Last weekend saw a collaboration between some of Piedmont’s most formidable wines, the skills of Michelin Star Chef, Damiano Nigro, Executive Chef at Palás Cerequio, the restaurant at the Michele Chiarlo winery, and Malta’s humble sister island, Gozo.
Damiano delighted Maltese, Gozitan and expat diners with a seven-course meal at Gozo’s own Vini e Capricci. The Puglia-born chef fell in love with Gozo from the moment he arrived. After spending a few hours travelling around the island with the Vini e Capricci team, picking, smelling, tasting the raw ingredients, Damiano compared Gozo to a treasure. “You are sitting on a treasure you are not even aware of on this island,” he said.
The menu was a fusion of Piedmont and Gozo. At the foot of the Western Alps, Piedmont is among the world’s finest wine regions. Home to more DOCG wines than any other region in Italy, Piedmont is famous for its Barolos, Barbarescos and Barbera d’Astis, though wine is not the region’s only strong suit. With 13 Michelin star restaurants dotted around the region, it’s no wonder foodies from all over the world choose Piemonte as a travel destination.
The link between Michele Chiarlo and Abraham Said from Vini e Capricci is one that Alberto Chiarlo, son of Michele Chiarlo himself, describes as “like being part of the family.” Each of the delectable dishes was paired with some of the great vintages of the Michele Chiarlo collection. The Barbera Nizza DOCG Cipressi 2018, which was voted Best Wine in the World in 2018, was paired with a Gozitan mackerel and a medley of local cauliflower – roasted, caramelised and raw – drizzled with a Sardinian anchovy oil.
The humble Gozitan ingredient, including wild herbs and edible flowers, hand-harvested sea salt and local sheep’s milk cheeselets (ġbejniet), featured throughout the menu and were transformed into a Michelin-worthy meal. The first of the starters took everything local and added a hint of Piedmont with a Michelin twist. Local pork belly, marinated in local fennel, topped with a local sardine, were perfectly balanced with the sweetness of a Piemonte Picalilli relish, and garnished with Gozitan wildflowers.
Wildflowers were predominant throughout the meal. Though spring is still a few weeks away, the Gozitan countryside says otherwise with blossoms adding colour to every nook and cranny. Locals who remember sucking on the stems of wildflowers known as L-Ingliża
in their childhood, were delighted to find them presented as a garnish on a succulent spiced pork cutlet, with a wood sorrel emulsion. Snapdragons and borage flowers also added both colour, texture, and flavour to some of the other dishes on offer.
You save the best for last is certainly a mantra Damiano showed off in this menu. The sweetness from the yoghurt foam served with hazelnut mousse, was offset by the salt in the Piedmont salted hazelnuts IGP, which also added texture. But the star of the dish was the Gozitan sea urchins drizzled over the top, adding a vibrant splash of red to the dish. Their contribution to the light dessert was not the fishy flavour one might expect from seafood, but a pleasant umami flavour you get from salted caramel. Every dessert needs a little salt for balance and this one comes straight from the sea. Paired with the Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti DOCG Nivole, this was the perfect curtain call.
Contact Vini e Capricci on +356 21563231
or firstname.lastname@example.org for information on upcoming events