Since watching the latest MasterChef the Professional last November and pining for Danilo Cortellini I had been hoping to try his food at some point. In fact, as he is the Head Chef at the Italian Embassy in London, it is privilege of our ambassador to eat his food every day, but kind of difficult for everyone else. When I met Danilo a couple of months back, he mentioned he was planning a series of pop ups and it is at one of these that we were able to finally try his wonderful dishes.
The pop up dinner was organised with Riso Gallo as a sponsor; they are one of the main brands of rice in Italy and was held at Venturi’s Table in Wandsworth, a really nice venue I had already visited a few months ago for a competition event. Myself and Troppo Buono had seats at the chef’s table and arrived fashionably late thanks to public transport (I sort of always blame TfL or the traffic when I am late, and rightly so).
While watching Danilo and his brigade prepare the first course, we enjoyed a glass of Valdobbiadene prosecco and a delightful mini rice balls with parmesan and truffle.
The first course was very similar to one of the dishes he made on TV and it was absolutely incredible: Tortellini di burrata with artichoke broth and red Sicilian prawns. The broth was very lightly smoked in Earl Grey tea (very subtle) and the artichokes added a vegetable texture to a beautifully balanced dish. The colourful pasta was a visual delight. With this dish, we drank Albizzia Chardonnay 2014 Frescobaldi.
Next was the risotto dish (with braised onions, quail and truffle), for which Danilo used a carnaroli variety Gran Riserva 1 year old. The dish was also part of the show, precisely ‘critics’ night’ and I well remember how much they all loved it, so I am glad I got the opportunity to try it too. The risotto was of course, perfectly cooked, with mellow, sweet tones from the the onion puree and intense burst of flavours from the ‘gravy’ (just don’t call it gravy). Asparagus and broad beans added a touch of freshness and crunch and the quail on top some meaty protein. I can see why the critics loved it, I loved this dish just the same and for me it was a treat as I never eat risotto sadly (other half hates it). The dish was paired to a deep intense Frescobaldi Chianti Rufina 20122.
Dessert time saw us eating a mooreish, chocolatey version of Tiramisu, another take on the classic pudding he’d already done on the show. This was just full of decadent flavours with textures in the chocolate crumbs, I managed to finish it all, I enjoyed it so much. The dessert wine was also a great match in a Moscato di Sicilia 2013.
Coffee and a take away bag of cantucci concluded a really pleasant meal, in a relaxed and informal setting where it’s great to watch the action close up and personal. I was also very happy to meet Joey, another MasterChef contestant whom I really liked on the show; she hosts regular pop up supper clubs which I intend to visit as soon as a space is available (they are very popular!) and I am very much looking forward to tasting more dishes by Danilo Cortellini. He is going to host another pop up soon (16 March) cooking with a 2* Italian Chef (Massimiliano Mascia) so I am not going to miss it.
Some more photos from the evening: