Giovanna Feeds the Mangias

Foodie:  Maybe we should start watching a show that we’ve never seen before instead of starting at the very beginning of the Sopranos again.  Maybe we could try out Mad Men.

Beast:  Nope.

Foodie:  Why?  I hear it’s very good.

Beast:  It’s average.

Foodie:  You haven’t even seen it yet!

Beast:  I have a feeling it’s just average.

Foodie:  Is it because they can’t swear in Mad Men or show boobs?  A show can be good without swearing, it just means the Mad Men writers have to be very fucking clever.  Cock-sucking amateur writers who use swears all the time are lazy pieces of shit. 

Beast:  What’s for dinner?

I didn’t know what we were eating but I suspected it would be Italian food since my friend Giovanna had invited us to dinner. A short bio:  She was born in Italy; came to Canada at the age of eleven; has two degrees,  runs marathons; helps run all the Terroni kitchens; she’s chef at the Osteria Ciceri e TriaAnd she’s only 27; And gorgeous; And a bit of a spaz.

When we arrived at Giovanna’s place we could smell very good things.  No wonder–she’d started prepping dinner the night before!  Every surface of her kitchen was covered with pots, pans, spices, and gadgets.  It was like we stumbled in on a mad scientist/chef’s magic lair.  

And there was teeny tiny Gio in the middle of the culinary storm, cool as cucumber while the Beast’s and my eyes did their best to take it all in.

Foodie:  Whoa, hold up! What’s that?

Giovanna:  That?  Oh that’s bollito!  That’s what I was telling you about–remember when I emailed you saying that I had this great idea?  It was to make you bollito

Foodie:  Ohhh!  Bollito!  Great!  What’s bollito?

Giovanna (giving me disappointed look):  Bollito is a variety of boiled meats that are boiled very slowly with some vegetables so that the whole things sort of cooks in this incredibly tasty stock and then you serve the meats with all sorts of condiments.  It’s sort of like Italian dim sum I guess.  I just have capon and beef short ribs in there but I tried to get some beef tongue and belly too but Rowe Farms didn’t have any.  

Foodie:  What’s that?

Giovanna:  That?  Oh that’s just this almond tart thing I made–it’s sort of like a tart tatin I suppose.

Foodie:  What’s that?

Giovanna:  That?  Oh those are just some cheeses and stuff that my friend smuggled in from Italy.  

Foodie:  What are all those bones for?

Giovanna:  Those?  I’m scooping out the marrow for the risotto alla milanese that we’ll have before the bollito.

Foodie:  What are you doing now?

Giovanna:  This?  Oh I’m just making some stracciatella soup to serve before the risotto and the bollito.  It’s just some egg and parmigiano and then I’ll add some some of the beef and capon broth from the bollito (that had been slowly brewing for 24 hours).

I glanced over to the Beast for the first time since we arrived and he was just standing there, sort of shell-shocked I think, with all this talk of boiled meats and bone marrow.  His mouth was also open just a bit.  It was sensory-overload.  And we hadn’t even had a drink yet!  But sweet Gio remedied that when she shoved glasses of a lovely Muscadet in our hands to enjoy with the meat and cheese platter she’d set out.

Watching her work and talk at the same time is something I wish everybody could see for themselves.  I’ll do my best to describe it:  Giovanna is very graceful and fluid but at the same time she’s constantly dropping shit and bumping into stuff.  Put her in a tiny kitchen with three burners on, a torte in the oven, prep work to be done, Bob Dylan blasting, a glass of prosecco in one hand and a knife in the other while she talks about everything that pops into that pretty little head–from discovering the magic of podcasts to and it’s like watching an opera that stars a short Italian model, with an strange accent I can’t quite put my finger on (sort of cutie pie-mobster) with a mild case of A.D.D.  It’s gorgeous.  

Fabio, Giovanna’s boyfriend, came home right on time.  He’s a real-life chef from Bologna, Italy who’s worked all over the world (including Paris and Dubai). He and Giovanna met when Terroni brought Fabio over to work with their kitchen staff, including Gio.  Well he taught her a thing or two alright, and they fell in love along the way.

