At the Michelin-star Balzi Rossi restaurant in Ventimiglia, food is an art to be savored with both the taste and the eyes. The menus served on the terrace overlooking the sea, are a tribute to the colors of the warmer season and to the products that nature bestows at this time of year.
Ventimiglia is a charming town on the Italian Riviera that is a favorite among summer holiday makers – the last location in Italy before reaching the border with France.
“I will probably be repetitive but I will never tire of reiterating how important it is for us to put ourselves at the service of nature and its times. For the summer menu, I was inspired by our territory and the riches it has to offer us in these months: from lemon to eggplant, from trombetta zucchini to San Remo shrimp, and from peach to amaretto,” said Chef Enrico Marmo. “The Riviera tasting menu has been totally redesigned to feature new dishes, which have raw seafood and vegetable as star ingredients, along with dishes that were a big hit last summer.”
If the Momento Menu, free hand, remains the landing place for the most daring, the Gli Iconici menu re-embraces two historic dishes: Roast Rabbit Ligurian Style and 1982 – Ravioli della Pina, named after the year the restaurant was born.
A novelty also concerns the small pastry, which has taken a totally natural route in this hot weather. At the end of the meal, the choice has in fact been to focus on fruit: local, fresh, and seasonal.
Balzi Rossi Ristorante: the Riviera Menu
The only written tasting course on the Balzi Rossi summer menu is Riviera. While the number of courses, five, is confirmed, they have been totally revamped, in keeping with the menu’s motto: Sea | Mediterranean | Vegetable.
Opening the tasting course is Ligurian Tomatoes / Tartare / Bottarga / Lemon / Sunflower Seed, a return to the menu after the great success it had last year.
“The tomato tartare is a dish born when I was cooking in Piedmont, from the idea of making people think about Fassona tartare. Here, in Liguria, I decided to repropose it to recall the tartare of bluefin tuna, an endangered fish that, when used, should be enhanced in its entirety,” explains chef Enrico Marmo.
In the recipe, space is given to three different varieties of peeled tomatoes (San Marzano, Marinda, Cuore di Bue) dried overnight at 45°C to concentrate the flavors. The result, somewhere between raw and confit, is seasoned with oil and salt and reduced to a tartare, before being topped with soy milk mayonnaise and roe, salted lemon strips, basil leaves, and herb oil.
The second appetizer on the Riviera menu is Gambero di Sanremo / Trombetta alla ligure / Avocado, a recipe capable of condensing at the same time two key concepts of Enrico Marmo’s cuisine: the local and the contemporary. At the base of the dish is a cream of avocado and Riviera lemon, on which are laid sheets of Trombetta zucchini marinated with olives, pine nuts, and white wine and a shrimp lightly cooked on the grill and glazed with a sauce made from its raw heads.
The first course Parmigiana di Melanzane di Melanzane / Bottoni / Scampi / Colatura di pomodoro in Insalata is another happy return to the menu, born of a chef’s trip to Sicily, a land whose scents and flavors inspired this recipe. Parmigiana, prepared in a lighter version with vegetables cooked in the oven and dried in a pot with tomato sauce, becomes the filling of a button, colored with eggplant and tomato skins, and then topped with scampi marinated in oregano. To top it off, a vegetable extract prepared with a tomato marinated like a salad, made from the juice of a salad of only tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar, and salt, ripened three days in the refrigerator and then lightly pressed. The memory? That of the unforgettable bruschetta.
If the second course Pesce secondo il mare / Salsa Mugnaia / Millefoglie di pataté pays homage to the seasonal seafood raw material – the catch of the day cooked on the grill is served with a millefeuille of potatoes with butter and thyme and with a mugnaia sauce (made with hazelnut butter, parsley, and lemon) – Pesca / Amaretto / Cacao is a reference to the Piedmontese childhood of the chef, born in Canelli (AT).
The main inspiration for the dessert is Piedmont-style stuffed peaches, which traditionally embrace the flavors of cocoa and amaretto. Here, the variety of peaches used is Nettarina, which grows in the garden of the Ascheri Farm, which also supplies the restaurant with all other vegetables. The main dessert preparation is a coffee, amaretto, and cocoa cremoso from LIM Chocolate, a company in Fossano (CN) that processes chocolate directly from the bean. Accompanying the cremoso is a peach peel and rice vinegar glaze and amaretto water.
In pairing, sommelier Lorenzo Moraldo has developed an all-Italian wine trail, which aims to highlight local and national labels: from Liguria to Alto Adige and from Marche to Etna.
“Since Riviera is a fresh menu, the choice of wines could only fall on mineral and easy-drinking whites, perfect to accompany all dishes in a harmonious way, even the more structured parts.”
Thus, with the Fish According to the Sea / Potato Millefoglie sauce, the protagonist is the Pinot Bianco Tenuta Rohregger from Alto Adige, a wine with floral notes and beautiful structure, perfect to hold up to a sauce as particularly flavorful as the mugnaia. In the pairing, there is also no shortage of room for cocktails.
With Ligurian Tomatoes / Tartare / Bottarga / Lemon / Sunflower Seeds, in fact, White Mary is proposed, a twist on the Bloody Mary prepared with the same ingredients as the classic drink, replacing the tomato juice with a serum, which the chef prepares by decanting the tomato water.
Balzi Rossi Restaurant: the Momento Menu
The Momento menu is a free-hand, experiential, and tailor-made journey that represents the pinnacle of Enrico Marmo’s idea of cuisine.
Many of the dishes served are created on the spot, from the cues that the chef translates into savory and sweet recipes, which aim to enhance the sea, vegetables, and more generally, raw materials of excellence. The creations are minimal and the flavors are clear and sharp.
Concluding the menu, as in Riviera, is the small pastry, which at this juncture of the year takes on a truly unusual version. In fact, Chef Enrico Marmo decided to serve the excellent apricots, cherries, mulberries, and raspberries from Ascheri Farm. To give freshness, sweetness, acidity, and juiciness, at the end of the meal.
In pairing, sommelier Lorenzo Moraldo offers a wine trail that ranges from Liguria to France, Germany, Spain, and Portugal. The restaurant’s region features prominently in at least one of the first courses of the tasting itinerary, which call for aromaticity and freshness in the glass.
If the sommelier is given carte blanche, one can accompany a dish of moscardini and beurre blanc with an Albamar, a Spanish wine with a unique savoriness, in this case slightly muted by the sauce, or even dessert with an ad hoc cocktail.
Balzi Rossi Ristorante: Gli Iconici
Gli Iconici represent the canonical menu, which as in previous ones, takes a much more concise form than the standards to which we are accustomed. There are five choices, which have the common goal of reproducing the classic dishes in a current and contemporary version.
If to be confirmed is the Fantasia of raw fish and shellfish, now prepared with swordfish, amberjack, redfish, corvina, castanets, shrimps, and scampi – served plain, seasoned with oil and salt – to make a return in this section of the menu are two dishes that have made the history of Giuseppina Beglia’s restaurant: the Ligurian-style Roast Rabbit and the 1982 – Ravioli della Pina. Rounding out Gli Iconici are the Spaghetto Gentile, sea urchins and rosemary, and the local scampi cooked over olive tree embers.
Sommelier Lorenzo Moraldo, in this case, pairs the Spaghetto with Marche’s Verdicchio Fattoria San Lorenzo Campo delle Oche – a wine very intense on the nose and elegant in the mouth, aging for 12 months on lees – while with the Scampi the Pescara-based Pecorino Senzaniente Marina Palusci, an organic label produced with little intervention in the vineyard and cellar, with a beautiful aromatic note, perfect in combination with the dish’s charcoal flavor.