Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo is dedicated to using the freshest, highest quality ingredients in his authentic, traditional dishes, and has created new summer menus, with some dishes utilizing “Grani Antichi” (ancient grains), which he’ll demo on June 27th at ICC. Chef Gnazzo will conduct the demo, along with owner Gianfranco Sorrentino and Catering Director Peter Klein, and they’ll talk about the background of the grains/dishes, and how they fit into a historical context, as well as the health benefits of each. A tasting, with wine pairings will follow the demo, and recipes for all dishes will be provided.
Southern Italian fine dining restaurant Il Gattopardo, located in the beautiful, landmarked Rockefeller Townhouses in midtown Manhattan, offers some of the city’s most authentic Italian cuisine. When Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo recently unveiled his new summer menus just in time for the warm weather (and the generally healthier mindsets that come with the season), and he’s come up with a few new pasta dishes that reflect his passion for tradition (and good health). The cultivation and use of grani antichi (ancient grains) in Italian cooking goes back millennia to ancient Roman times; they’re a contrast to modern, processed wheat, which is constantly bred and changed. Many ancient grains thrive with lower levels of pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation, making them an attractive choice for conscious consumers.
Often long forgotten or overlooked by modern Western societies, ancient grains and seeds are now being rediscovered and revalued for their delicious chewy texture, eco-friendly cultivation techniques, cultural importance and often gluten-free status. They are part of the backlash against mass-produced products that are over-refined, have less fiber, and are uniform in flavor and texture. Described as ‘super foods’, these ancient grains offer much in the way of natural nutrition and positive health benefits – whole grains are one of the best sources of carbohydrates, and they also provide an abundant amount of important vitamins (especially B-group vitamins), minerals and fiber, as well as protein.
IL GATTOPARDO’S SUMMER MENU
Gnazzo is a master at creating pasta dishes that are steeped in tradition, and undeniably authentic; at midtown’s Il Gattopardo, his new “Cavatelli pasta, homemade with Grani Antichi, in a shellfish ragout” illustrates just why a trip to the restaurant must include at least one of these new pasta dishes!
For this particular dish, Chef Vito has explored the use of Grano Saraceno (buckwheat), – a nutrient-packed, gluten-free seed that is now becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., Canada and Europe due to its many health benefits. It’s high in both protein and fiber, supports heart health, and can help prevent diabetes and digestive disorders. In fact, buckwheat seeds, also called “groats,” are packed with nutrients and antioxidants such as rutin, tannins and catechin.
Despite its recent rise to nutrition fame, buckwheat is actually classified as an ancient grain with a long history, and today, buckwheat is a favorite among those with vegetarian and gluten-free diets; it also provides a high source of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals – all with relatively few calories and practically no fat. A major benefit of buckwheat compared to other grains is that it has a unique amino acid composition that gives it special biological activities, which include cholesterol-lowering and anti-hypertension effects.
The ragout in this dish is full and hearty, with small, bite-sized chunks of seafood found in southern Italian waters: clams, mussels, scallops, and shrimp.
Recommended wine pairing: Il Gattopardo Group owner Gianfranco Sorrentino, who personally selects every bottle of wine for the restaurants, recommends the Greco di Tufo “Jaune d’Arles” 2015 Quintodecimo.
Another exceptional new pasta dish on his spring/summer menu is his “Handmade Gnocchi with Vesuvian Piennolo tomatoes and scamorza cheese”, in which he uses whole wheat. While not technically an ancient grain, by utilizing the whole wheat grain, it’s very noticeable on the palate, and works perfectly with the distinct sweetness provided by the tomatoes, which are grown in the mineral-rich volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius.
With a flavor that’s very pronounced and dominant, Chef Vito sources his scamorza from a water buffalo farm in Campania. The smoked variety of the cheese give is a very nice background flavor. It’s also a dry cheese that works well with the gnocchi.
Recommended wine pairing: Falanghina Biancolella “Tramonti” 2015 Apicella
Il Gattopardo’s Dolci (dessert) menu changes seasonally, with new dishes being added or deleted according to availability of fresh ingredients, but one of the desserts that always remains on the menu is his “Pastiera – Traditional Neapolitan Cheesecake”. The dish is traditionally made at Easter in Italy, but remains on Il Gattopardo’s menu year-round (his loyal clientele would be slightly upset if this delectable sweet was ever removed from the menu.)
Chef Vito creates his Pastiera from spelt berries, which are a type of wheat that was a very important crop in ancient times. Spelt actually requires fewer fertilizers, so the organic farming movement is making it more popular again, as is the health food industry. It has a sweet, nutty chewiness, and the grains stay fluffy and distinct when cooked.
Recommended wine pairing: Picolit “Meroi” 2009
Owner Gianfranco Sorrentino and Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo have created a unique restaurant group in New York; the culinary philosophy embodies authentic southern Italian cuisine, with menus built on tradition, and with the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Gianfranco also places the highest priority on warm, welcoming, Italian hospitality – every single guest who enters his restaurants is instantly made to feel at home, and almost 18 years of a loyal, returning clientele is a testament that those two things – authentic, high-quality cuisine and warm Italian hospitality – are what great restaurants are built on.
For more information on Il Gattopardo Group, please visit www.ilgattopardonyc.com. Chef Vito Gnazzo and owner Gianfranco Sorrentino are available for interviews; recipes and images are available upon request.