After greeting us warmly, Fabio paused to watch Gio add her risotto into the onion and bone marrow pan.

Fabio (read his lines with gorgeous Italian accent):  Mmmnn.  Interesting.  Gio–what kind of risotto are you using?

Gio:  Arborio.

Fabio:  I thought so.

Foodie:  Is that bad?

Gio:  No, it’s not bad–it’s just not from the right region for that guy (nodding at Fabio).

Fabio: This is true.  I prefer carnaroli or vialone.  

Just then I realized that we were in for a real treat: not only we being treated to an incredible meal cooked by my talented friend, but we’d get to see her and Fabio bicker over food!  I mean, the Beast and I bicker about boring bullshit sort of stuff.  But these two crazy Italians?  This was gonna be good.

We all gathered around the table as soon as Gio had prepared our stracciatella soup. 

Beast:  Wow.

Foodie:  Holy fuck.  Oh, sorry, I mean holy shit.

Gio:  What’s wrong?

Foodie:  It’s just maybe one of the nicest things I’ve ever tasted.  It’s so rich!  It’s so good!

The next course proved to be even richer:  the risotto alla Milanese (so-called because of the touch of saffron, the beef broth, and the bone marrow) made the Beast and I swoon in our seats.  

Beast:  I can’t imagine a more beautiful looking dish.

The presentation was amazing.  It didn’t taste too bad either.  Actually, it tasted like sin in my mouth.  

Gio:  Fabio doesn’t like it.

Fabio (don’t forget to read this with that gorgeous Italian accent):  No!  I do like it.  It’s only that traditionally risotto should be…how do you say…more loose. The idea is to coax the starch out of the rice slowly so that it forms a creaminess.  We say it should “make waves” on the plate.

Gio:  I know, I know, but this particular recipe I was using required that the texture to be just the way it is.

One thing’s for sure: the Beast didn’t give a hoot about waves on the plate–his plate was empty.  AND, he was even scraping remnants of fat from the side of the bone and putting it in his mouth when he thought nobody was looking.  Giovanna did the same.  Fabio and I were more composed than them.

By this point I got a tight feeling in my chest, presumably from the wine, bone marrow, egg, and cheese.  But we still had bollito to eat.

Gio brought out all these gorgeous little accompaniments, like a salsa verde, a grape jam and a tomato and onion chutney.  

Foodie:  Oh Gio!  This chutney is so good with the beef!

Fabio:  This is a very accurate salsa verde.  Brava Gio.

Beast: (Actually he doesn’t say anything.  He’s filling his plate with little bits of meat and then adding more little bits of meat before he finishes the first bits–like he’s afraid he won’t get enough.  He also looks very serious.)

And there was still the almond apple torte thing to eat.  First though, Gio had to whip up a little zabaglione to top it off with because really, when you’ve had a meal of egg and cheese soup, risotto with bone marrow, and assorted boiled meats I can’t imagine a better dessert “hurrah” than a torte topped with some raw egg yolk, sugar and marsala.

We ate our divine dessert in front of the fire and talked away until 1:00am.  It was an incredible meal.  In fact, the Beast and I are still talking about it days later. He wants me to start making my own stock because Fabio and Gio kept going on about how easy it is.  Yeah, sure it’s easy when you’re a crazy person who always has chicken carcasses and beef bones shoved in your freezer and you’ve got five hours to boil those bits in a pot.  Not me: I’ve got Sopranos episodes to watch.

Foodie:  *** 1/2

Beast:  ****

4 responses to “Giovanna Feeds the Mangias

  1. i finally ate the last bit of bollito tonight. One more reason to make it-you can eat for almost a week! just imagine how many more soprano episodes you could watch!

  2. Hey Foodie…Gio told me that you don’t take any notes during the meal…that’s amazing!! Are you sure you don’t work for Michelin??

  3. The Beast considered deducting half a star from this review because of all the left-over bollito Gio supposedly had: If there was so much, why didn’t she send us home with some?

  4. ha ha ha! funny thing is i didn’t even realize how much was in there! i think it reproduced and multiplied in the pot. Sorry Beast, I really thought we ate more than that!

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