Thank goodness for Italians without whom there’d be so much less to eat. Why just the other day it was square slices at Galleria Umberto and grey sole, to cook at home, at New Deal. It’s the focus and intensity of the cuisine, its ability to recognize high and low, that make it unique. Deep flavors, few ingredients, and speed of preparation. It’s a gastronomy for people who prefer to be convivial than to stand over stoves or boss around crews.
It’s food of poverty, chiefly, for people who have to work, except for the Feast Days.
That said, you can count on the same refinement emerging in other cuisines. Well, one can hope. By this I mean the slimmed down menus we see at Betony: six cold apps, six hot apps, six entrees. Or the crudo and sushi served, respectively, at Esca and Nakazawa.
Fine, there will always be big menus, big portions, sauces with fifteen ingredients when three will do, but the more simple places and recipes, the more change will come.
Take the best mashed potato recipe on earth: Robuchon. Take a half dozen baby Yukons and boil them in salted water. Remove and cool. Peel. Pass through a ricer. Return to stove and add warm milk and butter and salt to taste. Done.
The trick is getting the best potatoes and butter and milk you can.
Or yesterday’s onion soup recipe in the NYT from Pepin: Saute red onions until golden brown. place in soup pot with chopped garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaf, red wine, and water. Simmer for forty-five minutes. So delicious and comforting.
Simple, simple, simple.