They are the ambassadors of Made in Italy all over the world. At Christmas, their mission is further enhanced by new creative ideas. This is all transformed into a menu that unites tradition and a longing for exchanges with other food cultures. They are four of the chefs that host the ‘Marco Polo’ Section and who now talk about their Christmas in the kitchen.
Celebrating Christmas in a place that is warm, cosy, and intimate: in Madesimo, amidst the snow-covered summits of the upper Spluga Valley, ‘Il Cantinone’ of the Michelin “starred” chef Stefano Masanti is a dreamlike setting. Known for the creativity he applies in elaborating local raw materials as ingredients, Stefano Masanti is the first of four ‘Marco Polo’ chefs to invite the readers of Nutrito Magazine to taste a special Christmas or New Year’s Eve menu.
What is Christmas lunch like at the Cantinone?
«As always, we propose typical cuisine of the Chiavennasca Valley. For example, we are known for prosciutto di capra (goat ham), that we call Violino, and is also a Slow Food Presidium. Last year we prepared a dish with goat loin that we served with different (cabbage, purple cabbage, and savoy cabbage) and a sauce of vin brulé (mulled wine). We called it ‘Capra e cavoli’ (Goat and cabbages).»
«This year we have smoke eel from Lake Como as a starter, capon-filled ravioli in broth with polenta as a first course, and beef spinacino (the lean part of the thigh) cooked in the oven in a sauce of almonds, hazelnuts, and black truffles of the lower Valtellina as an entrée. Dessert will be a cream with torrone nougat and sweet bread wafers».
How do you organise your Christmas menu?
«First of all I pay attention to seasonal ingredients: you must always take into account the products of that specific time of the year. We usually research culinary traditions, old recipe books, family memories. We have the elderly of the territory tell us about what they used to eat. And then we think about the type of clientele we have, what they expect from us, and how much they can spend: with a Michelin star we can afford to do so and our clients expect it: not only good cooking, but also something flashy, something eye-catching that enhances everything else. It is also fundamental to consider the number of diners, because the dishes that work best for a table of four became a disaster during a banquet for 50. We also pay attention to simplicity, so that the service remains fluid.»
What wines must be served at Christmas?
«The wine steward is my wife Raffaella, but one must is something Italian and sparkling, which makes everyone happy. We like to keep things varied. In Sondrio we don’t have sparkling wines, so in addition to the classic Franciacorta or Prosecco, we like to propose something unexpected, like a (sparkling wine from Puglia) bollicina pugliese».
It’s Christmas for the workers, too. What’s on the Masanti family’s table?
«A panino (sandwich) unfortunately. I remember that when we got engaged, Raffaella asked me what we would do for our first Christmas together, where we were going. She took it very badly when I told her that we would be working!»
What do you remember about your holidays as a child?
«Even then I used to eat sandwiches. I come from a family of hoteliers at a ski resort, so we always worked a lot during the holidays. Of course, back then the sandwiches were special, because my grandfather would make them with the meats he processed himself.»