The fascination of this place
is not about what there is
but about what is missing.

This is not a cliché.

May 2015

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Yesterday
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19
Tuesday,
19 May 2015

hotel La Perla, my new home

The most incredible thing is that, right after spending a few days in Casa, I really felt as if I were at home. I have never experienced anything similar in my sector. It usually takes months to settle into a new kitchen; you have to learn how to interact in the best possible way with your colleagues, to understand the customers’ needs and habits and to be in tune with those who manage a complex like a hotel which has several restaurants. Here at the Perla it took no time at all. The support of the Costa family, of their collaborators and of all the people who have so many years of experience in Casa behind them, is proverbial. Besides, I am a rather reserved person. But my reserve has quickly disappeared thanks to Ernesto’s encouraging smile, Annie’s affability and the ability their sons have to make you feel at ease. So, I immediately took up the kitchen’s reins and, after a few months, I can honestly say that I feel as if I have been here for years.
„Thanks to the Costa family, their collaborators and their proverbial helpfulness, I don’t feel like the chef of the Perla, but like the cook of the Casa.“
When people ask about my kind of cooking, I feel the best word to describe it is straightforward. It is not a pussy-footing kind of cooking. If I may say so, it is more a “tell it like it is” one. And it is so because it mirrors myself. Here in Casa I can give my best, because, starting with the relationship with the suppliers, everything is shaped in accordance with honesty, clarity and sincerity. Here is a concrete example: our beef comes from a local farmer. His Rendena cows (a Val Rendena native breed) are reared on the basis of strict traditional standards, in the most natural way. The meat from these animals is rather tough but, crossing this breed with the Belgian Blue, the meat acquires a tenderness, without losing any of its qualititative characteristics. My trusted butcher slaughters the animals and treats them with painstaking care, thanks to his exceptional skills. So, it really is a very short supply chain and it is a pleasure to prepare filets, sirloins and carpaccio combining them with scampi and black truffle or cabbage salads and hay potatoes (patate al fieno); all of which our guests really seem to appreciate too! Furthermore, we try not to waste anything and to make full use of all that we have: I prepare canederli with the liver, and with the bones I make the stock for the sauces. Nothing is thrown away, just as Mum always wanted. By the way, my mother is Ladin and my father, a cook himself, is from Puglia; so I learnt how tall are the mountains and how deep is the sea. And I put this knowledge into my dishes. The spaghetti aglio, olio, peperoncino e alici (garlic, olive oil, chili pepper and anchovies) is a prime example: I mix the anchovy sauce with the puccia, that is to say a dusting of crunchy rye bread, and the whole of Italy is represented in a dish. Likewise you can find it again in the red turnip risotto, which I serve with goat’s cheese in fig leaves and bottarga (salted and cured fish roe), or in the calf’s head in a bread crust, served with browned scallops and sweet and sour red onion. This is the Casa kitchen: frank, cheerful and authenitic.
And please make sure, whenever you feel in a party mood, not to miss our kitchen’s Thursday aperitif! We’ll have some “Snick Snack”, as Ernesto says. Mr Costa sings accompanied by accordion and guitar. What a show! His songs are in Ladin, German and Italian. He mistreats an unusual cane equipped with some pendants that make a lot of noise when they strike each other. It is called teufelsgeige, the devil’s violin. Between one laugh after the other, Annie offers a glass of good wine, and it’s very nice to feel at home at Casa, I can assure you!

Nicola Laera