We’ve met with Fabrizio Righetti in Mille Miglia restaurant & enoteca in Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv on a rainy and cold day for an interview. But instead of usual conversation we started cooking risotto with radicchio and gorgonzola according to the chef’s special recipe and in a few minutes the atmosphere around became warm and cozy.
So, Fabrizio, you came to Ukraine in 2013 when you started to work in this restaurant with your colleague and friend Niccolo Rossi. Do you feel good changes in Ukraine since that time?
I came here as Italian chef for this restaurant. When Niccolo moved I became a chef of Radisson Blu Hotel, Kyiv restaurants (K-LARGO LOUNGE BAR, BISTRO CÔTÉ EST, MILLE MIGLIA RISTORANTE & ENOTECA). Since 2013 the life changed and not only for the Ukrainians but also for foreigners. Political situation in the country influences the attitude of foreigners to the country. This year I can see much more positive movements in terms of business in the city in general. This is a good sign. But let’s get back to our cooking.
Cooking process: Risotto is original dish of the Northern Italy, Milan region. We will need rice, butter, gorgonzola, red wine, radicchio, onion, carrot and celery for our recipe. We need water to cook vegetable bullion first. So let’s cut the vegetables.
After that we put them into boiling water with no salt. Now we cut a half of onion to very small bits. The onion and butter create a basis for risotto. We should not feel the taste of onion but it helps to make risotto creamy.
If you had an opportunity to open your own restaurant where would it be?
This is a good question. It could be the United Kingdom or the US since the level of bureaucracy in these countries is not high. I am the citizen of the world. I am very attracted by the US but I visited a lot of countries. Asia area and Japan are also very interesting for me. These are modern countries. The United States look ahead and develop very fast. I like also Japan; it is linked to its traditions a lot. This country is a mixture of skyscrapers, ancient buildings and parks. It’s nice.
Cooking process: We add onion and butter into the pan.
You know, when I’d been in Rome I was surprised with a lot of things. Cuisine is one of them. After 5 days of pasta, pizza, deserts I tried to find soup and it was impossible :) Only in Trastevere in some cozy restaurant they served me vegetable soup and look at me with big round eyes because it was the end of hot August. Have you ever faced some strange situation in Ukraine when you could not order what you like and when you like?
Ha-ha, yes, it is almost impossible to find soup in Rome. We have minestrone and bullion but no soup. As for the strange situations here, no, you can order whatever you want any time you want in Kyiv. But what is really strange for me as Italian is that Ukrainians go to a restaurant to drink cappuccino.
Cooking process: We cook onion just a bit, we add rice Arborio afterwards and mix it. We have to fry the rice a bit.
Fabrizio, what kind of cuisine do you like in addition to Italian one?
Georgian cuisine is very tasty, and I like Asian, Korean dishes as well. I like spicy food.
Why Italian cuisine is so popular in Ukraine? What do you think?
Well, it is popular all over the world because this type of meal is easily made; everybody likes pasta, pizza.
Cooking process: Now we add radicchio to the rice. We cook them together a couple of minutes and add some red wine (usually we use white wine for risotto but in our case the red one is stronger and it adds some pink color together with radicchio). TIP: Here it is very important to take time to evaporate alcohol out of wine. Otherwise, if you add bullion before this, the taste will be bitter and there will be smell of alcohol. This is not good. And one more important thing: it is better to use wooden spoon to mix the rice, this spoon will not destroy the rice. Now we can add bullion without vegetables to our pot with rice.
Is there any dish which you try to improve every time adding something new?
I always try to improve my dishes. It is never-ending story. But if you don’t know the basis of cuisine you can’t create anything. To create something new you need to know the rules, otherwise you are just loosing time. The professionals combine ingredients in their brain first, so they can predict the result in reality. I imagine the taste of dish with ingredients in my mind and then I cook it.
Which restaurant in Kyiv except Mille Miglia do you like?
I like Korean Arirang restaurant (160, Antonovicha Str.) and Georgian Shoti restaurant (9, Mechnykova Str.) If I want Ukrainian cuisine I usually go to Opanas restaurant (10, Tereshchenkivs'ka Str.). I heard a lot about Kanapa (19, Andriivs'kyi descent), I plan to visit it soon.
Cooking process: TIP: When you cook risotto you should use only high temperature and boiling. In this case the water boils and the rice takes as much water as it needs. Otherwise the rice will just stick together and will not be cooked.
Do you collect some interesting recipes when you visit different countries?
When I travel, yes, I always try something new and think how I can use this in my restaurants.
What is the strangest dish you’ve ever tried?
Oh, it was some Asian soup with gelatin and of some strange structure and taste in Korean restaurant. And once I tried too spicy soup. My girlfriend cried after that soup. I’ve tried it and I’ve understood that “our spicy” is not the same as “their spicy”.
Tell us about Christmas and New Year Italian menu traditions, please.
Christmas traditions change from city to city and from family to family. On the 24th of December we don’t eat meat – this is the main common tradition. On the north of Italy in winter time people eat more soups and pasta while on the south they eat seafood and pizza.
In my family we celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December with big company of relatives and close friends; it’s about 25 people. Zeppole is a traditional meal for Christmas and it’s served as a starter. It is fried dough, like the one for pizza, with sugar on top. Also we make fried vegetables in dough. Panettone is one more traditional pastry. We also eat for Christmas big tablet of chocolate with fruits and nuts. On the 6th of January we finish Christmas holidays in Italy.
Cooking process: 18-20 minutes are enough to cook risotto. You can try it to see whether it is ready or to crush one rice seed and check if it is hard and white. If yes, the dish is not ready yet. It is important to cook risotto in a high pot in the water without sault. In this case water is evaporated but in a right way, rice is not dry. It is better to serve this risotto with red wine or strong white one.
Will you cook something special during Christmas time and New Year in Mille Miglia restaurant?
Christmas is a family period; some restaurants are closed during this time. Here we will have special offers for New Year celebration. We don’t have a lot of visitors during Christmas time here.
Cooking process: When risotto is ready we take it from fire and add butter and gorgonzola. TIP: If you add cheese and butter when the pot is on fire, you will have lines of cheese then, it is not right approach.
Now we mix butter and gorgonzola together with the rice and give the dish some time to rest. Afterwards we put it on the plate adding some more gorgonzola. Risotto is soft, homogeneous but still you can easily feel each rice seed.
What would you like to achieve in your profession?
It would be interesting and exciting for me to open a hotel once. It is a kind of a challenge. I would prefer a small and cozy family hotel.
Our risotto is ready. It looks nice and it is really delicious! Bon appetit!
Join us at 22 Yaroslaviv Val Str., Kyiv, in Mille Miglia restaurant & enoteca.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak