Getting to the quarries of Verdalia, hosting a lush garden of exotic and Mediterranean plants is by itself a path full of magic, that proceeds going down the stairs of the entrance to the Folie, a little gem of a restaurant of only 20 seats, open from Thursday to Saturday and on Sunday for lunch.
Like all the best things in life, its entrance must be sought, not being announced by any flashy or inappropriate signs. This consistent, almost severe elegance is the same that you find inside, where a friendly Maitre d’welcomes us and, waiting to get acquainted with the chef Antonio Raffaele, shows us the cellar where cherished bottles are “ resting” along with exquisite cold cuts and fine cheese. This was the place where once people took refuge during the air strikes of World War II.
Once at the table we are pleased to note the “courtesies” to the guests, such as the wall sockets on every corner to recharge smartphones and tablets always in search of energy to continue operating. Enjoying a glass of Vermentino Guado al Tasso Bolgheri 2013 at the right temperature, we nibble a selection of bread prepared by the chef: white, with rosemary, with squid ink, with tomato and with olives. In the meantime we are served some oil from the Calabrian Aspromonte produced by the Azienda Fratelli Fazari, seven times world champion and clear homage from Antonio Raffaele to his homeland.
Then, and I ask my music lovers’ friends not to hold against me, a proper concert of the taste begins, presented by the chef himself, who we take the opportunity to know more about. Antonio has been a sommelier for twenty years and he identifies himself more as a pastry master. He recognizes that the dessert is the fundamental element of each meal, the main flavor which the diner takes away and therefore it is what can give definition to all that has been tasted before. “If you make a mistake with the dessert” – he says – “automatically you will have a negative memory of everything you had previously. On the other hand, if the sweet in your mouth is perfect, then you will perceive as perfect everything else”. That is to say, the old good adage dulcis in fundo, the last but not least in Latin. In 2011 Raffaele won the Italian championship and in 2012 the World Championship for ice creams, with the confection of a hazelnut ice cream of which he is very proud .
After all these pleasantries, he disappears quickly in the kitchen and the real concert begins with the arrival at the table of the first entrée: a pumpkin velvety sauce with buffalo mozzarella reduction and Gallipoli red shrimps, mullet roe and crispy seaweed. An overture with marked but well balanced flavors, recalling that of the “La Gazza Ladra” by Rossini, from which emerges a majestic “ marziale”. Then it is the time of the second entrée, with a liveliness and freshness typical from Rossini and we discovered it was prepared by our chef in person.
We are talking about the frisa Leccese , typical toasted bread, called “as I see it”, Folie, where presentation is also important serve the bread up in its disintegrated form : the orange part comes from the frisa itself, the white part is formed by a ball of burrata cheese and as decoration, crispy bread, anchovy, confit seedless, peeled tomatoes, with added centrifuged tomatoes and tomatoes skin to give crunchiness and coal of Leccine olives and caper powder to give a balanced color scheme.
The third entrée is accompanied by a second oil to taste, the Ottobratico by the Olearia San Giorgio dei Fratelli Fazari, fruity, very pleasant and almost aggressive. The sharp dotted rhythm of the music is supported by a crème fraiche with tarragon served with a trilogy of tuna: with the round IGP Piedmont hazelnut, the Calabrian lemon cube and with olives with tarragon leaves. This enjoyable introduction is followed by a lively movement in fugue made by the eliche trafilate pasta in snapper soup with mussels and sea urchins that reveals the marked flavor of dill.
The perfect synthesis of what has been enjoyed so far is followed by a crescendo: the seared amberjack on cream of celery soup with figs vinegar reduction and horse steaks, where the acidity of the smoked meat and vinegar is sumptuously balanced by the sweetness of the fish. In quickened tempo, the climax is reached when we got a millefeuille with Chantilly custard , raspberry and white truffle: so good one could be overcome!
For the finale, two estroso, playful themes give an extraordinary unity to the completed symphonic score: two small jars, the sophisticated and refined ones which generally contain beauty products. The first jar contains iridescent cream with scents of seven types of vanilla, passion fruit, mango, pink, raspberry and litchis and oil. In the second jar, oil, cucumber, tangerine and yet another seven varieties of vanilla. I could not resist and for an overwhelming and festive end I asked to take the jars home! Permission granted with the suggestion to try them also on the skin as an all-natural product with no artificial jelling agents, a real elixir of youth. Was it thanks to them that when I got back home, my friends and family found I was more relaxed?
(Traduzione di Monia Saponaro)