Truffles at Il Pizzico
by Vice-Conseiller Gastronomique (Jeddah) Susan Darwish
Just like the truffle is mysterious and hidden, the restaurant Il Pizzico in Rockville, Maryland, gives no outward clues to its presence, but once found you realize the treasure in discovering this special spot. Pizzico translated to English means a little bit, a touch, a smidgen, a hint. What we experienced was far more than a hint. Indeed, it was a full-on Piedmontese feast with the simple but overwhelming delights of Italian truffle providing the sumptuous theme for the evening of November 2, 2021.
A regional presentation of Piedmont’s finest dishes began with the antipasto presentation of duck filled fagottini, warm chicken liver crostini with caramelized onions, smoked salmon pate in a choux pastry and last, but not least, a herbed frittata with black truffle. These tasty bites were served with a delightfully sparkling Champagne, Gosset Brut Excellence, that welcomed Chaîne members and guests who had travelled on a rainy, fall evening for this virtual trip to Italy.
The first course featured a perfect onion that had been oven roasted for over four hours, until it reached its sweet potential, as a case for featuring the famous Piedmont fontina cheese. The creamy fondue texture was then covered with white truffle shavings by the chef himself. The aroma of fresh baked bread served with an olive tapenade combined with the aroma of fresh shaved truffle immediately transported the diners to a countryside trattoria. The wine was La Mesma Gavi 2017 from the Piedmont made exclusively from the Cortese grape which dates to the 1600s. Its light floral acidity served as a wonderful counterpoint to the richness of the cheese.
For the second course, a plate of al dente risotto was presented as a blank canvas for shaved white Italian truffles. Once again, the chef shaved an abundance of the fragrant truffle on each person’s plate. The simply sublime dish was paired with bottles of Massolino Barbera D’Alba Gisep 2015. This red wine gave a fruity contrast to the rich broth taste of the rice. Both the wine and rice were local to the foggy hills where the Barbera grapes are grown.
During this course, Chef Enzo Livia shared stories of his life in Italy, his passion for his cooking, and a description of the countryside in Piedmont where the white truffles are found buried under the roots of oak and beech trees. These stories were familiar to Chef Roberto Donna who was in attendance. He, too, is from the Piedmont and is well known to the bailliage for the delicious Piedmontese dinner he delivered to members for an on-line event in October 2020.
The main course of a thick veal tenderloin was presented on a spread of kohlrabi purée and shavings of black truffle. Succulent and cooked to pink perfection, the veal steak reflected the uncomplicated style of regional traditions. The generous portion paired beautifully with the richness of the truffle, while the Brunello di Montalcino 2008, took the dish to a higher level, making the Tuscan wine a star. The sangiovese grapes created a complex and oaky base that balanced the light textured filet.
The dessert was a deconstructed ricotta custard with fresh baked savoardi biscuits or ladyfingers. The frozen custard was accented by fresh shavings of white truffle. A light Braida Brachetto d’ Acqui, 2015 from the Piedmont provided the sparkling finish to a most satisfying meal. According to legend, both Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony presented Cleopatra with gourds of vinum acquense (wine of the Acqui), an early forebearer of Brachetto.
The culinary presentations of Chef Enzo took the bailliage on an opulent gastronomic trip to Italy, made even more enjoyable by the outstanding service of Il Pizzico’s staff – service that attendees acknowledged with a heartfelt round of applause. Vice Conseiller Culinaire François Dionot congratulated the chef on a memorable meal and joined Bailli Judy Mazza in presenting the chef with a Chaîne plate to commemorate the evening. Judy also thanked Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Pat Carroll for providing the inspiration and behind-the-scenes planning for the event.