamillo is one chef who’s not afraid to reveal the secret to one of his signature dishes. For the past 35 years he’s made the trek from his home in North Woodmere to Patsy’s Italian Restaurant on 56th Street in Manhattan, serving up classic Neapolitan fare including the eatery’s famous marinara sauce.
“You have the tomatoes, a little garlic, oil, let it come to a boil then simmer it for 15 to 20 minutes,” says Scognamillo, 57, who is also a co-owner with his dad, Joe, also of North Woodmere. “If you cook it longer than that, you lose the freshness of the tomatoes. That’s the secret. Add salt and pepper and don’t put the tomato paste in until the end, just to thicken it.”
The recipe for the success of the restaurant, founded by his grandfather Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo in 1944, is just as simple. “I make a joke that we’re still here because of the three F’s — food, family and Frank Sinatra,” Sal says of the restaurant that was a popular hangout for the famed crooner, not to mention dozens of other celebrities, from Lucille Ball to George Clooney, whose photos adorn its walls.
But first and foremost, Patsy’s Italian Restaurant, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, has been a family affair for four generations. On a recent afternoon, while Sal was slaving over such dishes as eggplant Parmigiana, his wife, Lisa, was going over the books while his dad, Joe, 86, greeted everyone who walked in. Also on hand was mom Rose, who turns 88 on Tuesday and for years worked as the cashier.
Joe Scognamillo, left, was the chef at Patsy's Italian Restaurant in Manhattan until he passed the torch to his son, Sal. Credit: The Scognamillo Family Collection
In all that time, the restaurant has had only three chefs. Pasquale, who was dubbed Patsy upon arrival at Ellis Island from Naples, taught the recipes to Joe, 86, who eventually took over as chef-owner. Joe, in turn, taught Sal, who started as executive chef in 1988 and is now grooming his older son, Joe, 23. (Though Sal taught him recipes, Joe, who has a master’s in business from Quinnipiac University, in Hamden, Connecticut, handles reservations, scheduling parties and other office duties.)
Ask Sal or his dad who’s the better chef, and in unison they’ll reply, “He is.”
“What’s really amazing about him is that he remembers everything. I don’t,” Sal says. “When I made the St. Joseph Bread, he took a bite and he said ‘you put too many egg whites in there.’ ”
That combination of memory and seasoning to taste epitomized Joe’s cooking style. “We would make pots of sauce, like marinara, fresh every day,” Joe Sr. says. “I’d say ‘Sal, this is the amount of salt you add. You put in your hand. He said, ‘Dad look at your hand and look at mine.’ So we put the salt in a cup. Mine was 3/4 and his was 1/2. He taught me how to measure.”
Both, however, have maintained the cardinal rule imparted by Pasquale. “He believed in top quality, freshness and everything should be done by hand. Even the garlic was peeled by hand,” Joe says. “He taught that to me and I passed it on to Sal.”
Since then, the family has shared many of its restaurants' stories in “Patsy’s Cookbook” (2002) and “Patsy’s Italian Family Cookbook” in 2015 and sells jars of several types of sauce.
Pasquale "Patsy" Scognamillo, in his trademark gray jacket, in the kitchen at Patsy's Italian Restaurant. Credit: The Scognamillo Family Collectio
FAMILY THAT COOKS TOGETHER …
While family is served up in big helpings at Patsy’s Italian Restaurant (as it’s legally known to avoid confusion with other Patsy’s establishments, including Patsy’s Pizzeria in Harlem), the long hours and demands of running the business have been a hardship at times.
When Sal was growing up, the restaurant was open every day but Monday. “I’d be sleeping while the kids were at school, and when they’d be home, I’d be working,” Joe says.
Joe still remembers the steamy summer night he worked a double shift and a customer came in minutes before closing and asked for gnocchi. “My father said ‘Hey Joey, do you know there’s no more gnocchi in the house?' So I went inside and made gnocchi by hand because my father could not say no to that man,” Joe recalls. “He said the ridiculous, you do now. The impossible will take you 10 minutes more.”
By the time Sal was 13, he stated spending his summer vacations at the restaurant. “It was really to spend time with my dad,” Sal says. “I had no idea I would become the chef.”
