Dear Chef, thanks for your comments. Your observations about the arrabbiata nicely captures an important point about my perspective on Italian food that I think many other Italians share: if it’s not what I know, it can’t be good. The arrabbiata I’m familiar with must indeed be the Calabrian version – my mom was born there. Given that, any deviation from the norm will be met with skepticism and dismay. Heck, anything short of flying my Calabrian grandmother from Friuli to Boston to cook me the pasta I was raised on will be a let down. I’m sure this is true of most food cultures but perhaps particularly so for Italy given the regional specificity of various dishes in combination with our natural inclination to poo-poo anything not from our own little village. It’s interesting that you mention my dad’s return since he is on a committee of Italians which exemplifies this tendency. They go around to various Italian restaurants in the area critiquing the authenticity of their food. They will not hesitate to besmirch the offerings if they do not meet their extremely high (and, some might say, extremely arbitrary) criteria.
It’s also interesting that the more traditional dishes are the more complex. I have some vague notion that “traditional” correlates with simplicity, as if using multiple ingredients is some kind of culinary innovation. I wonder if that correlation depends on what exactly is being cooked. Perhaps there is a negative correlation for sauces and stocks – you could always throw in whatever happened to be around, leading to greater complexity. For meat and fish on the other hand I expect that traditional preparations are simpler cooking procedures with fewer ingredients. From this perspective, then, I think I’ll amend what I described as Erbaluce’s MO from “simple, simple, simple” to “authentic, authentic, authentic”. Complexity is orthogonal to authenticity. Whether one prefers the traditionally simple or the traditionally complex is just a matter of taste.
Not sure why anyone would frown on big herbs in principal. I thought that’s what made the razor clam dish so great. That’s not to say that I have anything against a piece of meat in a butter and cream bath, there’s a place for that too. But it’s a welcome change and seafood in particular lends itself to the fresh and bright approach.
We’ll be back soon – we already have plans for a couple weeks from now. Looking forward to it!