Part of Eataly Boston’s Italian wonderland is La Cucina, a rotating-concept restaurant space where they will be inviting local chefs to take over the space and create their own pop-up restaurant menus. Debuting February 1st, the first chef to take over the space is Michael Schlow who has several accolades to his name such as “Best Chef in the Northeast” from the James Beard Foundation.
I was invited to a tasting of some of the dishes Chef Schlow will be featuring at his pop-up, Via Emilia, where the food is dedicated to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Emilia-Romagna is home to several of my favorite Italian foods, including Parmigianno-Regiano and Proscuitto di Parma. (Seriously, I’ve been known to eat a plate of Proscuitto di Parma by itself as a meal.) Naturally, I was psyched.
While those staples of the region are on the menu along with other classics, the dishes we sampled were definitely a little more adventurous. As Michael Schlow put it himself, he could have served us all bolognese and we would have all loved it, but that would have been too easy.
Our first plate had crostini di fegato d’anatra, which is a duck liver pâté on crostini. In addition to that, we tried warm tigelle (kind of like mini Italian english muffins) with homemade ricotta, whipped lardo, and spuma di mortadella.
When I saw duck liver on the menu, I have to admit a tiny part of me was scared. I’d never had duck liver pâté before, but what better time to try it than when it’s been prepared by such a well-renowned chef? Turns out I liked it – they prepare the pâté with garlic and onions, and the crostini is delicious.
Chef Schlow suggested that we use the warm tigelle to make small sandwiches with the ricotta, lardo, and spuma di mortadella, so I went ahead and took the opportunity to eat with my hands. For a moment, I could imagine that I was in Italy and not awaiting a winter storm in Boston.
Next up was a pasta dish, ravioli verdi “del cacciatore.” Does anyone else have Anthony’s Song by Billy Joel pop into their head every time they hear the word cacciatore? Just me? Anyway, this was another first for me – my first time having green pasta! I am usually not a fan of mushrooms, but these were pretty mild and didn’t overwhelm the dish at all. The raviolis were stuffed with pork and ricotta, and the entire dish was sprinkled with freshly grated grana padano – another specialty of the region.
Last but not least, we had this dish with cotechino and lentils. While it makes for great comfort food and is perfect for the snowy weather Boston gets this time of year, Michael Schlow actually first tasted it in the peak of summer on a trip to Italy. It passed the test of being delicious on a day where the 100 degree weather called for a much lighter dish, and thus when it came time to create the vision for Via Emilia, Chef Schlow decided it had to be on the menu.
For those who want to recreate the dishes at home, Michael Schlow will be teaching cooking classes featuring Via Emilia dishes at La Scuola Di Eataly. Don’t worry about the recipes being too difficult – all of the ingredients can be bought at Eataly, and you won’t have to make every single component from scratch.
Congratulations to Michael Schlow for kicking off Via Emilia with a great menu. I look forward to hearing what everyone’s favorite dishes are!