Sal Scognamillo with his father, Joe, stands in the kitchen at Patsy's Italian Restaurant in Manhattan. Credit: Corey Sipkin
For his father, there was no doubt of his own future. “I was practically born in the kitchen. I had no choice,” he says. “Pop invested everything he had in the business. After school I’d come here and clean shrimp.”
Sal, however, planned to embark on a career in film and television production. He even worked for a few months as a cameraman at Telecare, the television station of the Diocese of Rockville Centre that’s now know as Catholic Faith Network. When that stint ended, finding work in television proved daunting.
“I couldn’t get a job, so my father said you want to learn how to cook? I guess it worked out OK,” Sal says, admitting he didn’t know parsley from basil when he started.
“The first day I was here, he said ‘I’m the chef and you’re the apprentice. When this is over, you’ll be the chef and I’ll be the apprentice,” Sal says.
Running Patsy's Italian Restaurant is a multigenerational recipe. Sal, the current chef, works with his wife, Lisa, and his parents, Joe and Rose. The restaurant was founded by Pasquale "Patsy" Scognamillo, in 1944. Credit: Corey Sipkin
Within a short time, Sal suggested changes to the menu, but Joe was less than enthusiastic about adding meatballs to the menu. “I said “Sal, nobody eats meatballs today. Everything is this fancy stuff,” Joe says. But Sal was persistent, and Joe agreed to trying them for one week.
“I said if they don’t sell, don’t ask me again, and then we shook hands,” Joe says. “That week we sold 1,100 meatballs. Since then, I never said anything else to Sal.”
Equally amicable have been both men’s working relationships with their wives. “All of our friends told me don’t do it, it’s not a good idea to work together,” Sal says. “Sometimes it’s a little bit too much because you’re constantly talking about work even when you’re home. But overall it’s been good.”
Adds Lisa, 55, a former attorney who joined the restaurant on the business end in 2015, “We’re both so busy that working together has never been a problem.”
CELEBS’ PASTA PILGRIMAGE
With its location near Broadway and Lincoln Center, it’s no surprise that the restaurant has been a celebrity magnet since the days when Pasquale ran it.
“Rosemary Clooney used to say ‘I have to make a Patsy’s pasta pilgrimage,' ” Sal says jokingly.
Without a doubt, the restaurant’s most popular patron was Sinatra, who would have minestrone delivered to him backstage when he played Broadway’s Paramount theater.
Sinatra felt so at home that one night he walked into the kitchen and insisted that Joe teach him how to make his favorite, tomato-basil sauce.
“I got two pots off the rack. Everything was exactly the same, the tomatoes, the oil. We were standing side to side. He did everything I did,” Joe says. “An hour and a half went by and the sauce was done. I got two spoons. He tasted his, and said, ‘I don’t understand it. Why doesn’t my sauce taste like yours?’ And I said, ‘Why can’t I sing like you?’ ”
The first time Sinatra learned that Sal had become the chef, he again came in the kitchen and told Sal “I hope you cook as well as your father.”
“I knew why he did it,” Sal says. “He wanted to make me feel at ease because he knew I was nervous.”
Celebrity or not, all customers were treated equally. Pasquale would go around to each table and ask everyone if they enjoyed their meal. “People thought he was the busboy,” Joe says. “He wore a gray jacket so people wouldn’t realize he was the chef.”
It’s a tradition that continues with Sal. “The greatest compliment I’ve gotten is from people who’ve come here since before I was born,” he says. “I’ll say ‘I hope you enjoyed everything tonight.’ And they say, ‘I know what the food tastes like before I sit down. That’s why I come here.”
Daniel Bubbeo is an assistant entertainment editor and has been with Newsday since 2000. He edits Long Island arts and technology coverage.
George Clooney Invited Adam Sandler And Jennifer Aniston Over For Homemade Pizza At His Lake Como Home
While on location in Italy filming their new Netflix comedy Murder Mystery, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler received the invite of a lifetime: a pizza party at Amal and George Clooney's Lake Como home.
During a segment on The Ellen Degeneres Show last week, Sandler revealed what it's really like to hang with the Clooneys, and. It. Sounds. Epic.
