Above: Mario Rizzotti and Larry
The local Farmer's Market folks here in Sioux City put on a benefit dinner featuring TV personality/Culinary Judge/Brand Ambassador MARIO RIZZOTTI. The titles are from his business card as I confess I had no idea who this guy was, but the dinner was supposed to be Italian and benefit the Farmer's Market - so perche no? (as we like to say)
The event was held at a local eatery we'd never visited, as in the USA (with rare exceptions) we prefer to create our own Italian meals in our humble kitchen. We find even if the food in a USA Italian-style ristorante is OK, the service is way-too-often the earnest, overbearing, "Are you still working on that?" (No, I'm NOT working on anything, I'm trying to enjoy this dish, so please go away!") style that ruins the experience.
Rizzotti himself touched on this during his pre-meal remarks. He went on to sing the praises of Made-in-Italy food and wine, which brought smiles to our faces even when we got him to discuss the fine prosciutto crudo from Iowa's La Quercia. Mario said he's met the producer a few times and they make a fine product, though there's still something special about the original product from Parma. We agree, but getting the original product from Parma's kinda tough in western Iowa!
We spoke with Mario mostly in Italian, which he said he appreciated, especially out here in the wilds of western Iowa, where we doubt he hears much of his native language, but his English is excellent after years in the USA. He has that stereotypical Italian warmth and friendly way, which probably explains his success.
We enjoyed (in order) melanzane alla parmigiano, panzanella, risotto al Amarone, a grilled fish dish with scallop and shrimp and finally, a roast beef plate with a little tower of eggplant/zucchini/pepper and onion. Italian wines from a local distributor were chosen to complement each dish.
Dessert was a creamy peach tart topped with special cherries from Italy.
Grazie mille Mario e tutti!
Our challenge now is to convince the Farmer's Market folks to offer their next benefit dinner featuring our friend CARLO ZARRI, the truffle chef.