Meet Riccardo Camanini. His restaurant, Lido 84, was awarded a Michelin star just six months after it opened in Italy’s north, by Lake Garda. He’s trained with Italian and French food royalty, where he learnt to turn cooking into an art and to interpret each ingredient through a critical eye. Yet he still mows the lawns, answers the phone and takes reservations.
Humble and honest, Camanini’s personality is a mirror of his cooking style. Even French cuisine doyen, Alain Ducasse, was bewitched by the perfect simplicity of Camanini’s Butter and Brewer’s Yeast Spaghettone, a dish he described as the best he has ever had. It’s a childhood classic Camanini re-invented and is now offered at the restaurant in San Francisco’s MOMA. Anyone can cook pasta, but representing a country’s culinary identity with three (not-so-) ordinary ingredients? That requires a somewhat higher level of skill. Those ingredients? Gold-drawn pasta from Abruzzo, Ocelli’s artisanal butter from Piedmont and the brewer’s dried and sprinkled yeast on top. “We need to rediscover pasta and its mantecatura,” says Camanini, using a word that in practical terms means combining a dish’s ingredients.
Needless to say, pasta will play a big role at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. “There are a lot of expectations on such an important event,” he says. “And I want pasta to be on the stage”.
Despite his popularity, Riccardo Camanini avoids the spotlight. “Talking is a journalist’s job,” he says, preferring to express himself on the plate and let the ingredients shine. His knowledge earned him the nickname of “erudite poet” due to unexpected flavour combinations, which have been described as running as smoothly as a sonnet. In his black risotto, the note of fermented black garlic embraces the Italian Vialone Nano rice to give an earthy mushroom taste, interrupted by drops of acidic raspberry coulis. The bold flavours and colours, dark brown with dots of bright red, make the dish hard to forget.
A genuine curiosity drives Camanini, who studies every ingredient to get the best from them. “The produce shows the path the cuisine has to follow,” he says, describing how he meticulously selects ingredients from local suppliers to design a taste map of his land. “Our provincialism,” he continues, “Is the strength of Italian cuisine.”
Each of Camanini’s dishes starts with produce and marries a scent or childhood recollection. The final result rarely has more than a handful of ingredients. Nonetheless, the intense flavours of his Cacio e Pepe cooked in pig bladder makes quite an impression, matching the theatrical serving at the table. Camanini’s flavours are comforting and familiar as the most refined nonna’s Sunday lunch, plus the element of excitement that a Michelin-starred chef can bring to the table.
Margaret River Gourmet Escape is on from November 18–20. Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Margaret River Gourmet Escape.