"[George] and his wife and all these nice people were there and they invited Jen and me," he told Ellen: "You get on a boat and cruise down and we went over to their house. They made us homemade pizza. It was an amazing time. I sat next to Bono. It was a great day." Well, Adam, you ate pizza at the Clooney household, how could it not be?
Sandler may know George "from back in the day," but he admits the invite probably had something do with Aniston's presence. "Every time I'm with Jennifer something great happens because everybody loves Jennifer," he said.
A night out at the Clooney's may seem like a dream to, well, everyone, but Sandler is pretty settled into a low-key routine. "I like hanging out with the kids. I like hanging out with the wife. I like playing basketball and I then like going to sleep," he explained, before saying the party was "a good time" and that he should go out more.
You just might get that opportunity, Adam, because George and Amal's pizza parties are a weekly affair. The couple's personal chef, the award-winning Viviana Frizzi, whips up fresh pizza nearly once a week&mdashand margherita is their reported fave. "Vivi cooks almost every night for us now because we have the twins," he said, according to People. "Going out isn't as easy or as interesting as it used to be. Besides all our friends would rather eat her food than hit up a local restaurant."
Bryan Cranston Really Wants George Clooney To Try His New Mezcal
ICYMI, Bryan Cranston is joining the mezcal business with former co-star, Aaron Paul. And since it's uncharted territory for the seasoned acting vet, he's looking to George Clooney for a little help. Ya know, the guy that started a billion dollar tequila brand, Casamigos? Him.
The pair announced their post-Breaking Bad venture on Instagram last month, and frankly, we're just happy they chose a slightly more, um, legal route IRL. "We had the time of our lives while shooting Breaking Bad and truly built a very special bond," Cranston wrote on social media. "Knowing that we couldn&rsquot share the screen for quite a while - our thoughts turned to a new project. We sipped cocktails and thought about what it should be."
Ultimately, they settled on creating Dos Hombres, an artisanal Mezcal handcrafted in Oaxaca, Mexico. And now, Cranston is dying for Clooney to weigh in with his expert advice.
While chatting with reporters at MLB Pitcher Clayton Kershaw's 7th Annual Ping Pong 4 Purpose event at Dodgers Stadium, he revealed his plan: Get the Casamigos founder to give Dos Hombres a try. "I have not [sent it to him] but I am knocking on his door," Cranston joked. "I am right behind him."
Clearly, he's passionate about the stuff&mdashbut not just from a business perspective. "I love to drink it neat, maybe a little bit of ice, put it in a Bloody Mary instead of vodka," Cranston said at the event. "Make a little mezcal Bloody Mary, and you are in business."
This week’s recipes: Israeli couscous and refreshing cocktails
Barbara Golding emailed me to tell me how much she loved an Israeli couscous dish:
“We had dinner at the Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena last week and loved the couscous. Could you provide the recipe?”
Vertical Wine Bistro’s dish features large, pearly couscous flavored with chopped fresh herbs and garlic and a touch of bright tang from lemon juice and vinegar. It’s rounded out with complex notes from the Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout. The dish is perfect made ahead of time to give the flavors time to marry before serving.
And Jessica Gelt shares another Destination: Cocktail with the La Futura from Mr. Chow:
“The famous Chinese restaurant Mr. Chow is known for being particularly celebrity friendly. So it comes as no surprise that the bar uses a celebrity-made tequila called Casamigos in its twisty take on a modern margarita called La Futura. The tequila comes courtesy of George Clooney and Rande Gerber, who claim that many tequila-fueled nights led them to try to make a super-smooth tequila perfect for being consumed neat without the aid of lemon or salt. We suggest making this drink by pouring a finger of the tequila for sipping before mixing the allotted amount in with fresh lime juice, tart pineapple juice, ginger liqueur and agave syrup. The resulting cocktail is both sweet and savory with the satisfying burn of fresh ginger.”
For many, George Clooney might be the first name that springs to mind when one thinks of Lake Como. But if you’ve actually spent time on the lake, he’s likely just an afterthought (no disrespect, Mr. Clooney!).
With something for everyone, Lake Como has a variety of appealing elements: colorful waterside villages, centuries-old historic villas, hiking trails, beaches, water sports, boat rides, vineyards, olive trees, gardens, polenta uncia, filascetta, more exceptional food, the occasional snow-capped alpine peak jutting out from behind the vertiginous verdant hills, and Villa d’Este.
