Much has been written about this highly rated ristorante. Fortunately, Rachel and I had the chance to enjoy the cuisine of Mario Gamba personally.
The decor is like entering in a subaquatic space, with jellyfish lamps overhead, made by the chef's wife, and in turquoise and sand tones.
First impression reading the menu is like being in a candy shop and wanting to taste everything. And what a great taste it is: this is gourmet Italian, Michelin starred, and presented in such a formal fashion as any top French restaurant.
Antipasti are a meal unto themselves. Rachel ordered an off the menu specialty, which is always an asset, sort of like taking the scenic route: zucchini flowers oven backed with shrimp and saffron sauce. For me, the insalata di astice, lobster on a bergamot emulsion. Light, fresh and colorful.
Primi was a homemade tagliolini, with, naturally, black truffles and a walnut ravioli in an emulsion of Parmesan. Surprisingly, in both cases, the sauce was not made of butter, as if often the situation, but it was light and revealing, made of white wine and cream. It's a revival, all the taste without the fat.
Mario then offered one of his specialties: ravioli filled with radicchio and Gorgonzola foam with drops if cassis. The pasta was so thin, a marriage of wildness and delicacy. We were smitten.
Then a shared plate of tuna filet Rossini with foie gras poêlé and a 20 year balsamico reduction. Finally, made for two, a Nebraska beef roasted with Kenya beans pokmes frites, and lardo di colonnata, the white fat of the pork! The two sauces, a balsamico with a touch of butter to make it thick and a herb bearnaise with rucola, instead of estragon. Nice to have both, and clearly, despite the authentic Italian, it was an homage to French cuisine.
Acquarello, like the watercolor, is light, never bold, never vulgar, as if searching for an ideal. The essence more than the substance is the priority. Mario Gamba offers an autenticoitaliano experience that is like an afternoon on the cinque terra, the sun is never burning, the water never too salty, abundant in colors and good for the soul.
If man came from the sea, to the water we shall return. Again, and again, and again....