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Italy’s Other Art by Misha Lyuve

Jul 17, 2011

Northern Italy spoiled me with great food, though a New Yorker at heart, I thought – bring it on, surprise me. From touristy trattorias on busy corners to quiet osterias on piazzas impossible to find and everything in between. In gastronomical explorations of Northern Italy, I learned that there is a clear difference between really great food and a work of art.       

Let’s start with the obvious: what makes an Italian meal really great are the recipes perfected for generations and high quality produce. But a work of art?    

Paolino Cesare, the owner of Ristorante da Cesari, Bologna

Paolino Cesare, the owner of Ristorante da Cesari in Bologna, black truffles and hydrangeas

In Bologna, the ”grasa” (fat) capital of Italy, Paolino Cesare, whose dad started Restaurante da Cesari in 1945, spent all his life in this place.  I watched Paolino taking an order: it’s like a dance of seduction, psychotherapy and negotiation – matching customers’ wants to the choices of the restaurant’s delicacies and wines.  And that is where art starts – it is personal.      

Tortellini in Brodo

Tortellini in brodo, in best traditions of Bologna, mouth-watering, da Cesari, Bologna

The second part of the art form comes from the integrity of its intent.  There are businesses that happen to be restaurants – they could even serve a really great food, be impressive and memorable. But in the art of food, a restaurant is a restaurant that just happens to be a business.  And that is turning into an old-fashioned idea.      

So I want to scream to the whole world:  rush to Bologna, visit da Cesari, because Paolino’s children are chosing different paths from their dad’s and maybe even in a few years from now this magic will not be around.      

Or, maybe, you are the one to bring your form of art and magic into the lives of those around you?    

Sarde in Saor (Sardines in Sour Sauce), Trattoria Rialto Novo, Venice

Sarde in saor (sardines in sour sauce), shamelessly scrumptious, Trattoria Rialto Novo, Venice

Buratta at Antica Bottega del Vino, Verona
Buratta (a mozzarella-like cheese injected with heavy cream), perversely decadent, at Antica Bottega del Vino, Verona