Located in Cernobbio, Villa d’Este is a destination in and of itself. A former home for nobility, the 16th-century structure has been a hotel since 1873. Today, the five-star accommodation lodges three restaurants—Veranda, Grill, and Il Platano—dedicated to contemporary cuisine that moves with the times while remaining loyal to Villa d'Este's heritage as one of the world’s most renowned hotels. Executive chef Michele Zambanini, who oversees all three restaurants, authored the hotel’s latest cookbook, A Culinary Experience.
Villa d'Este's fourth cookbook in 40 years, A Culinary Experience extends beyond a mere recipe collection to transport readers to the lake in northern Lombardy. The culinary journey from breakfast to post-dinner drinks includes musings on Villa d’Este’s restaurants, delving into the most famed dishes while also highlighting the memories and moments that one experiences at the hotel. Chapters include the Chef’s Table, cookery classes, private dining in the hotel’s exclusive villas, and the Chef’s Garden.
Complete with stylish photography, the book showcases the exquisite atmosphere of Villa d’Este and the stories behind the hotel’s classic recipes, shining a light on the local ingredients that have come to characterize la cucina lariana (local Larian cuisine).
The English-language book is sold at the hotel’s gift shop, which ships abroad. It can be purchased here. Scroll through the slideshow above for a glimpse.
Como, What Is It About That Lake?
Let’s have an aperitivo on the water, and then come back for dinner” suggests the frontispiece of a menu at a restaurant overlooking Lake Como’s sparkling shores. This just so happens to be the perfect way to spend an October weekend, but what is it about this particular Northern Italian lake? Foreigners have been drawn to Lake Como due, in part, to its popularity among A-listers, but it’s just one of several crystal clear lakes that studs the Northern Italian landscape. Long, straight, and precipitous, Como offers neither the respite of Garda, Italy’s largest lake spanning the Veneto, Lombardy, and Trentino-Alto Adige, nor the scenic impact of Maggiore, the stupendous alpine lake sprawled between Italy and Switzerland.
But Lake Como has boatloads going for it. Just ask the laghisti, the “lake people” who have fallen head over heels for Como’s sophisticated beauty, maybe because of longstanding family ties or simply for its sheer loveliness alone. Encircled with tall, compact vegetation that reflects in the deep green water, Lake Como is almost a Shangri-La, the quintessence of lacustrine charm. It’s at its best after summer, when vacationers have packed up and cleared out, leaving room for bookworms, sailing enthusiasts, golfers, and tennis buffs.
The secret to making the most out of a couple of days in Lake Como? Don’t plan on seeing it all. Not only would the lake’s 99-mile perimeter prove a wearying trek, but spreading yourself too thin only prevents you from experiencing Lake Como at its truest. Instead, zone in on the golden triangle that joins the lake’s namesake city with the towns of Torno and Cernobbio. Begin in Torno, home to Hotel Il Sereno, a delicate wood and glass structure overlooking the lake. Cernobbio, by contrast, is interspersed with rock faces and thick greenery, encasing Villa Pliniana, a lustrous gem that recently reopened following a painstaking restoration. Once upon a time, this historic villa, an annex of sorts to Il Sereno, hosted key 19th-century cultural figures, ranging from foreign luminaries like English poet Byron and French writer Stendhal to Italian legends like the composer Gioacchino Rossini and literary icon Alessandro Manzoni.
