Thursday, May 11, 2017

From The Daily Meal..."A Legendary Roman Hotel Celebrates its Restaurant's 10th Anniversary with a Gift to its Guests". And a recipe for its Chef's Risotto with Cacio Cheese, Pepper and Sesame

The Hassler is at the Right Hand Side of the Spanish Steps
At the top of the newly refurbished Spanish Steps in Rome, sits one the Eternal City’s most extraordinary hotels. The Hassler Roma has entertained everyone from Dwight Eisenhower to Grace Kelly and, quite famously, when Audrey Hepburn used it as a home base while shooting “Roman Holiday”.  As noteworthy as the hotel’s guests have been, the Hassler is likely most famous for its rooftop restaurant, the first ever in a Roman Grand hotel.  It’s been called “Rome with a View” but for the last ten years it has been home to Imàgo, a Michelin-starrred restaurant with food as phenomenal as the views it offers of Rome.

To celebrate its 10th Anniversary, the restaurant recently underwent a re-design that updated its furnishings, lighting and added an open-style wine cellar.  The project was the work of Hotel Owner and General Manager Roberto Wirth and his wife, Astrid Schiller Wirth, a noted interior designer. Together with their Executive Chef Francesco Apreda and architect Andrea Marini, they treated the renovation with the attention to detail befitting their role as 5th generation hoteliers.  The Hassler has always been a family affair.

In the 1860s, Albert Hassler, the son of a Swiss hotel family, came to Italy with his bride.  They spent the next fifteen years in Naples and Catania before moving to Rome.  In 1885, the Hasslers bought the property at the top of the Spanish Steps.  And 8 years later, the Hassler opened. Just as Paris has its Ritz and New York it’s Plaza, the Hassler quickly became the hotel in Rome.  Oscar Wirth, Roberto’s father, came on board to run the hotel in 1915.  In 1968, the Hassler and Wirth families went their separate ways and the Wirths kept the Hassler.  In 2002, Roberto became its sole owner.

To celebrate Imàgo’s reimagined space, the Hotel is pulling out all the stops.   They are offering a package called “10 Years of Imàgo”: Three nights in a Double Deluxe room with daily breakfast, a sensory massage for two at the hotel’s Amorvero Spa and the piece de resistance: a 10 course Tasting menu for two.  The rate for the package starts at $1975. based on double occupancy.  And if that isn’t enough to have you packing your bags, a look at the Chef’s Tasting menu should.

Chef Francesco Apreda was born in Naples.  After graduation from Culinary School there, at 19 years of age, he came to Rome where he began working at the Hassler. In just a year, he became Chef de Partie. A year later, he left for a five-year stint in London
Chef Francesco Apreda of the Hassler Roma
where he worked at Michel Roux’s Le Gavroche and where he was reunited with a school friend, Maurizio Morelli, London’s best known Italian chef. From Morelli, he learned how to create new and exciting flavors never losing sight of the traditional underpinnings of great Italian cuisine.  Roberto Wirth followed his young chef’s career closely, sending him to manage the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo’s Italian restaurant for which Wirth was a consultant.   In 2003 Francesco returned to Rome where he was made Executive Chef at the Hassler.  He was 29 years of age.

Octopus, Seaweed and Roots

For Imàgo’s Anniversary Tasting menu, Chef Apreda chose ten signature dishes that have evolved over the last decade and are proven favorites of the chef and guests alike.  This tasting menu features these dishes, reinvented for today.  They are Foie Gras and Scones (2105), Breaded Scallops, Shiitake Mushrooms and Black Truffle (2007), Octopus, Seaweed and Roots (2016), Parmesan Cappelotti Pasta “Double Umani” (2010) Risotto with “Cacio” Cheese, Pepper and Sesame (2012), Capellini with Garlic, Olive Oil, Chili Pepper and Smoked Eel (2008), Black Cod and Purple Vegetables (2009), Tandoori-Style Duck (2014), Neapolitan Sfogliatella “Samosa” (2011) and Sweet Buffalo Mozzarella (2013).  This remarkable menu is available at 160 Euros or approximately $173. Per person.  But it certainly sounds like after you’ve tucked into dinner, you might want to just tuck into a gloriously luxurious room downstairs.

The “10 Years of Imàgo” package is available from April 1st through December 20th, 2017 To Book: Tel: +39 06 699 340. Email at  The Hassler Rome’s address is Piazza Trinità dei Monti, 6  00187 Roma Italia

Recipe for Imàgo's Risotto with Cacio cheese, Pepper and Sesame by Chef Francesco Apreda

For the Risotto:
For the Cheese sauce: 
17 0z. Carnaroli superfine rice, 
3 oz. butter, 
3 oz. Roman caciotta Cheese
3/4 oz. shallots, 
1/2 Cup sparkling wine, 
4 cups chicken broth, 
Extra virgin olive oil.
For the Pepper and Sesame Blend: 
1/3 oz. black sesame, 
1/2 oz. white sesame, 
1/3 oz. toasted sesame, 
2 tbsp. nigella, 
1/4 oz. poppy seeds, 
1/4 oz.Tellicherry black pepper, 
1/3 oz. Muntok white powder, 
1/3 oz. Venus pepper, 
1/3 oz. Cubeba pepper, 
2 tbsp  Sichuan pepper.
For the Sour Butter: 
1 white onion, 
1 cup white wine,
3/4 cups white wine vinegar, 
8 oz. butter, 
12 year aged traditional balsamic vinegar, 
Atsina cress for garnish
Make the Sour Butter:
Peel and finely chop the onion, sautée it in a pan, cover with the wine and vinegar and reduce on a gentle flame until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and incorporate the butter at room temperature mixing vigorously until completely melted, filter through a chinoise and place in the fridge to rest.
Make the Pepper and Sesame Blend:
Put all ingredients in the blender or food processor and pulverize.
Make the Risotto with Sparkling Wine and Caciotta cheese:
Chop the shallots and sautée them in a pan with half the butter and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, add the rice and sauté with half the sparkling wine. Salt and continue to simmer gradually adding the boiling chicken broth. When the rice is almost cooked, remove from heat, leave to rest for 2 minutes and then cream by adding the remaining sparkling wine, the other half of the butter, a knob of sour butter and the grated caciotta.  
To Serve: Place the risotto onto the plate, cover with the grated caciotta and sprinkle an abundant layer of the pepper sesame blend. Garnish with a few drops of traditional balsamic vinegar and the atsina cress.

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