Where can you eat the best tomato pasta?
Naples, Catania, Florence?
No, in Kyoto! It seems impossible, but that’s the truth. And the secret is simple: you just have to add the proverbial attention, or better obsession, for the research of the ingredients that the Japanese Chefs put in each one of their dishes, to the passion, creativity and experience of one of the best Italian Chefs abroad, Valentino Palmisano,
born in Naples but with a cosmopolitan soul, Chef de cuisine of the restaurant La Locanda
at the Ritz Carlton in Kyoto.
After a series of tastings of our wine in Japan, while I was going back to my hotel, I realized I still had a bottle of Millesulmare 2013 with me. I had read many articles about Palmisano, so I decided to leave him the bottle, as a small thank you gift for his services in representing Italians and Southern Italy so greatly in the whole world. I left the bottle to the staff supervisor at the Locanda and I had dinner in Kyoto’s centre.
When I got back to my hotel, I found an extraordinary plate of mignon desserts, green tea macaroons, delicious pralines, a true sight for my eyes and palate, together with a note from Chef Palmisano. I headed downstairs to the restaurant to thank him and we ended up spending two hours talking without even noticing.
The main theme was: “The Italian cuisine in the world and tomato pasta”.
When I am abroad I don’t like eating Italian food, I’d rather go into the small alleys of the many places I visit, mixing with the local people and losing myself amongst indigenous wine and tasting experiences but, intrigued by the passion and by the enthusiasm of this young Neapolitan Chef that told me happily how he had “thought and created” his tomato pasta, I decided to make an exception.
It was the best choice I could ever make. I got excited as when I was a little kid and I was at the dinner table with all my family and my mother served us tomato pasta. Those memories, those wonderful emotions that I was able to feel strongly again thanks to the best tomato pasta in the world, made by the Chef Valentino Palmisano, will stay forever in my heart.
Every Chef agrees saying that the mastery of a cook emerges within his simplest dishes. And Valentino Palmisano’s challenge was making the best tomato pasta in the world.
Apparently simple, but in reality incredibly difficult.
The idea came to him during a flight from China to Japan, looking at an in-flight magazine with a typical picture of tomato pasta as it is often seen abroad: white spaghetti in a conical shape with the tomato sauce “on top”. It’s like a symbol of the culinary side of Italy abroad, like the ever green pizza margherita.
The ingredients, few but with an intense character, are 6:
– Pasta (preferably spaghetti)
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Parmesan cheese (just a bit!)
The first step made by Chef Palmisano was selecting the pasta. He cooked and tested 16 different types. He verified their taste and body according to different cooking temperatures and services and, after long researching process, he succeeded.
After that he chose the tomatoes, different from season to season…
… in Japan and especially in Kyoto it is possible to find, after an accurate selection and research process, wonderful tomatoes, properly juicy and sweet, always with a magnificent scent.
After that he worked for weeks with his team in order to make the perfect tomato sauce: a completely white one!
With a physical process, absolutely not invasive on the taste of this ingredient, that is applying some heat and then filtering, he separated the tomato juice from its pigments. This phase required weeks of testing in order to find the perfect temperature that would enable the total separation of the juice from the pigments, preserving the original taste of tomatoes and without wasting or altering the precious raw material.
After that the spaghetti are cooked at the right temperature. The result is simply extraordinary.
Pasta al dente, perfect temperature. The white tomato sauce enveloped the taste of pasta and basil and parmesan doesn’t cover this union but enhance and balance it, creating a truly perfect bond.
A true masterpiece!
On the train towards Tokyo, I am reading a journal. They talk about Italy, unfortunately about our problems. Hearing good news is rare. People are always complaining… Meanwhile, in Kyoto, Palmisano is representing our country with pride, commitment and passion, making sacrifices and gaining true recognitions.
Thanks, Valentino. Meeting you was a pleasure and an honour.