Higher up, the elaborate gardens of Villa del Balbianello are a testament to the lake’s centuries-old vocation as a nature reserve where araucaria and cypress trees flourish alongside succulents and rose gardens. Higher still, on the Tivano flats of Alto Lario, the cold, taut wind sweeps in from the north. Here, the scenery changes to a pastoral landscape where Zincarlin, a vibrant ricotta seasoned with black pepper, is produced along with Semuda, a soft yellow cow’s milk cheese that blends perfectly with polenta, and goat cheese. Despite all this flora, it is really the silk industry which, with its hectares of mulberries (but lackluster vines and olive trees), has been Como’s only thriving plant sector. It was this salient fact which prompted one laghista, professor Gianfranco Miglio, to intervene. The local wine pioneer succeeded in securing the greenish grape verdese a slot in the Italian National Registry of Grape Varieties. Well known in Lombardy, verdese grows on a few small family parcels in the town of Domaso. “A heroic example of vertical viticulture,” his son Leo has pointed out. Leo has entrusted the research to Emanuele and Eleonora Angilenetta, two young wine producers. Their main label, La Moglie del Re, is a harmonic and aromatic white that, along with many local wines, can be tasted at the Castiglioni wine shops in Cernobbio and Como. The lovely canapés pair just as deliciously with the local beers, like the hazelnut-flavored Lariana or the multi-award-winning Vudù, a German-style brew from the Birrificio Italiano di Lurago. Both are a hit with the younger generation of bon vivants who favor local products and natural wines.
Villa del Balbianello Photo Credit: Alessio Mesiano 2010 (C) FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano
This new generation has in fact galvanized the slightly monotonous centuries-old gastronomy of the lake, a repertoire represented by perch, trout, char, whitefish and, the local specialty, agoni. Pale gray, around eight inches long and once so abundant that they burst through fishing nets, agoni inspired missoltini, a preservation method similar to drying cod or storing anchovies in salt. Believed to have been named for misolta, the wooden containers used to press the fish, agoni are gutted, salted, hung to dry, then stored in tins with bay leaves for three months. They last up to one year, so locals learned to survive on agoni throughout the grueling winter months, drizzling the fish with oil and serving alongside polenta taragna (polenta made from both corn and buckwheat flours). Today, agoni are a delicacy to connoisseurs of the so-called La Gente di Lago (People of the Lake) movement, a cultural and gastronomic initiative that organizes dinners prepared by chefs whose cooking is centered on freshwater fish.
Thanks to a draining and filtration program, farming methods have improved significantly, and 70% of Como’s waters are now friendly to swimmers. As a result, 6 a.m. joggers in Laglio, just above George Clooney’s storied villa, can watch Rodolfo Carisi, one of the lake’s 70 licensed fishermen, unloading his night’s catch. He then hauls his bounty farther uphill to Argegno, where he prepares his fish to be sold to restaurant chefs and home cooks alike.
Andrea Berton, the Michelin-starred Milanese chef who oversees Il Sereno’s restaurant, is one of his customers. In lieu of the flagship butter-soaked dishes, Berton creates light fare from the local bounty. Here’s his tip: “To best showcase the fish’s delicate flesh, you have to cook it quickly and pair it with abundant flavors.” This is evident in his roasted purple potato gnocchi over perch fillets and grilled whitefish with cassoeula (a Milanese pork stew) and lettuce.
The Michelin-starred Materia is a haven for adventurous palates. With its rustic ambiance, casual vibe, and approachable prices, the restaurant brings a refreshing French bistronomic flair to the lake. Chef Davide Caranchini has a fondness for acidity and bitterness, and he’s been known to add drops of the leftover missoltini liquid for a touch of umami. A life-changing dinner at Noma in Copenhagen inspired Caranchini to incorporate elements of Nordic cuisine, such as foraging and seasonality, into his own kitchen. October marks the arrival of rhubarb, dog rose and wormwood, all of which pair flawlessly with locally harvested mushrooms. A greenhouse contains an array of flora that have become fundamentals of his kitchen: dandelions, mugwort, shiso, and filipendula.
Chef Davide Caranchini (via fb)
With all the attention on fish, it should come as no surprise that, olive oil, its ideal accompaniment, is starting to stand front and center. In fact, Lake Como’s holds its own against the lauded labels of Lake Garda. Originally sold in pharmacies as a natural tonic, olive oil on a Northern Italian table was a rarity up until the 1960s. The oldest olive trees, spread between various small parcels, haven’t been around longer than 30 years, but are the object of renewed interest: brilliantly green, vibrant, and aromatic, the extra-virgin olive oils of Lombardy’s lakes are worthy of their very own Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Twenty-five passionate farmers between Lecco and Como have formed a cooperative and opened La Bottega Dell’Olio, in the town of Perledo. The pinnacle of their production is fittingly nicknamed del postino (the postman’s oil) as it is crafted by Como’s mailman, Gianmaria Agnelli. His 700 olive trees produce a few bottles distributed only to “those who are worthy of it.” These lucky few include a handful of businesses specializing in local products, as well as a few large hotels frequented by savvy gastro-travelers who know to keep an eye out for it. Because let’s be honest, the renaissance of this niche product can be attributed in part to curiosity.
