Inside Abruzzo, Italy’s Unsung Culinary Destination

Sep 26, 2017 1028

BY: David Prior

Pasta al pomodoro is arguably Italian cuisine’s most pedestrian dish. So when I see “pasta with tomato” featured on the menu of three-Michelin-starred Reale, the remote monastery turned restaurant in Abruzzo run by chef Niko Romito and his sister Cristiana, I am deeply skeptical. Here we go again, I think, another classic tricked up and ruined by one more chef trying too hard, chasing international accolades instead of embracing the real reason we love Italian food: its simple sophistication and fidelity to heritage.

But then the dish arrives without fanfare, a tight chignon of spaghetti in a vivid scarlet sauce. It is a far more elegant presentation than you would get at mamma’s, yet thankfully not twirled into place with tweezers or deconstructed with a smear of sauce. Its strands are enveloped in a confit that extracts the purest evocation of tomato. It is a dish that somehow manages to straddle tradition and innovation while feeling entirely of its place.

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