Rebecca Wilcomb talks approximately tortellini en brodo the way a Cajun talks approximately gumbo.Every time the chef goes to an Italian eating place where the menu looks promising, she orders the dish that she grew up with her Italian grandmother.
“I’ve simplest had one that has come a close second to hers,” she stated of her nonna’s meat-crammed pasta dumplings in a flavorful, mild broth. It’s a dish she knows can be waiting whenever she steps off the aircraft in Trecenta, her mom’s hometown in northern Italy.
Wilcomb knew that the dish could be served at Gianna, the sleek new Italian eating place she opened in April in the Warehouse District with partners within the Link Restaurant Group. It’s named for her nonna. Much of the relaxation of the menu is the result of years of studies and contemplation as Wilcomb quietly ran the kitchen at considered one of New Orleans’ pinnacle eating places, Herbsaint.
Memories created via eating food made through her grandmother Giannina Chieregati on visits to Italy and her mother Graziella’s cooking formed the muse for her menu. The dishes additionally replicate cooking styles, methods, and flavors that got here from years of tasting, testing, and touring all through Italy with Wilcomb’s partners within the venture: enterprise founder and chef Donald Link, co-chefs Stephen Stryjewski and Ryan Prewitt, and Heather Lolley, the Link Restaurant Group’s director of operations.
“As a group, we’ve been to Italy 3 instances,” she said. “So a variety of meals has been prompted by way of those meals we had collectively.
“We’re doing rustic Italian cooking that’s virtually rooted in Louisiana lifestyle and Louisiana elements. It has a feel of the location. You’re eating rustic Italian food. However, I want humans to feel like they’re sitting in New Orleans. That’s what I honestly really need for this area.”
Making Italian meals in New Orleans
New Orleans’ Italian eating places have advanced beyond the awful lot-loved Creole Italian favorites smothered in thick, sluggish-cooked pink gravy, with eating places like Ristorante del Porto and Paladar 511 demonstrating the developing variations of styles and selections.
“People have very set views of what Italian is to them, and Italian is so many matters,” Wilcomb stated. “What becomes critical to me is that this menu displays lots of thoughts about what Italian maybe.”
Gianna’s menu demonstrates how beautifully New Orleans area seafood and produce marries with the Italian manner of ingesting, she said.
An appetizer of chew-size clean peppers filled with clean tuna is a really perfect example: Peppers grow right here, and the tuna is pulled from the Gulf of Mexico.
“There are tuna-crammed peppers all over Italy,” Wilcomb said. “Every deli that you go to, they have the case of organized ingredients with tuna-filled peppers.”
Just as gumbos range, dishes like “Giannina’s tortellini in brodo,” as it’s far listed on the menu, ranging from vicinity to area, even from household to household, she stated.
“I sense just like the more I study Italian meals, the greater I don’t know whatever approximately it,” she said. Wilcomb described meals of the coastal Veneto, in which her family is from, as “light years” away from the wine country in Campania.
Her baked eggplant casserole may make New Orleanians think of old-school eggplant parmesan, but it’s far baked, no longer fried, with a little tomato sauce and bread crumbs the way they do in Campania, she said.
Sifting thru meals memories
Wilcomb’s early life recollections consist of visits with her nonna to Luigi, the butcher to pick out out a chook, being hoisted up bushes to pick clean cherries, and cutting into candy cantaloupes nevertheless warm from the sphere.
She recollects digging into fowl braised with olives, rabbit cacciatore, baked lasagna with bechamel, and radicchio – always radicchio.
“We had radicchio with each meal at my nonna’s house,” she said, including that her grandparents grew it within the backyard.
“From her, what I learned changed into a love of flavors, certainly fresh components and having a connection to in which you’re getting your food,” Wilcomb said of her grandmother.
“It’s nevertheless like that when I go there,” she said, including that her 1/3 cousin’s garden is an aspect to behold.
Her intention at Gianna is to honor that experience as an awful lot as feasible.
Wilcomb stated the eating place group has advanced relationships with nearby farmers through forager Ashley Locklear and long-time-long associations with shrimpers and fishers and with local professionals, like St. James Cheese Company, which imports the area of expertise cheeses she desires.
Cooking and eating for the amusement of it
While many Gianna’s food is rooted in precious adolescence reminiscences, a few, just like the meatballs, are on the menu surely because Wilcomb loves to devour them.
“I’ve always cherished to consume,” she said. “Even as a kid, I ate the entirety. I began cooking for myself because I desired to make delicious food, so I ought to eat it. I’ve always preferred to cook dinner.
“I prepare dinner at domestic plenty. People assume that’s weird. ‘Aren’t you ill of cooking?’ I’m no longer.”
She found out to cook as a child in Italy and in Massachusetts. Her family settled after her mother met her American-born father, Michael David Wilcomb, who changed into stationed at a navy base in Europe.