Then there’s the lake’s crown jewel: Villa d’Este in Cernobbio. From the upscale Veranda restaurant to the less formal Grill, the majestic hotel features almost 2500 feet of sparkling kitchens and myriad crystals, porcelain, silverware, velvet and silk. Its motto? “If you can dream of it, we can get it for you.”
“Meeting a request for an omble chevalier, the rare cold-water Arctic char that Mitterrand was obsessed with,” says chef Michele Zambanini, “can be more difficult than obtaining a plate of blue shrimp from New Caledonia. But the word ‘no’ just isn’t in our vocabulary.”
Pea and Burrata Risotto at Villa d'Este, photo credit: Villa d'Este
Of course, its illustrious reputation didn’t come about overnight and across the decades a colorful cast of characters have passed through Villa d’Este’s doors. From bishops to promiscuous exiled princesses to chamberlains to tsarinas, all sorts of characters have left their mark via various architectural adornments. Nevertheless, the villa wasn’t the grand hotel it is today until the 18th century, attracting a brigade of haute bourgeoisie, royalty, elegant ladies and gentlemen sporting gardenias in their buttonholes. Yet, this dashing clientele also provided Villa d’Este with a fair share of scandals. 1948, in particular, notoriously went down with a bang: one seemingly normal evening in the hotel’s salon, an embittered Countess Pia Bellentani fired a gun at her cheating lover through her ermine cape.
Villa d'Este at sunset, photo credit: Villa d'Este
Today’s equally fascinating clientele still bask in that rarefied state of perfection: double and triple linen tablecloths, subtly professional service and afternoon tea, British style. Should you require a break from all this perfection (stuff happens), just step out into Cernobbio’s charming piazzetta square. Its spectacular lake-front view has been on display since the only modes of transport were the horse-drawn carriage and the Lucia, traditional boats named after a literature character who escaped in one. Since the best souvenirs are edible, why not support businesses of the local Consorzio, and drop by Specialità Lariane? This is the place to stock up on missoltini Zincarlin cheese Mataloc bread made from rye and honey miascia rustica, a peasant cake prepared with stale bread and dried fruits or pan meino, a sweet sambucco-infused bread. Alternatively, you could fuel up on the signature martini (shaken, not stirred — naturally) or a bite at Harry’s Bar, where the menu hasn’t changed in 40 years. Take your pick from prosciutto and melon, lasagna, curried shrimp, tuna-stuffed veal, green pepper fillet and grilled whitefish. Sure, maybe Quincy Jones or Robert DeNiro or Mark Zuckerberg have sat at some of these very same tables on their way home from a billion-dollar wedding at Villa Pliniana, but no-one around here seems to bat an eyelid. Whatever your appetite, Lake Como will leave you refreshed. That’s a promise.
Cocktail recipe: La Futura at Mr. Chow
The famous Chinese restaurant Mr. Chow is known for being particularly celebrity friendly. So it comes as no surprise that the bar uses a celebrity-made tequila called Casamigos in its twisty take on a modern margarita called La Futura. The tequila comes courtesy of George Clooney and Rande Gerber, who claim that many tequila-fueled nights led them to try to make a super-smooth tequila perfect for being consumed neat without the aid of lemon or salt. We suggest making this drink by pouring a finger of the tequila for sipping before mixing the allotted amount in with fresh lime juice, tart pineapple juice, ginger liqueur and agave syrup. The resulting cocktail is both sweet and savory with the satisfying burn of fresh ginger.
Mr. Chow, 344 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 278-9911.
1 1/4 ounces tequila, preferably Casamigos Blanco
1/2 ounce pineapple juice, or to taste
1/4 ounce lime juice, or to taste
1/2 ounce agave syrup, or to taste
In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila with the ginger liqueur, pineapple juice, lime juice, agave syrup, a few pieces fresh ginger and ice. Shake well to bring out the flavor of the fresh ginger. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a piece of fresh ginger.