Modern Italian. That’s how Chef Francesco describes the cuisine at Canneti Roadhouse, his Forestville restaurant. Inspired by his nonna (grandmother) in Massa, Italy, Chef Francesco embraces the philosophy that one should approach dining (and cooking!) without preconceived notions. “Just enjoy,” he advises.
He showcased this style in a menu inspired by his rustic upbringing and presented Jan. 23 at Fresh Starts Chef Events. (He closed his restaurant for the evening to be here!) He used a simple dough to create rosemary crisps that were arranged with a dip of ricotta and mascarpone. Chef Francesco added a stir of chopped chives but said any herbs fresh from the garden would be welcome.
A second course of traditional potato gnocchi got a bit of chestnut flour in the dough, then was tossed in a sauce of pancetta with porcini mushroom and sprinkled with pecorino cheese. As a boy, Chef Francesco recalled, he tried numerous strategies to avoid his assignment of grating cheese for dinner – now he relishes the job and treasures the local cheeses available.
In fact, the chef has a passion not only for serving local food but helping his neighbors to do the same. While he can buy a whole pig from a nearby rancher to butcher, a family down the road does not have the same option. So he offers an Italian village solution for rural Forestville, allowing people in the community to procure ingredients through him. “If they want pork chops, we can sell them local pork chops. A bag of chestnut flour, I have that,” he says.
As executive chef at Fish, Chef Francesco acquired an interest in sustainable seafood and now sources his trout from a farm where he knows the farmer. His fried trout came over black rice with roasted butternut squash and a chick pea crepe.
Ziggy the Wine Gal expertly paired the food with wines donated by Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen. A 2012 Sauvignon Blanc accompanied the starter, while the gnocchi came with a 2013 Pinot Noir redolent with lavender and blackberry notes. Ziggy challenged guests to go beyond familiar by pairing a 2011 Barbera (red) with the fish. Remember – open mind – no preconceived notions. Just enjoy! — Contributed by Gary Lam with photos by Neely Wang.
Rosemary Crisp with Ricotta & Mascarpone Dip — Makes 2 – 3 servings
— Recipe courtesy of Francesco Torre
For the dip
4 oz. sheep or cow ricotta cheese
2 oz. mascarpone cheese
2 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
For the crisp
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup lukewarm water
.20 oz. fresh yeast
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt and black pepper
1. Using a wooden spoon, mix together ricotta, mascarpone and chives in a bowl. Add the kosher salt to your taste, about 3/4 teaspoon. Store in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
2. While the cheese mixture is chilling, place the flour into a big mixing bowl with the rest of the salt. Dissolve the yeast in the water and add into the flour. Combine all the ingredients to obtain a smooth and homogenous dough.
3. Flour a flat surface and roll the dough very thin with a rolling pin. Brush the surface with some olive oil and season with the rosemary. Bake the crisp at 350°F on parchment paper until golden in color.